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Canadian Warmblood breeders ‘going south’ for the winter

Bel Air NV/Ashleigh Charity in California

By Chris Gould / CWHBA
Photography: Cealy Tetley, private collection

The popular expression, when something is ‘going south’ usually means things are not going well, to put it mildly. However, for many Canadian Warmblood breeders ‘going South’ implies the opposite as it means heading to circuits in Florida, Arizona, or California to escape the cold.

Sandra Donnelly has been going south since 2000 when she was a rider in training for advanced three-day eventing, first to California then in 2006 to Florida. In 2008 she competed for Canada in the Olympic Games with her home-bred Canadian Warmblood gelding, Buenos Aires (Bajzzo x Arkansas). A big part of that journey was spending time with her coaches and competing in the winter allowing her to develop both her own and her horse’s skills, uninterrupted. She has continued to make the annual trek, now with her students, staying anywhewe from six weeks to four months, depending on what horses she has and to which coast she travels. “As I’ve now retired from riding the upper levels, I will spend less time in the south. My schedule going forward will focus more on the development of athletes... both human and equine,” Donnelly explains.
Nevertheless the reasons for going remain. “In the sport of Eventing, training cross-country in the winter is difficult, and showing is non-existent. I started going to California in the winters to train, show, and support the habit by selling horses. Since 2002, I have spent time in the winters in one of the two locations. Competing at the FEI levels in eventing is not possible without a trip south and it is much easier if you relocate to a location that has more opportunities. Selling horses is definitely part of the trip, however, it is not the main focus for me. The most challenging part is managing the farm back in Alberta. I have been fortunate to have a wonderful support team that has always kept everything going at home”

Sandra Donnelly riding CWHBA Buenos Aires at the Beijing 2008 Olumpic Games in
Hong Kong

Donnelly's advice: “As a breeder, you need to be sure you have and trust the professionals you are working with. It is a great way to develop horses, but it is expensive. If your goal is to sell the horses, the horse needs to be going well at home and suit what is a very competitive market.”
On the the other side of the country in Thermal, CA, Ashleigh Charity is a five-year veteran of this annual trek; each year staying a little longer. “I like to go to California for the break from winter, but bring a bunch of my students with me and we enjoying getting back outside and training. I bring my young ones and it’s a great place to help develop them and give them great miles. I also bring a bunch of sale horses with me.” This year she is showing her licensed home bred stallions, Con Air NV (Air Jordan x Heartbreaker) and Bel Air NV (Air Jordan x Carthago Sun II)... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber


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