Local riders to showcase horse-breeding knowledge at Denmark competition

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Four local horse enthusiasts are heading to Denmark as part of a team representing Canada in an international competition aimed at helping young people learn about sport horse breeding.

“It’s a really good opportunity to make yourself a more well-rounded horse person,” explained Hailey Larkin.

She and twin sister Jessica Larkin, along with Avery Caine and Katelyn Mullin – all riders at CJ Equestrian in Centre Wellington – have been selected to represent the Canadian Warmblood Horse Breeders Association at the 2024 International Young Breeder Championships at Stutteri-Ask in Denmark from July 4 to 7.

The event brings young people, ranging in age from 15 to 25, from different countries and breeding associations together to learn, compete and network.

At age 18 and 19 respectively, Mullin and Caine are junior members of the team, while the Larkin sisters, 22, are senior. They are joining two other senior team members from Ontario, a junior member from Saskatchewan, and a junior and a senior member from Alberta.

They will compete against 25 other teams from 12 different countries.

“There are so many people there who just love horses, so it’s a great place to make connections around the world,” said Caine.

She speaks from experience, having competed as a junior member of the team the last time the competition was held in 2022.

She’s hoping for a better showing this time around.

“I’ve been able to assess my strengths and weaknesses,” Caine said, noting her goal is to see the team place in the top five.

Coming off the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the challenges in the last competition was the fact the team did not have an opportunity to work together in-person in advance of the event.

“As a team, all of our meetings were online,” Caine said, speaking to the Advertiser via Facetime. 

“Even just prepping for everything was quite a lot harder.”

Caine, whose mother operates CJ Equestrian, has been studying equine performance and rehabilitation at a university in the U.K., but she will return home to join the team for a training camp at the equestrian centre from June 7 to 9.

The western Canadian members of the team will also be here to take part.

Avery Caine, shown here taking part in the 2022 International Young Breeder Championships, will return to Canada to join the 2024 team for training and fundraising events in Centre Wellington, before heading to the competition in Denmark this summer. Photo by Erin Stauffer


“We’re going to be able to spend a few days together and just learn from each other,” Caine said.

With a few of the teammates having taken part in the competition once before, and with a few already knowing one another, she expects things will go a little more smoothly.

But preparation and studying will be important, too.

The first part of the competition is a written exam covering a variety of equine topics, including feeding and nutrition, stable management, health and welfare, breeding and international sport and studbooks.

Then, the competitors try their hand at judging horses, both for how they conform to their breeds, and for their athleticism.

“It’s basically preparing you to be able to inspect horses,” explained Hailey.

The goal in this part of the competition is for competitors’ assessments of the horses to match the judges’ assessments.

“If the judge scores a seven, we want to also score a seven,” Jessica said.

Next, teams get to “present” a horse, correctly positioning it in front of judges, and showcasing its best stance, walk and trot.

“One of my favourite components of the competition is actual handling of the horses,” said Caine, noting the horses used in the competition are some “top-level” horses.

“On a daily basis, I don’t work with those calibre of horses,” she said.

Stutteri Ask, where the event takes place, is Denmark’s largest stallion station for jumping horses.

Mullin said the networking opportunity and the chance to see their horses are among the things she’s most excited about.

“I’m looking forward to meeting new people as well as learning about new breeds,” said Mullin.

Most of the horses will likely be Danish warmbloods, said Jessica, with her sister explaining warmbloods are “a bit more heavyset” than a thoroughbred.

Warmbloods are the types of horses that compete in the Olympics.

The team will just miss being in Europe when the Olympics get underway in July, which is not a bad thing, said Caine’s mother, Lyssa Caine.

She noticed costs for travel and accommodation seemed to increase significantly during the Olympics.

Lyssa is not only hosting some training for the team, she has also organized a couple of fundraisers to help cover travel costs.

On May 25 from 1 to 3pm, the local team members will host a high tea at CJ Country Events, the event venue at the Equestrian Centre.

The event will include tea, served by the riders, lawn games and a facility tour. Carriage rides are also available for an additional cost.

“As many people as we can get out here, the better,” said Lyssa.

Once the rest of the team arrives in June, they will be hosting a dinner and dance at the event venue. It will take place on June 8 from 6 to 10pm, and will feature dinner from Lancaster Smokehouse, and a small silent auction.

Anyone interested in attending either of these events is asked to email cjcountryevents@gmail.com.

Local training for the team will include a full mock competition, which Lyssa has planned with the help of neighbours, who will allow them to practice with their horses.

“Everyone just needs to practice working with different horses,” said Jessica, explaining that they won’t see the horses their working with in the competition until after they arrive.

The non-local members of the team won’t be familiar with the CJ Equestrian horses, so working with different horses — that none of the girls know — makes it more fair, added Lyssa.

“It puts all of them on an equal playing field, and everybody can learn from it,” she said.