The 10th year of Dreamcatcher Meadows — the award-winning dressage centre in the Pemberton Valley — has been a year of incredible highs and lows for co-owner Jill Giese.
Competing in the U.S., the stable — North America's No. 1 dressage horse breeder for three years running — began with its best scores ever, but was later forced to withdraw from competition because of the difficulty in moving their stallions and mares to the U.S.
Then on June 25 came the death of the dam of the stable's entire stock, a mare called Dreamcatcher, who was purchased by Giese in the U.K. in 1999.
Also known as Aria, the United States Dressage Federation's (USDF) multi-award-winning champion and Giese's competition partner for 17 years, was 20.
It was a shattering blow to Giese, who misses her terribly.
This year's competitive dressage season followed Giese and her husband John Dingle winning the USDF Breeder of the Year award for three years running, in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The stable's horses competed in two U.S. competitions this year.
"The season started off as our best ever. We took nine horses and every one of them was either a son and daughter, or grandson and granddaughter of Aria," Geise said.
"They each won their individual sections."
One of the nine, D-Trix DMV, set a North American record with his scores with 97 per cent.
"That's never been done before," Giese said.
The eight others were Radiance DMV, Lady of the Dance DMV, Lancelot DMV, Ballerina DMV, Leopold DMV, D-Trix DMV, Lordsley DMV and Believe DMV.
Scores of over 77 per cent mean automatic entry to the season's finals instead of multiple competitions. All nine horses succeeded to reach their category finals this way.
Asked how many awards Dreamcatcher Meadows horses took overall, Geise said, "Every class they've gone in they've won, with 11 different horses."
And then it all ended — and Giese is clear as to why they pulled the plug on their season.
"It's because of traffic and road closure issues (which restricted access to and from Pemberton over the summer during events like the Pemberton Music Festival and Ironman). We have only one way in and out of the farm and horses transported to these shows are already looking at an eight- to 11-hour journey. If you are looking at delays, even if the roads are open, we feel it is inhumane to even try," Giese said.
She explains further: "We have some exceptional competitive disadvantages. We have long journeys to make to compete and there are no sport-horse classes in Canada. It's not like we can do this at home. And because of the border rules, each horse has to have a vet inspection and we need to present that at the border... it adds about one-and-a-half hours to the journey."
The low Canadian dollar also didn't help, but Giese said the road closures were the final straw.
"We couldn't get the horses to and from the events to finish the season and defend our title. We started off hoping to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive (USDF) Breeder of the Year award. It's hard. At our season opener, we started off better than any other show we've previously done, at Whidbey Island (in Washington)," Giese said.
"To know the regionals were going on last weekend and not be able to participate was heart-wrenching."
What is important is not the awards and trophies Dreamcatcher Meadows brings home to Canada, but the "labour of love" that has gone into it by Giese and Dingle, and the horses' other owners and young riders.
Because of this experience, Giese and Dingle have decided to focus on Canadian opportunities — though the U.S. is the much larger market for competition.
But big plans remain.
The stable has been given a grant by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC for promoting Canadian-born horses that are for sale in other countries. They first went to a three-day event in Kentucky in May to start the promotion plan.
"We want to make North Americans, in particular, aware that they don't have to go to Europe to buy amazing international prospects," Giese said.
Next year, they plan to hold the first-ever Canadian sport horse auction in Pemberton.
"It will be a huge thing, though the question about getting access remains," she said.
Finally, Dreamcatcher Meadows is creating a syndicate for companies and individuals who are interested in co-ownership in their horses, bred in Canada while many dressage competitors are bred in Europe.
"We want horses we have bred, ridden by Canadians, on the podium at the Olympics ultimately, but also at the World Cup, the Pan-Am Games," she said.
"The fact that we are breeding champion horses here immediately saves an investor money."
Geise and Dingle are holding a dinner and gala this Saturday, Sept. 10 for anyone interested in learning more about the syndicate and other plans. Catering is by Whistler's The Venue and tickets are $150. For more information, contact Giese at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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