To the casual observer, it looks like horses and riders just going in circles in a corral.
But to Heidi Scott, it’s a ballet that’s captivated her for 30 years.
“It’s about precision and accuracy, and your relationship with your horse,” she says. “It’s an addiction, for some of us it’s a really integral part of who we are.
“It’s what makes me happy.”
Scott was one of about 20 riders from the southern interior taking part in the Horse Association of Central Kootenay’s George Bloor Memorial Dressage Show at the Horseman’s Grounds on the Old Waneta Road on the weekend.
In a dressage competition, or ‘test’, the horse and rider are put though a series of routines that highlight the animal’s grace and natural abilities. The rider should seem relaxed and appear to effortlessly move the animal through its paces.
The routine is performed in front of a judge who determines how well the rider and horse work together.
For many dressage riders, a test like the weekend’s Show is just a chance to get an evaluation on how well they and their horse are working together. Scott, with her five-year-old Westphalian “Quill”, has set her sights higher.
“My ambition is to ride the Grand Prix one day, that’s the highest level,” she told the Trail Times. ‘I have previously brought a horse to the first of five nationally regulated levels. Quill is at the third of the national levels.”
Scott estimates she and Quill are at least five years away from approaching the Grand Prix circuit. But the Fruitvale resident is confident in her horse’s ability.
“She is bred for it. Her sire did Grand Prix, he competed in Europe. Her dam is also from a line of highly competitive horses.”
Physical grace and strength are essential for competition, and Scott says Quill has that in spades. But the mental side of it is just as important. The horse has to enjoy the work of training, to be able to handle the stress of competition, and enjoy working with her rider. If the horse and rider together don’t have both the mental and physical attributes, they won’t get to Grand Prix.
“The work is easy for Quill,” says Scott. “Temperament-wise though, she’d prefer not to work. So part of her training is teaching her she has a job, she has to work, it’s part of life.
“I have a job, you have a job, you can sit in your pasture 23 hours a day — but for one hour a day you work for me.”
The weekend event brought committed Equestrian and Western dressage riders from as far away as Cranbrook, Grand Forks, and the Slocan Valley. Many of the riders had something in common- they learned about dressage from the man the weekend’s event was named after, George Bloor.
Bloor and his wife Fran were instrumental in building a community of horse enthusiasts in the West Kootenay. The couple are credited with helping bring facilities like the Grounds to the region, and introducing people like Scott to the sport as youths.
“They started dressage in this area,” says Scott. “They taught many of us to ride, they gave many of us riding opportunities to ride as children and supported us through our lifetimes of riding. And I really appreciate that.”
George Bloor passed away last fall, prompting the Horse Association to hold this event.
“George made me promise him I would keep up with dressage, even though I’m not very good at it and I don’t like it much,” says organizer Pam Malekow. “This is our first memorial event, we’ll try to keep it up and keep it going because that’s what George would have wanted.”
“I’m sure George is looking down on us right now,” Malekow says, wiping away a tear. “He’s thanking us for doing it, and loving every minute of it.”
“We miss George.”