Valley View Farms’ own Caiden Varasteh helped Canada collect a pair of bronze medals at the 2015 Saddle Seat Invitational in New Orleans late last month.
Varasteh, 14, was the youngest member of the Canadian team, which won bronze medals in both the three-gaited and five-gaited disciplines, while competing against teams from the U.S. and South Africa.
"It was a really good experience to be able to go there," Varasteh said. "It was nice being around so many amazing riders from America and South Africa. I met a lot of great people and had a great time."
Unlike in many other horse competitions, riders didn’t take their own mounts to New Orleans, but were assigned horses in advance of each round. Each rider rode two different horses in each of the two disciplines, and they were limited to a 15-minute warmup to get to know the horses they were riding. Sometimes, they switched horses if the one they were assigned was better suited to a teammate, making things even more challenging.
"In the end, sometimes you just got a few minutes. I ended up getting a good bunch of horses. I had a bit of trouble in the warmup, but once you get in the ring, you figure everything out. You kind of have to." The two disciplines refer to the number of paces a horse is expected to ride in a competition. In three-gaited, that means walk, trot, canter, and in five-gaited it means walk, trot, canter, slow gait and rack.
While the American and South African teams had enough riders in the competition
that they each could specialize in one discipline, the five Canadian riders all competed in both disciplines.
Having the opportunity to ride unfamiliar horses also led to the best part of the competition for Varasteh.
"The highlight for me was my first three-gaited horse," she said. "He was so beautiful and high-powered."
The rest of the Canadian team was completely supportive of Varasteh, who was pleased with her contributions to the bronze-medal efforts.
"I feel I did well for not having been in a lot of horse shows," she said. "Just riding there was a big step for me. It was pretty cool getting to be there and being able to represent my country."
Varasteh is now making a push for the Canadian team in the 2016 World Cup in South Africa. Hopefuls are currently submitting videos to the selection committee. If they are successful at that stage, they will be invited to a ride-off in Edmonton in September.
Varasteh believes she has a good chance to make the World Cup squad.
The same three countries, and possibly more, such as Great Britain, Sweden or Namibia, are expected to compete at the World Cup, but on a different scale.
"It’s a bigger competition," Varasteh said. "There are more riders on all the teams."
Closer to home, Varasteh won the breed high point award for American saddlebred at the Island Invitational Horse Show, hosted by Valley View Farms at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds last weekend. She also expressed thanks to her sponsor, SB Windows and Doors, for financial support that helped her get to New Orleans.