Harcourt mounted games competitor readies to represent Canada
By Darren Lum
Just a few weeks after her equestrian protege earned a trip to represent Canada in Ireland, Jocelyn Donaldson followed suit by earning a berth to compete from July 11 to 17 in the open category of the same event, the 30th annual World Team Championships for mounted games at the Green Glens Arena in Millstreet, County Cork, Ireland.
The 26-year-old, who started with pony games and then transitioned to mounted games, said it’s been steady progress towards this pinnacle for her equine sport.
“It’s an honour to be picked best in Canada and go over and represent and hopefully do well,” she said.
Donaldson is excited and proud about travelling to the “Olympics” for mounted games as a member of Canada’s 2016 Open Worlds team.
She said a strong performance at her last tryout of three tryouts was a factor in making the team.
The team has five riders and an alternate. Donaldson joins Jessie-Lyn Boadway, Jesse Durward, Nathan Kersten and Kendra Abbey, including Mercedes Weber as the alternate.
In the lead up, she plans to increase her mounted games practice from two days to up to five days a week. This includes a fitness program and a refinement to her diet to include more protein to build and maintain muscle.
Getting to compete at the world event with her student Alyssa Bogardis is a great reward.
“It’s pretty good feeling I helped her achieve her goal and I got to do the same for me. I can’t be that bad of a coach if I landed on the team too,” she said, chuckling.
The pair’s attendance, she said, will be helpful to both of them.
Donaldson said being there will enable her to empathize with her student in regards to nervousness.
“It’s kind of nice we get to do it together and support each other. It’s nice we’re both from Haliburton [County]. That doesn’t happen that often. Small towns get recognized,” she said.
Despite any perceived challenges related to scheduling, Donaldson said little if any coaching is actually required in the minutes and seconds leading up to an event.
With 17 countries such as host country Ireland, USA, Australia, Norway and South Africa competing, this world event will feature the best mounted games riders in the world.
However for Donaldson the opportunity to meet them will be as good, if not, better than competing against them.
“It’s more about the relationships you make in the sport than anything else,” she said.
It will also be an opportunity to revisit with friends, met through competition over the years in the sport.
Described in an earlier Echo article, the mounted games require a high degree of riding skill, athletic ability, hand-eye coordination, drive and team work between team members, including the rider and the horse. Danger and possible injury is always a reality in every competition in these high stake games. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jMJUftBtKs for video. In the competitions the races are between teams of four riders on ponies, measuring less than 14 hands high that race in a relay format where the teams must ride in their own lanes like track and field. Each rider takes its turn until everyone has finished. The first team wins.
This sport is much grander and more popular in Europe than North America.
There is history, a following and the ponies have a rich lineage. The difference between ponies here and there Donaldson isn’t sure yet, but is anxious to find out.
“I’m really excited to ride ponies from over there. I don’t know I’ll be able to tell you,” she said, laughing when asked about the differences. “It’s kind of like cars. You know a european car [compared] to a Canadian made car. Not that our ponies aren’t great, but over there they have a little better bloodline.”
Here in Canada very few people watch mounted games.
Over there this world event will have a grandstand, which she expects to be filled with enthusiastic spectators very knowledgeable about the sport. She hopes the sport grows so that it is better attended.
“It would be great to have more awareness of this sport so maybe it would become a spectator sport like baseball,” she said.
She is not overly concerned with adjusting to the provided ponies, a reality for the world competitors unable to bring their own mounts.
“It’ll probably be a little nerve-wracking because I’ll be riding borrowed ponies. I won’t know who I’m riding until I get over there,” she said.
This isn’t new for the lifelong rider with the beaming smile and easy-going demeanor, who says most of it is in your head.
“The problem that a lot of people get is they’re used to their own pony ... I’ve been very fortunate I have had multiple ponies throughout my life,” she said.
Donaldson has ridden in two pony club competitions with borrowed ponies at a competition in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. She has regularly ridden a variety of other ponies. She also grew up helping her mother, Tammy Donaldson, an operator of the South Algonquin Trails – a horse riding service in Harcourt. Riding a variety of ponies, going through the variety of games helps with reconciling with that challenge.
She’s realistic about her goals in regards to results at the world event.
All she wants is for the team to perform consistently, particularly when the ponies are an unknown entity.
“If we can work as well as we can as a team with whatever we get handed then I don’t see how anyone wouldn’t be happy with it,” she said.