I will always remember the first time I saw Eric; he was about 16 years old and riding for a fellow from Quebec. Even in those early days, Eric’s obvious talent in the ring always made him stand out. In fact, people would often point him out as if to say, “That guy will really be something someday.”
During Eric’s final junior year, he was champion of the Junior Hunters and Junior Jumpers at the Royal Winter Fair. Soon afterwards, he was hired by my friend Jay Hayes to be a second rider in his barn. It was then that I came to know Eric well, as Jay was a good friend. Soon after, Eric started dating a student of mine, Tiffany Phillip's and he spent a lot of time at my barn at the shows. Eric went on to work for Hugh Graham.
When he was just 18, I invited Eric to do his very first clinic at Foothills Farm in Sudbury. At the time, Sudbury was still very much a French-speaking community and Montreal-born Eric seemed to really enjoy the people up here. He met many people during these visits, and he really valued my family, friends and clients.
Around the same time, an acquaintance asked me to go over and teach them a riding lesson at a facility near Woodbine Racetrack. That was where I first met Cindy, who owned a great big Thoroughbred named “Five”- a horse I later bought for a client of mine. Cindy’s husband was a jockey at the racetrack, and she had won some riding lessons with Hugh Graham through the Jockey Club. Hugh was unable to squeeze lessons into his busy schedule, so I suggested that Cindy work with Eric – he was working for Hugh at the time and besides, he was a wonderful rider and teacher himself.
And so it began! Being an ambitious and industrious young person, Eric was soon helping Cindy buy and sell her husband Ray's thoroughbreds. Eric always had an eye for a great horse and it became a very profitable venture for him. Myself and another professional from Sault Ste. Marie, Tina Breed, also bought many of these young horses for our clients. Eric later helped me sell many of these horses once they were developed and it was a great partnership for both of us.
Over time, Eric and I established a strong bond, and although I can’t take credit for the career Eric built for himself, I am proud to have played a part in introducing Eric to Cindy and Ray as that connection really helped him get established in the horse business. Eric later went on to meet Eddie Creed – and it was on Eddie’s property in King that Eric established Torrey Pines Stable, training, and buying and selling horses.
For many years, Eric continued to visit Sudbury to do clinics at Foothills Farm. When he finally reached a point that he was getting too busy, Eric graciously introduced me to his good friend Yann Candele, who gladly stepped in to do the clinics and helped look after me at the shows. Yann has become a great friend as well.
Eric, of course, went on to greatness in the horse world, but he also had a side business in Florida real estate. When Eric invited me to stay at his beautiful home in Wellington in 2007, he generously offered me stalls in his barn while coaching me in both riding, and buying and selling horses. When my husband Rick passed away the following winter, Eric invited my son Jedd and I down to spend a peaceful month down in Florida. Now that is a good friend.
In the weeks leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Eric arranged for a dinner at Allegra's restaurant in Palgrave with a few close friends who had helped him along in his career. He invited his real estate agent and his decorator, some riding friends like Kim Kurton, and… me. I felt honoured to have a seat at that table and even more grateful that Eric valued our friendship as much as I did. No surprise, Eric went on to win Gold in Beijing with his legendary and beloved horse, Hickstead.
One thing about Eric is that he sure knows how to show his friends a good time. On one of my first buying trips to Europe, I asked Eric to help me and my client Katriina Routsalo (Northern Legacy Horse Farm) buy some horses. We spent three wild days in Belgium with Eric, where he wined and dined us relentlessly, sold us a horse, then sent us home exhausted, broke and delirious from laughter!
I am forever indebted to Eric. Although our schedules tend to keep us apart, we’ve tried to keep in touch. Through times of great loss, like when Rick died, Eric has always been there to remind me of how lucky I am to have experienced love and to cherish that gift. Eric always said he envied me because of the bond I have with my family and friends, but what’s funny is that I’ve always envied Eric for the way he pursued his passion and never stopped until he was the best in the world.
Eric’s riding is legendary and the talent and instinct that he possesses is truly rare. Canada is very lucky to have Eric as a team member and as an equestrian ambassador, as he wears our colours with pride, respect and a healthy competitive spirit.
So many people are in your corner supporting you, Eric, including me. I am so very proud to call you my friend and wish you strength, grace and perseverance in crossing this obstacle.
- Cathy Inch