Three local teens are set to represent Canada at the American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup in Texas this summer.
Lauren Irwin, Abigail Dunlevy, and Brooklyn Shannon each have achieved their lifelong goal of making the team and representing their country on the world stage.
Irwin, a Twin Lakes Secondary School student, has been horseback riding since she was five years old. Now 17, she has been riding the same horse for most of her career.
“I’ve made a bond with my horse which is really nice,” she said. “We’ve made a ton of memories at different shows. I’ve made a lot of friends, and had some really great opportunities.”
Irwin says making Team Canada is “kind of a miracle.”
“My riding instructor, Kathryn Stanton, has made this opportunity possible for me,” she said. “She has given me a ton of opportunities over the years.”
While her skills are vital, Irwin thinks it’s her positive attitude and work ethic that caught the eye of Team Canada.
“I’ve worked as hard as I possibly can,” she said. “I think that is what has helped me make it to where I am now.”
While Irwin admits she is a little nervous about the competition, she is mostly excited to compete on the international stage.
“Everyone on this team has worked extremely hard to get here,” she said. “I really do have some nerves, but I’m also just over the moon excited.”
At the Youth World Cup, Irwin’s goal is to make the most of the experience.
“I’m really excited to meet the other girls who are from different parts of Canada,” she said. “We are going to get to interact with other teams from other countries which is super cool.”
Dunlevy, 16, is also a Twin Lakes Secondary School student. She has been riding since she was four and has always dreamed of riding for Team Canada.
"This means everything to me," she said. "Ever since I was seven years old I've watched all of the older girls on the team and I've always been so excited to, hopefully, have the same opportunity one day."
The Oro-Medonte resident says her parents and trainer, Andrew Dewer, have prepared her for this moment, but she is still a little bit nervous.
"This is something I've worked toward for a long time," Dunlevy said. "I'm super excited."
During the World Cup, Dunlevy hopes to learn new leadership skills and how to work with new horses all while meeting new people from around the world.
Shannon, an Eastview Secondary School student, has also been horseback riding since she was five. Now 17, she says it’s nice to see all her years of hard work pay off.
“I’ve spent a long time preparing to ride with this team,” she said. “It has taken a lot of riding experience to get to this point.”
The Oro-Medonte resident says it’s a “really big honour” to make Team Canada.
“I’m excited for the experience,” Shannon said. “I’m excited for this to help me grow not only as a rider but as a person as well.”
The Newmarket native hopes she can make her local community proud at the World Cup.
“You don’t hear about too many people from Oro-Medonte going out and representing on the national level,” Shannon said. “I think it’s pretty cool and I hope I can represent well.”
At the World Cup, Shannon’s goal is to be a good teammate.
“I hope to have a good personal performance for my team,” she said. “My goal is to grow as a person, a teammate, and a rider.”
Shannon thanks her parents and coaches, Loris and Amy Epis, for helping her get to the international stage.
“It’s taken a lot of support to get me here,” she said. “I love the competition, I love the horses, but horseback riding creates a family and I really like that feeling.”