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Wellington riders heading to Australia for mounted games

From left: Shalom Leger, coach Nicole Robinson and Savannah Weber will travel to Australia in October for the Pony Club International Mounted Games Exchange.  Photo by Jaime Myslik

Wellington riders heading to Australia for mounted games

by Jaime Myslik

ARISS - Five riders, five ponies and a hodgepodge of obstacle course relay races is the recipe for a successful mounted games competition.

Savannah Weber of Ariss and Shalom Leger of Rockwood, both 15 years old, play mounted games and are travelling to Australia for the Pony Club International Mounted Games Exchange this October.

The annual competition, between Canada, Australia, the United States and Great Britain, is for Pony Club members who are 15 at the beginning of the competition year.

Competitors will travel around Australia for about a two weeks, with the Prince Philip Games competition taking place on the second last day of the tour.     

Usually there are 25 different games in a mounted games competition, however in the Pony Club International Mounted Games Exchange only 15 games are played, explained team Canada coach Nicole Robinson.

One of Weber’s favourite games is the sock race where the rider starts with a sock, reaches down to put it in a bucket in the middle of the field, jumps off their horse to get a new sock, vaults back on the horse and hands the sock to the next rider.

Teams consist of five riders, though the majority of the games only use four.

“Four people play ... a different role,” Robinson said. “The last person is normally fast with a lot of confidence and doesn’t get shaken ...  and the first person usually is fast ... but the two in the middle have to be very steady.

“It’s kind of an accuracy -wins type of game because there’s a lot of hand-eye coordination.”

When participating in the International Mounted Games Exchange all teams will be using provided ponies and before the competition none of the riders will have experience riding them.

“A day before we’ll get a sheet on each pony and what they’re good at and what they look like, what speed type they are and then from what I know I try and match the girls up with the right horse and they have to figure it out pretty quickly before they start riding,” Robinson explained.

The competition is fast paced, Robinson said, so it’s important for competitors to focus on the task at hand.

“As a coach I find their biggest challenge is staying very level headed,” she said. “A lot of the time the kids [are very] competitive or hard on themselves for mistakes which makes it a make or break for the next game .

“So I always tell them ... if a game’s over and you messed up, focus on the next game.

“I never really try to let them get fazed by it but it’s a hard lesson to learn at that age when there’s not a lot of experience.”

As much as mounted games is a team sport, riders need to focus on their own performance.

“You’re only as good as the person coming in and you can only help the person that’s going out,” Robinson said. “So staying positive, never really getting mad at someone else for making a mistake because you’re most likely going to make one yourself and yeah you’re representing Canada but you’re there to have fun.”  

For Leger, who is primarily an eventing rider, competing in dressage, cross country and show jumping on her own, it’s a challenge to be in a team setting.

“The pressure of being on a team is a little bit scary. You don’t want to let them down ... but you can’t worry about that too much or you will ... get in your own way,” she said.  

Alexis Vahey of central Ontario and Danielle Henderson and Shayna Dyrland of Alberta will join Weber and Leger on the Canadian team.

The girls will all practice together as a team for the first time in the middle of October in Alberta.

“We will meet three days before we leave for Australia,” Robinson said.

Once they arrive in Australia teams from all four countries will travel together before the competition.

“It’s more about the experience itself,” Robinson said. “The competition is very minor towards this whole trip.”

Though this is both Weber and Leger’s first time competing in the International Mounted Games Exchange they aren’t new to competing in large arenas.

Weber, who began riding when she was 9 years old, began mounted games shortly thereafter.

“I really like it, that you get to ride different ponies, it’s very fast and then you can meet people from different countries,” she said.

In July Weber travelled to Ireland as part of the U-17 team with Equine Mounted Games Canada for the World Team Championships. The five-day competition involved about 20 countries.

She has also competed in numerous competitions in the United States.

In August both Weber and Leger traveled to Nova Scotia to compete in the National Masters Championship for the Prince Philip Games with the Pony Club.

Though Leger has been riding since she was 7, the Nova Scotia competition was her first nationals for mounted games.

“Our masters team won at regionals and so we got to go to the national competition and so there was a team from Alberta, Nova Scotia, one from central Ontario,” she said.

Mounted games also encourages riders to experience riding different horses.

“I think it helps make you become a better rider because you can handle different horses so if you ever have to ride a different horse then you have that more feeling than just riding your own little perfect pony if you have it,” Weber said.

Leger said that her experience riding different ponies has helped in her eventing as well because it gives her the confidence and experience to ride any horse.

“When you get up higher (in eventing) sometimes you can’t necessarily afford the horse that can do the higher level but if you’re at that level people will give you a horse to ride,” she said. “And then you give the horse experience and you get experience.”

Now Leger, Weber and Robinson are all looking forward to meeting new friends, seeing old friends, site-seeing and experiencing the Australian culture in October at the Pony Club International Mounted Games Exchange.

September 16, 2016


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