Canadian dream

A Duncan horseback rider will be one of five from across Canada representing the country at the 2014 Saddle Seat Invitational in New Orleans at the end of June. "I’m excited to be on the team for Canada, to be able to go different places and represent Canada," said Caiden Varasteh, a 14-year-old rider out of Valley View Farms.

Saddle seat, for the uninitiated, is a style of riding within the category of English riding, with a very specific look for both the horse and rider. The rider wears a suit and hat, while the horse – usually a Morgan, Arabian or Saddlebred – sports two reins and shows off high-trotting form.

"The horse usually presents with its head nice and high," Varasteh said. "They pick up their feet very high compared to most horses."

In competitions, there is a special challenge for the riders. Unlike many types of equestrian competition, saddle seat riders don’t travel with their own horses, and the luck of the draw determines which one they will ride when they get there.

"You only have 15 minutes and a bio about the horse [to get acquainted]," Varasteh explained. "You have to figure out what the horse needs. The horses I’ve had have been pretty good for me."

When Varasteh, who also competes with the Fuller Lake Skating Club, started riding at Valley View, she didn’t know anything about saddle seat.

"I originally thought horseback riding was horseback riding," she said.

Now, it’s her passion. Even at shows that aren’t specifically for saddle seat riding, Varasteh wears her suit and rides saddle seat-style.

In her bid to make the national team, Varasteh started by sending in an application. She was one of a few riders who got called back from that, and had to do a video test with patterns that Saddle Seat Canada sent her. After a second trial, she was invited to the Spring Fling saddle seat show in Ponoka, Alberta last month, where it was announced that she made the team.

The Saddle Seat Invitational is for riders ages 14-21, and Varasteh is the youngest one on the team of five.

"When I first heard I was intimidated, but when I got to meet them it was okay," she said.

In addition to helping Canada win the event over the U.S. and South Africa, Varasteh is also looking at the Invitational as a chance to improve as a rider. It could also help her get to the next level, the World Cup, which is open to all riders 14 and up.

"It’s sort of like the Olympics for saddle seat," she said.

By making the team for the 2015 invitational, Varasteh is on the right track. To get to New Orleans, Varasteh will have to put up $1,500, as do all of her teammates. She is selling chocolates and homemade items and planning hot dog sales. Anyone interested in sponsoring her trip should contact Valley View Farms at 250-710-1517.