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"Karen, Paige Lockton and Rachel Hunter were presented the Air Canada Scholarship at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto in 1988 by Princess Anne."

 

MY YOUNG RIDER AIR CANADA SCHOLARSHIP WITH CAPTAIN MARK PHILLIPS IN 1989

This is a write-up I wrote in 1989 for BC Horse Trials Association after returning from a wonderful three months in England and Scotland with two other Canadian Young Rider Scholarship winners, Paige Lockton, and Rachel Hunter.  Mark Phillips went on to be the long-time Coach of the US Three-Day Event Team, coaching them to many victories.  Zara Phillips went on to become the World Champion in Eventing after winning the title at the World Equestrian Games in 2006 in Aachen, Germany.  I feel privileged and honoured to have been given this amazing and unforgetable experience!  Thank you to all!

May 22, 1989

Alpo (Alpine Renegade) and I have safely arrived back in Canada and I suppose everyone is wondering the usual, such as, “Did I see/talk to Princess Anne?”.  “What is Capt. Mark Phillips really like?”, etc.  Well, not trying to bore you, but I only saw the Princess half a dozen times, and when I did actually come face to face with her for the first time, much to my horror, all I could do was say a quick and bashful “Hiiiiiiiiii!”  Man, one of my very few chances to impress upon her how charming Canadians really are.  What a loser I am.  I did redeem myself somewhat because the next time we passed, I quite tidily sputtered out “Good Morning Mam!”  Oh well, I guess some of us just need more time before we feel really comfortable with royalty!

The Captain, as we called him, is quite another story.  He’s a great character who let loose a bit and let us feel absolutely relaxed around him.  One of our first lessons with him involved going for a bush whack hack and a good gallop, along with his two kids Peter and Zara.  Off of the horses he was just as much fun.  One day, Zara, who is seven, came to our flat all excited because she said, “Papa gave you permission to come around the front (of the main house) and see my new bantis …(chickens).  Paige and I went around the front and saw the bantis and then began playing ball with Zara.  We were acting all of seven ourselves, and making a fair amount of silly noises, when we saw the Captain come out towards the lawn.  He looked very sheepish; hands in his pockets, grimace on his face, and approached us in a very gingerly manner.  We didn’t know what to do, but being who we were, we just carried on and before we knew it, the Captain was playing pig-in-the-middle and goofing around with us!

As far as riding goes, I have to admit that things could have worked out better.  Alpo and I had a nasty, nasty fall at our first event, which set us (Alpo’s confidence) back quite a bit.  We were very fortunate though, as the back specialist who checked Alpo out said that if he wasn’t such an agile and compact little athlete, he would most likely have had to be put down.  The Captain was no less than wonderful as he took me x-country schooling (private lessons to boot), over three different courses to help resolve Alpo’s problem of “Ditch-phobia”.

So in a round-about way, you could say our fall taught me a tremendous amount.  I feel a lot more certain as to how to ride all sorts of ditches and water jumps and the Captain also really helped me with my galloping and pace work.  Even though I didn’t gain a lot of positive experience competition-wise, I sure wouldn’t trade the last three months for the world, because I feel like a much more educated rider.  Which  ….wasn’t that the whole aim of the scholarship anyway???

We also had a lot of dressage lessons out in the fields with the sheep.  During our very first dressage lesson, after about 5 minutes, the Captain called me over, told me to get off, continued to crawl off his own horse and onto Alpo (without letting his feet touch the ground) and went to school Alpo for 45 minutes.  He kicked and thumped away at Alpo, made him use his butt, and when I got back on, I was in awe at the new “buttons” the Captain had installed.  Now I just have to make sure I’m working them right.

When it came time to leave, we all just couldn’t believe that three months had actually gone by.  It was sad to think that our quaint little flat in the gorgeous Gatcombe Park Estate, the luxury of shipping in the Range Rover Team Lorry, the advantages of working with the Captain, and pure contentment of eventing in England would all soon be a memory.  It’s amazing how time literally flies when you’re having the time of your life.  And that’s what we had, the time of our lives!  Thank you to everyone!

 

    Love Always,  Karen and Alpo