Teen rider heading to world competition
By Darren Lum
Grade 8 JDHES student Alyssa Bogardis is excited that her dream to represent her country in the upcoming World Team Championships of mounted games is being realized.
The sport’s origins are tied to military horse riders – the inspiration of Prince Phillip of England, who wanted a horse riding competition that used inexpensive ponies.
It was called Prince Phillip Games. Mounted games includes competitors of all ages, both genders, and unlike Canada, mounted games is very popular in Europe for competitors and spectators.
The competitions require a high degree of riding skill, athletic ability, hand-eye co-ordination, drive and team work between team members, including the rider and the horse.
Manoeuvres look like a scene from the Three Musketeers with riders picking things up at full gallop, running along side and hopping on the horse, or lancing a ring. Danger and possible injury is always a reality in every competition in these high stakes games.
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 his or her turn until everyone has finished. The first team wins.
This year, after a series of three tryouts Bogardis earned a spot on the under-17 National Team as its youngest member on the team that will compete from July 11 to 17 at the 30th annual World Team Championships for mounted games at the Green Glens Arena in Ireland.
There will be 17 countries participating including host country Ireland, U.S.A., Australia, Norway and South Africa.
Bogardis’s success didn’t come right away.
After not making the national team cut last year at 12, she was driven to make this year’s squad, which includes teammates Lily Solomon, Bryson Strickland, Lexi Vahey, and Savannah Weber and alternate Dakota DeJong.
Coach and mounted games competitor Jocelyn Donaldson of Harcourt said her student’s added sense of urgency was the difference this year.
Bogardis has a lifelong passion for horse riding and mounted games, which is an adrenaline rush.
When Donaldson met the soft-spoken Bogardis three years ago a world championship in mounted games, the Olympics for the sport, was the furthest thing from her mind.
Donaldson, who was approached by Bogardis’s parents to help her with riding outside a riding arena, didn’t know it at first, but soon learned there is an immeasurable fight within the girl to do her best.
“I’d go on rides with her and she’d be crying. I’d swear she hated me so much, but that she wanted to do it I didn’t understand. I kept riding with her and told her to do something and she would just do it.
She didn’t question me. I think she realized that I believed in her so that she got more confident,” she said.
She adds three years ago that same girl would have never tried out for the Worlds team.
“She has come a long way so this is a huge deal for her,” she said.
During practices (regularly at Just a Farm Equestrian Centre in Minden on Ritchie Falls Road) Bogardis makes it look easy, Donaldson said.
In particular, with the game Litter: when a competitor must race the length of a route, measuring close to 45 metres, carrying a dowelling like a lance to pick up an empty container on the ground then turn back to the start and drop off the container in a specific vessel.
When Bogardis joined the Victoria Pony Club in Kinmount at age eight she was introduced to the sport of mounted games.
Later, she demonstrated the sport at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. She started competing in mounted games three years ago.
With fitness coaching from Luke Mayhew, her strength grew, but the improvement is also owed to her pony, Chip, and the bond they share and the deep trust in one another.
Bogardis has a strong connection with her horse, who she credits with making the team.
The two share a similar demeanour and attitude; a pair that works as one.
Her mother Tanya Rosenberg, who will make the trip with her daughter, speaks glowingly about Chip.
“He’s taken her from beginner to Worlds. He’s done that with her,” she said.
However, Chip will remain here while Bogardis competes overseas.
Donaldson said this rider and horse relationship is what truly separates it from other sports.
“It’s not like any other sport where you have a ball or a puck that is your main piece of equipment.
Ours is a living animal that could decide they don’t want to perform and do what we want to do. It’s our job to keep them happy, healthy and willing to perform for us and work with us. The whole thing is a team effort,” she said.
The future is bright for Bogardis, Donaldson said.
That wasn’t always the feeling voiced by those outside of her student’s circle.
“She had a lot of people doubting her at the very beginning. I think now they’re all starting to see she’s one to watch,” she said.
Pursuing a dream is expensive. The family has started a Go Fund Me page with a goal of $4,000. See www.gofundme.com/84tk8kus.