It’s been the kind of grey, rainy weekend that invites staying indoors and watching horses jumping on TV, rather than having to go actually jump a horse oneself. Luckily that’s what’s on the agenda for the afternoon: the CP International starts at Spruce Meadows in an hour and all three hours are being webcast by CBC! This is one of my favourite horse show days of the year, not least because the quality of the CBC’s coverage is so good: the vibrant colours of the International Ring and the footfalls and breath sounds captured by the jump microphones really add to the drama.
Last year was my favourite edition of the International that I’ve ever seen live, as Ian Millar took home an amazing victory on Dixson. I, like every other young horse-crazy Canadian, idolized Ian growing up, and read Lawrence Scanlan’s biography of Big Ben so many times that the book’s falling apart at the seams. Now, I know him less as a larger-than-life figure and more as my trainer’s trainer who passed his rigourous horsemanship standards down to her.
I audited the clinic Ian and his children, Amy and Jonathon, put on here a few months ago; it was the first time I had seen him train in person (though my trainer brings horses to Millar Brooke Farm, about half an hour down the road from us, for tune-ups with Ian quite frequently, Schmoodle and I have never made the cut, alas.) Ian is tough – not quite George Morris, but not the jolly Captain Canada who shows up in media interviews. He calls bad riding like he sees it, and he is merciless if your horse and you are uneducated on the flat. He doesn’t make excuses for less-than-talented horses. He sets exercises extremely precisely, and when horses make mistakes, he always has a particular exercise in his back pocket to fix it, whether it be offsetting a groundline by six inches, or laying down a single guide rail in the middle of a gymnastic: the rider’s job is simply to remain consistent and let the horse solve its own problems.
As a result of being trained in his system, his own horses, as well as Amy’s and Jonathon’s, are impeccably responsive and rideable beyond belief. The smallest adjustment in their rides inevitably translates to a significant improvement on the horse’s part. Watching Ian and Baranus, during a demonstration ride at the clinic, land from a 1m40 oxer on the quarter line off a forward seven strides, then land and turn towards the wall in perfect balance instead of continuing around the corner – probably a turning radius of about five metres – will stay with me forever. He is the real deal – no gimmicks, no tricks.
Anyway, last year he won the CP and several hundred thousand dollars, which was pretty freaking awesome, as I feel like we’re part of his camp by association, given my trainer and his longstanding friendship. Also, as much as he’s the perennial anchor rider for Team Canada etc., I can’t remember the last time he won a HUGE class like that – these days he seems to always be the bridesmaid. Anyways, IAN FOR THE WIN!
And guess who will be watching with me…?
This guy!!! The cat my boyfriend J and I adopted from the Humane Society yesterday! He is a big middle-aged fluffer, super friendly and cuddly, perfect for a first-time cat owner like me. I have traditionally not been a cat fan, but J has worn me down gradually, and I must say, I love this sucker already. His name is Remus, and he enjoys being petted and sleeping at the foot of our bed.