Canadian Fossils Firing for HOY

24 Feb

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Categories: Feb 2016

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Canadian Fossils Firing for HOY

There are a couple of ‘fossils’ travelling half way across the globe to be part of the 2016 Farmlands Horse of the Year Show.

But don’t be fooled into feeling sorry for Canadian mounted games riders Lesley McCoy and Michelle Cruikshanks . . . these two are here for business.

They have been working their own ponies through freezing temperatures, ice, sleet and snow in preparation for the show.

“We’re hopeful of being assets to the team, assisting our New Zealand hosts at HOY,” says Cruikshanks.

Michelle and Talula - sword MG

Michelle Cruickshans and Talula in full flight.

She and McCoy are being hosted by Betty Larsen in Turangi. They arrive in the country late this month, and will ride borrowed ponies in the team championship at HOY, with Cruikshanks also lining up in the pairs.

“We’re very excited,” says Cruikshanks. “Lesley and I have been riding mounted games as a pair and as members of a US/Canadian fossils (mature riders) team for a couple of years. Here in Ontario, we have a fairly small but enthusiastic group of mounted games riders of all ages who compete in a number of competitions.”

They also travel to teams competitions in North Eastern United States.

The two live about an hour’s drive from each other north of Toronto in Ontario – McCoy in Newmarket, which has a population of around 80,000, and Cruikshanks on a farm just north of the village of Cannington, which has just 1900 people.

McCoy works at the Ontario Equestrian Federation and in collaboration with national organization Equine Canada, administers the equine drug-testing programme. Cruikshanks is a recently retired elementary school principal. The two were Pony Club mums for several years and became involved in riding games when their own children were competing in Pony Club Prince Phillip Games.

Cruikshanks has been riding mounted games since 2000 and comes from a background in lower level eventing with a few other disciplines along the way. McCoy had ridden Prince Phillip Games for a year in her youth and returned to it as an adult four years ago.

“We don’t have international rankings but rank ourselves pretty highly whenever the games go our way and our ponies reflect their training!”

Their team won the national championships fossils division in Virginia making the 14 hour drive worthwhile.

“We manage to put together decent results and enjoy the camaraderie of the sport and the joys of riding a well-trained, athletic pony.”

Their trip came through Hawke’s Bay mounted games mum Kate Wiltshire when the women were at the under 17 championships in Ocala, Florida in November. Cruikshanks was coaching the Canadian team, Wiltshire the Kiwis and McCoy was there to watch her own pony on the Canadian team.

“Our enthusiasm and commitment to make it happen if we could was quickly solidified. New Zealand is the one country in the world to which I have always wanted to travel – the country sounds idyllic and anyone who has travelled there comes back with stories about its beauty and the incredible friendliness and hospitality of its people.”

And already, before they have even landed in the country, the women say the hospitality has been phenomenal.

“Betty has set us up with ponies along with herself and two other riders for the team competition. When she was contacted by Kate about the possibility of helping form a team and find ponies for two complete strangers from Canada, her response typified what we have hear of New Zealand hospitality,” says Cruikshanks.

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