Horse and rider forge a unique relationship. While many would passionately profess that people and pets form their own distinct human- animal bond, the successful rider and mount nearly create a partner- ship, thinking as one, especially in competition. Leam Maisonneuve and Caitlin Finlay intimately understand that connection. The pair of Sunderland teens will have the chance to demon- strate their riding skills as members of the Canadian team at the Equine Mounted Games in New Zealand this November. Their excitement about the up- coming trip lies close to the surface. “For sure, we’re excited!” they chorus. “And proud to represent Canada.” Caitlin and Leam’s contingent numbers five riders plus coaches. The riders have been selected from applications and following tryouts across the country. In total, 16 coun- tries from all corners of the globe will participate in the Games. The Mounted Games differ great- ly from other equine competitions, like dressage and show jumping, as Caitlin explains. “Each event – there are 27 differ- ent ones – is a relay race on horse- back. They’re all high-speed, and very intense.” The horses themselves are spe- cifically suited to the rigours of these Games. Leam uses the word “ponies” in his descriptions. “They’re under 15 hands (ap- proximately 60 inches) high, meas- uring from the ground to the top of its withers,” he says. “In a lot of our events, you have to bend to one side or lean down toward the ground, so having smaller horses makes it safer doing those kinds of manoeuvers.” Four members of a team ride in any given event. “We each have games we do bet- ter in than others,” Caitlin explains. “And it gives the horses and riders a break.” ...................... Please turn to page 4 Canadian team members and friends, Caitlin and Canadian Maple with Leam and his pony, Ronnie. Local riders highlight Canadian Mounted Team PHOTOS BY MARYANN FLEMING FOCUS - JULY 2017 3