To those on the outside, equestrian events may seem a solitary endeavour. But as Montana Garrington can attest, the special relationship between rider and horse makes this sport every bit as much about teamwork as any traditional multi-player sport.
Garrington, an 18-year-old member of the Zone 6 (Vancouver Island-Central Coast) show jumping team competing next week in the B.C. Summer Games in Abbotsford, took on a new horse late last year. She had parted with her longtime show pony, Raven, some years before and decided to take a lease on a larger, more suitable horse for eventing, Holly.
Since December, this Langford resident has been getting to know what makes her new mount tick.
“I’m so lucky, she’s such a great team player and if I make mistakes, she’s totally just there to save me and is ready to do her job,” she said. “I’ve never met a horse that likes working as much as she does.”
The 2016 Royal Bay secondary grad jokes that often times horses make better teammates than humans. “My teammate just doesn’t (speak) English.”
In general, “eventing” includes show jumping, dressage and Garrington’s favourite, cross country. For the B.C. Games, cross country is replaced with vaulting, which is essentially acrobatics on horseback, and para-equestrian events are also included. The various disciplines are judged separately, but the points accrued in each will combine in the team standings.
Garrington spent the winter months learning to adapt to Holly’s different characteristics, style and temperament and qualified for the Games with her top two results from various shows this year. “I didn’t really think I was ever going to make it because of my age, so I’m excited that I actually made it through.”
Holly’s owner, Highlands resident Julia King, never got a chance to compete in the Games but as Garrington says, “she’s really excited that she gets to live the experience through me.”
King, Garrington’s mother Michelle and several others are making the trip to support Montana and the rest of the team.
As for her chances of medalling in Abbotsford, Garrington is confident, first and foremost, in her teammate’s abilities to do what she is asked and then some.
“Holly is an amazing horse. She only started jumping in 2013,” she said. “Julia showed her for one season, and before that she was kind of a trail horse and sort of an all-round (mount), with some Western riding in there. It’s nice that she has that trail background, because it makes her really brave and smart and stuff.”
Garrington is joined on the Zone 6 show jumping unit by longtime friend Petra Pinkerton of Central Saanich, plus Linnaea Crawshaw of Campbell River.
Meanwhile, Zone 6 teammate Rachel Brears of Colwood is in a slightly different situation when it comes to her equestrian division, vaulting. More often than not she finds herself explaining what it is to people not already involved.
“For people who have never seen it, it’s definitely a big difference (from show jumping or dressage). You’re not controlling the horse and you’re doing all these crazy things on top of it,” she said.
The 16-year-old Royal Bay student has been involved for about nine years and mostly competes on the mainland, often in Abbotsford. Her South Island group sometimes does demonstrations, however, at events such as Metchosin Day and the Saanich Fair.
A self-confessed shy person, she likes how the sport has forced her to come out of her shell. “You have to get really creative with it, make up choreography and make up routines,” she said. “There’s also a lot of team building with it; we work with younger riders and set new goals. There’s always something new to try.”
As for the Games, she’s excited to experience the multi-sport aspect and watch the other equestrian events. She’s been working regularly on her current routine, but said she won’t be too worried about the scores.
“You learn how to figure out what you have to improve on,” she said, and let the judges take it from there.
Greater Victoria vaulter Meredith Glidden joins Brears and Garrington on the Zone 6 team, as does para-equestrian Tyler Wooley, and three up-Island dressage riders.
The B.C. Summer Games run from July 22 to 24 in Abbotsford. Watch the Gazette in advance for more stories on West Shore athletes and teams competing. Visit goldstreamgazette.com for previous Games profiles.