After working hard all summer to qualify, a pair of local equestrian riders came home from the Royal Horse Show decked in ribbons.
Paige Grant of St. Agatha and her pony Westwin was the overall large pony champion, while Taylor Blackwell of Wellesley and her pony No Worries finished fourth overall for medium ponies.
The girls started riding when they were six and seven years old. Now 15, Grant competes in the large pony class, for ponies that are 14.2 hands at the withers. Blackwell rides in the medium pony class, for ponies 13.2 hands tall. Both girls board their horses at Windamere Stables in Baden.
Over the summer, the girls competed in about 14 shows on the “A” circuit, which qualified them to compete at the Royal Winter Fair Nov. 6-7. The fair accepts only the top 12 riders in Ontario and six others from across Canada in each division, for a total of 18 competitors.
The hunter jumper competition differs from Olympic show jumping in that the rounds are judged, not timed. Where Olympic riders try for speed without knocking down any fences, hunter jumpers are judged on the smoothness and fluidity of the horse’s performance.
Each rider does three different fence courses with eight fences each. Grant placed first, second and third in her rounds, finishing first overall large pony champion. Blackwell won a ninth, second and fourth, good for fourth overall medium pony.
Most exciting for the two girls was that their finishes qualified for the Horse Sport Pony Classic. The top four ponies from each of the three divisions – small, medium and large – qualified for the Horse Sport Pony Classic, which kicked off Saturday evening’s showcase at the Ricoh Coliseum. Out of those 12 riders, Grant and Blackwell finished 2nd and 7th respectively.