SWEETS CORNER – Marina Crowell is back in the ring, getting herself ready for the final Horses At Work competition in September.
Working on her technique, the 15-year-old brings horse Louie around the track, leaping over jumps and cantering around the loop.
To a layperson, it seems perfect but coaches inside the track watch with trained eyes and shout suggestions.
On Aug. 11-12, Crowell participated in the Horses At Work competition. It was her second time ever showing her horse.
“I made it over all of the jumps, so that’s a plus,” Crowell says with a huge grin.
She received fourth and second place in the jumping categories.
After participating in pony rides and other equestrian activities for most of her childhood, Crowell decided to check out the competitive scene five years ago.
“I like the fact that there’s a family to the barn, there’s things that always have to be done, even when you think there isn’t,” she said.
“It keeps you busy and it keeps you going.”
Jill Barker is the owner of the Horses At Work ring and stable in Sweets Corner, which has been operating and evolving for 15 years.
She hosts four competitions each year, spanning the summer months. It’s all part of the provincial circuit but, for Barker, it’s more about developing the next generation of riders.
“They’re not national-level shows, but they’re the stepping stone that’s needed to either get to that level, or for people who want good, healthy competition,” Barker said.
“I built this because I wanted to go to horse shows that started at a reasonable hour, ended at a reasonable hour, and were affordable,” she said.
“It takes a lot of practice to develop your skills and frequency is important at this level.”
The third competition was from Aug. 11- 12, which saw roughly 70 competitors come out. It’s the smallest show of the year because many of the trainers and coaches are busy on the national circuit.
The competition consists of hunters and jumpers.
Barker describes the hunters as the figure skaters of the horse world, judged on their technique, finesse and style.
The jumpers, she adds, are like hockey players, focused on scoring points – often perceived as a little rougher and tougher.
Barker said the competitors generally performed really well and she is looking forward to seeing how they compete in September.
“We have rules but, at this level, we break them sometimes when it’s necessary and productive for the competitors to learn something,” she said.
“If a horse decides it’s really having a problem with a certain jump, normally after two stops you’re eliminated, but we’ll let them go as long as we know the kid and the horse are benefitting from it.”
“It’s about looking after this sport, we really want to do that.”
The last competition of the season at Horses At Work is slated to take place from Sept. 8-9.
Trish Markawa, high performance coach and guest judge of the recent competition, came down from Calgary to lend her expertise to the event before heading to PEI for another show.
“It’s great to have a fresh set of eyes doing things in your home ring,” Markawa said. “This is a really big competition for athlete development.”
The competition is also an opportunity to train and develop coaches, she said.
Markawa helped to plan and build the course that the competitors would be riding on.