Time spent in Wellington is important to the success of top Canadian riders, particularly for the village’s weather, equestrian infrastructure and 12-week winter competition series.
Many Canadians have made long-term commitments by buying properties for the six months of training and competing each winter to represent their country.
In dressage alone, there are approximately 15 top riders vying to represent Canada in championships including the World Equestrian Games, the Olympic Games, the Pan American Games and World Cup events, and in show jumping, there are more.
Many of these riders agree that Wellington plays a huge part in their success. Among them are six-time dressage Olympian Christilot Boylen and two-time Olympian Belinda Trussell, as well as show jumper Billie Boylen, Christilot’s daughter. They share their gratitude to Wellington as they continue to prepare their own horses and other’s horses to qualify for the World Equestrian Games.
Christilot Boylen is one of the all-time greatest athletes in the sport of dressage. She has trained horses and riders up the levels over the last 40 years to progress and consistently win on the international level time and again.
Not only is Boylen a success in dressage, but she also works well with legends like George Morris to prepare horse and rider combinations from all nationalities in show jumping and three-day eventing while in Wellington.
Boylen has continued to coach Canadian three-day eventing rider Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High to next week’s Badminton Horse Trials in England. She also coaches Trussell and top rider Megan Lane, who both competed to high placings in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro.
After living in Europe for 23 years, Boylen restructured her life to include Wellington starting in 2013. “For the North American continent, there is no better choice,” she said. “Canada is a cold, snowy, frozen country during the winter. It’s a wonderful luxury to be able to work in this wonderful sunshine. And from a sport’s standpoint, you cannot get the horses to the level they need to be without this winter season we have here.”
Boylen explained that she bought a winter home in Wellington last year because it’s not a one-year thing.
“It’s a consistent, long-term commitment we must incorporate as we bring new horses or different horses up the levels. It’s all about their development,” she noted. “Wellington has such a wonderful infrastructure, and it’s very cosmopolitan. Wellington has the entire infrastructure for us to get each horse worked on a consistent basis. Each horse has its own program. There is so much to be done each and every day.”
She stressed that the winter season is a necessary step for all the Canadian riders at the top levels.
“Perhaps, one day, a horse is going to be ridden, then have the blacksmith trim his feet and shoe him; there is turnout, massage therapy, veterinary and so much more,” Boylen said. “That is why top riders may only be able to ride three to five horses. It takes a team because there is a lot to do day in and day out for each horse to be in top form. There are some riders who can do as many as 10 horses a day, but they need a world-class team because perhaps they may have someone warming the horse up and another cooling the horse down before and after the training sessions.”
Boylen spends six months in Wellington and six months near Toronto at Deer Ridge, where she works in both places with world-class dressage, show jumping and three-day eventing riders and their horses.
“Dressage trainers have the advantage because every rider agrees across each equestrian discipline that basic dressage training is a requirement for each horse,” she explained. “It is necessary for the jumpers, and even more necessary now in the three-day eventing horses. If the scores for the three-day horses aren’t good in dressage, they cannot place in the top after cross-country and show jumping. There is more awareness now than ever before that the basic training has to be done.”
Trussell is the owner of Oakcrest Farms in Stouffville, Canada, a state-of-the-art facility for world-class riding and training that she owns with her husband, Mark. A team member for Canada at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, the 2010 World Equestrian Games, a silver medal team member at the 2015 Pan American Games and riding for Team Canada in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Trussell has garnered numerous other successes and victories.
Trussell’s horse that is coming up, the 2003 Westphalian gelding Tattoo, bred by the world-famous Theodorescu family in Germany, is owned by Trussell and her husband, and the team received very good scores this winter season.
“Wellington provides a venue for us to compete against the top-level competitors, athletes and combinations,” Trussell said. “We would have to go to Europe to get that. The chance to be able to do that here in North America is huge. It’s wonderful to be able to come down here and spend a whole season. I even purchased a condo because it’s such a fabulous opportunity.”
The trip to Wellington is not only for top horses, either. “I have a chance to bring the horses that are developing and to get into this weather and compete at this type of horse show series,” Trussell said. “There is nowhere else as good in North America. It is the best.”
Trussell competed Anton for years in Wellington and went on to be ranked one of the best riders in the world by the FEI World Ranking List for dressage. “My top horse retired. So, this is now my next horse coming up, and it’s his second year at Grand Prix,” she said. “I believe it takes three years to justify a horse at this level. I would describe this horse as very emotional. We’ve had our ups and downs, and he is absolutely brilliant. We just need to get a little bit more consistent. This season, I have learned a lot.”
Christilot Boylen’s daughter, Billie Boylen, grew up in Germany and is a licensed German Bereiter (a state-licensed rider) and a young horse specialist. After the sale of the family training facility in Germany in 2012, she has been managing the Boylen stables for three years with her young horse business.
“Wellington is completely different from the real world,” she said. “It is a luxury to cut the work time in half because in Canada and Europe you have so many more tasks each day. I am amazingly grateful to be here.”