VIHJA - The Vancouver Island Hunter Jumper Association


The VIHJA would like to officially congratulate long-time member Kassidy Keith for representing Canada at the Young Riders Championships this summer.

Kassidy applied for and was granted a $2500.00 travel bursary from the VIHJA, in recognition of her remarkable achievement.
Kassidy’s mom, Cheryl Keith, has shared an open letter detailing the process and the experience:


Dear VIHJA executive & members,

Please consider this a formal request for funding from VIHJA for the Young Riders Competition in Colorado. I have included a letter of Kassidy’s adventures so that people can know the process we went thru. Also, if you are interested there is an article this past month in Gaitpost. The link is [Gaitpost%20Article%20Sept%202016]
I have also attached pictures for your viewing.

This year has been an incredible experience for Kassidy. We are so appreciative of the help and assistance we received in 2015 from VIHJA towards the Royal Winter Fair for the CET, Jump Canada and Hunter derby finals! This funding helped us recover and look towards Kassidy’s next goal in 2016 of Young Riders. In the Spring of this year, Kassidy was chosen by Equestrian Canada as Junior of the year. EC covered all the expenses for Kassidy and her father to attend the awards ceremony in Montreal. At the banquet someone mentioned North American Young Riders (NAYRC) and Kassidy was intrigued.

She hadn’t entirely set our sights on Young Riders until February of 2016. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to financially afford to go thru the qualification process. Young Riders qualifying meant that Kassidy and her horse, Crackerjack had to stay an extra week in Thermal California to show in the NAYRC qualifier. She had just moved up the 1.4m classes and it was a big step with the open water and some jumps over the 1.4 height.

In order to stay the extra week, Kassidy worked for Lisa Carlsen to offset her expenses, coaching etc. We stayed with friends so that we didn’t have accommodation costs. We also managed to secure transport for Jack at a reasonable cost thru Justine Annandale, president of the BCHJA. Everyone from our QMS team had gone home the week earlier, so I needed to take an unpaid week of work to stay with Kass.

One of the major reasons that we stayed and did the qualifier in California is because we were told by EC that Spruce Meadows was going to be one of the other qualifiers. It was not possible for us to go to Spruce as it was during Kassidy’s graduation and out of the question financially. We choose our horse shows depending on which shows QMS attends. I organize trailering, border crossing, brokering and travel routes for a local hauler who does our QMS hauling. In exchange he gives me a discount towards my own horse’s hauling. This means that we can afford to show as long as we go where the majority goes and no one was going to Spruce Meadows.

There was a few hoops to jumps thru to be considered for the qualification process

  • She needed a declaration from the judge saying that she had jumped the open water without any trouble. I am happy to say that she finished the class with 8 faults which was excellent.
  • A member of our Canadian NAYRC selection committee needed to watch the qualifying class. Dayton Gorsline watched, as did Mark Laskin. They were happy with the horse and Kassidy’s efforts.
  • Kassidy had to fill out the official application process and submit it to Equestrian Canada in a prompt manner.
  • We had to apply for an FEI passport and have it in place before the competition. All FEI horses must be microchipped and the cost of this and the passport was well over $600 by the time it was done.

Once we were back in BC, the only classes that could be considered selection classes were the 1.4m classes at Tbird, the specialty classes, 1.35 classics and grand prixs. Kassidy and Jack did their first two grand prix in June/July there. Again there were members of the selection committee there to gauge performance. In 2015 Kassidy had a scholarship at Thunderbird but it ended in August 2015, so this meant we had entry fees, stabling and transport fees. At that horse show Kassidy worked off her coaching and offset her show expenses by grooming two horses, plus her own and riding horses for coach, Richard Keller.

In mid- July we received a call from Beth Underhill, the chosen chef d’equipe of NAYRC. Canada was sending two individuals for the Senior competition, one junior team, and two junior individuals to Colorado for the championships. Kassidy had been chosen for the team. See below for the press release, or see the link [2016%20Young%20Riders%20Announcement]

From there it was a whirlwind of organizing. I couldn’t find any reasonable accommodation in Colorado for the two weeks Kassidy would be there. I ended up on Air B and B and rented a one bedroom apartment about a half hour from Colorado horse Park. The lady was very nice and it was much more reasonable than hotel, although a bit of a drive. Sometimes, with the schedule they had to travel back and forth three times a day!

I borrowed a two horse trailer and Kassidy, her father and Kate Heikkila left for the 30 hour drive to Colorado on the Saturday of Arbutus Meadows horse show. I stayed home to work at Arbutus and Milner downs the following week.

