As a rider, Isabelle Gauthier is as gritty as they get – not surprising when you consider some of the high-spirited horses she’s been on over the past 15 years.
“The one that taught me the most was a Morgan 14’3h pony named Diva who was notorious for bucking kids off. I was told that I’d never be able to ride her without a lot of experience – yet three weeks later, there I was, up in the saddle,” Isabelle says with a laugh. “I showed Diva for four years and she’s the one that made me realize my love of jumping and showing.”
When she’s not in the barn or the riding ring, this 22-year-old is studying social work at Laurentian University with the hopes of someday working with children or seniors. This year, Isabelle’s goal is to move up to the 1.10 and possibly the 1.20 in the A shows of the trillium circuit with Red, the horse she’s owned for six years.
What is your earliest memory of horses?
The movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002). After I saw it, I began imagining horses galloping beside our car during long road trips!
What challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
I’m from New Liskeard while most of the riding takes place in Western. One of the biggest challenges of being from a small town is that access to coaching was limited.
How did you overcome that?
I asked other riders where they went to further their training. That led me to Shelley Ellis at Eastwood. Shelley became my coach for the trillium circuit before Kelly Swanson moved to New Liskeard and took me under her wing. Having a coach in New Liskeard was more convenient, plus Kelly was a good fit for me as she also had experience in trilliums and had done shows down south. At the end of the summer, I was going to Laurentian in Sudbury to study, so I asked Cathy Inch if she could be my coach and the Scotts if they had a stall available at Foothills. Since then, I haven’t looked back and have learned so much in such a short period of time.
You are known for being pretty resilient. Do you think riding has contributed to that?
It’s definitely made me tougher in many ways. My favourite pony used to rear a lot and honestly, it just never phased me that I was in any danger – I thought she just wanted to play (laughs). Even now, I like getting on the “crazier” horses as it’s much more fun and I get a real kick out of their sassiness! I guess it takes a lot to scare me.
Tell us about the horse you are riding this season.
Cool Attraction (AKA Red) is a large (17.1 hands), 11-year old chestnut warmblood mare that I have owned for 7 years. She’s a gentle giant who think she knows everything. Red has fully recovered from her previous injury and we have been training every day to reach out goal.
If you and Red were stuck on a deserted island with a piece of tack, grooming tool or equipment, what would it be?
I’d bring my saddle as it’s the most expensive tack I own! I have really long legs, so this saddle has been custom-made to fit me and Red perfectly. It is a 2GS from CWD.
What advice would you give to new riders just getting into the sport?
Keep your heels down and your leg on. Those two things (combined with straightness) will get you out of almost any tough situation.
Finally, what would you say that horses have taught you?
Horses have taught me so much, but especially to have patience. In life, you might be tempted to rush things, but with horses, you simply can’t cut corners and still expect to achieve great results. The horse must come first. For example, since Red injured herself late last year, we have been following a strict rehabilitation program. While there are days I’d like to rush back into things, I know I must remain patient.
The biggest hurdle to starting any new sport is getting the necessary equipment. What do you need to just try the sport? What can you borrow? What would be nice to have? What should I wait to buy until I am fully committed to the sport? Here is what you will need before your first riding lesson.