Our plan was for Kassidy to arrive in Colorado the week before NAYRC so that she could show in a few classes and acclimatize her horse to the altitude. We had researched the climate and because of the high altitude, we wanted to allow Crackerjack time to settle in. That first week we did not have a coach, so fellow trainer, Cara Anthony offered to help. She needed a horse hauled from Washington to Colorado. She requested that Kassidy and her dad haul the horse. Kassidy was responsible for taking temperatures and keeping the horses hydrated for the duration of the trip. In exchange for the hauling Cara coached Kassidy and allowed her to stable with her barn, Pottcreek Meadow Farm. That week Kassidy showed twice in the 1.3 and was pleased with her and Jack’s performance.

I arrived the following week, flying on my airmiles. J Showing at NAYRC meant that the horses needed to be in FEI stabling and follow all their rules for medication etc. It was a learning experience for me. Kassidy, and Kate, having groomed FEI horses before, knew much more about the rules than I did. Showing FEI meant that Kassidy needed to be extra diligent about maintaining his soundness. Ice boots, centurion machine (the Canadian team supplied it), packing, and polticing every day. We made an appointment for the team vet to give Jack some Legend and Adequan mid-week of the competition. Horses had to be jogged for soundness twice in front of the ground jury. All our Canadian team passed!! All horses and riders were dressed in team swag, looking very fancy.

The warm up rounds went well for Kassidy although Jack had two rails, he seemed comfortable jumping the height. Lisa Carlsen was coaching Kassidy and they did some grid work the following day to get him squared up.
The friendly competition was the next step. Kassidy again had two rails. One of our girls had trouble and was eliminated. The other two members of Kassidy’s team were solid, with a time fault and one rail. One girl on our second team had a quite a bad crash, out of character for her and her horse. The course started with a triple bar which really threw many people off their game. It was a tough track.

We were now going into the team competition with three riders. A meeting was held to see if our team could substitute a rider from one of our junior individuals so that we had four riders. It went to the appeals committee as one team was against it. Rules state that if one Chef d’Equipe votes ‘no’ that there can be no substitution.
At this point we had one individual with a sore horse, unable to compete, leaving us with one lone individual. It made sense to try and put her on our team as we had one girl that had to drop out due to confidence issues. This was not to happen. We would have to make due with three riders.

We ended up fourth overall as a team. Had we been able to drop a score, we would have been in the running for a medal, but what an experience! From team dances to golf cart decoration, water fights etc. The girls will not forget this for a long time. EC had sent out Red Stall curtains, scrims and swag. Talisman bonnets sponsored Kassidy and her team members with bonnets, EQ socks sent socks and Noel Asmar sent Canadian clothing. Running fox even sent blue hunt coats with a NAYRC insignia for all the girls representing Canada.

After the team competition, Kassidy was sitting sixteenth. We had nothing to lose. Lisa and Kassidy tried some new hind boots on Jack. The FEI stewards supervised this at boot check, before and after warm up and immediately after competition. The boots were not weighted, but did up quite snugly so that Jack would hopefully remember his hind end.

It worked!! We wish we had tried them earlier. There were 25 horses in the competition. Jack and Kassidy were one of only two horses to jump double clean that day!! Kassidy and Jack earned first place in that phase of individual competition and moved from 16th to 10th Place overall!!

Lisa and Beth both say that the boots are helpful, especially when you have a horse new to a certain height. Jack had only really jumped six classes at 1.4 m before Colorado.

All in all this experience was amazing. We got to see some of North America’s top young and upcoming riders. Sophie Simpson was amazing, as was Jennifer Gates and her zone. Kassidy made friendships and acquaintances that led immediately to future endeavours. Beth Underhill told us that she was extremely impressed with Kassidy’s riding and wanted to know her equestrian history and where she had developed all her skills. Of course we attribute it to good coaching and good venues to show. VIHJA provides quality shows for it’s members. We have top course designers and coaches who prepare our rider’s for the next level.
From Colorado Kassidy and I drove to Calgary to the Rocky Mountain show jumping venue. With her new found confidence she rode in her first 1.45 m class. The JC Anderson Memorial grand prix was big! I was so nervous but Kass and Jack jumped it like an equitation round. They were in the jump off!! That didn’t quite go as planned for Kassidy. She lost her stirrup at jump three of the jump off. With all her equitation I thought she would manage to retrieve it but everytime she fished for the stirrup, Jack tried to bolt off. They finished sixth out of 46 horses but a proud moment.

I want everyone to know that all these goals are within reach of our kids. It may seem like Kassidy and I have been all over the country and it must seem expensive. We have made it work through scholarships, bursaries, and the willingness to work hard and trade services. From cleaning& bedding stalls, lunging horses, hacking horses and coaching random riders for other professionals, Kass and I have done it. A big part of Kassidy being able to reach her goals has been the support she has received from the horse community.

Thank you for your time.

Cheryl & Kassidy