We asked #TeamBombers dressage rider Bert Sheffield six burning equestrian questions, from riding goals to words of wisdom.
December 15th, 2020
1.Which is your most memorable horse?
I would select two! My first international horse Wonderboy (Whoop), for sure. (Pictured left). And of course, my wonderful Fairuza (Wonky – pictured far below), who led me to Bomber bits! Whoop came into my life when he was 4, as a barely-started, cheap KWPN jumping horse that I had every intention of getting going, and then selling to help fund me buying a ‘proper’ dressage horse.
He was incredibly challenging as a young horse; if he was in the field, he was jumping out; if he was in the stable, he was creating mayhem; if you were riding him, you’d better have your wits about you. So all in all, the perfect starting material for a Para dressage equine superstar!
Thank goodness he mellowed, and I learned how to manage him; he taught me so much. He gave me my first national championship title; we won internationally together, he took me onto the Canadian National team Programme, and he allowed me to train him through all the dressage work to Grand Prix.
His soundness was always his limiting factor, but since I retired him from competition, he has gone on to be an adored schoolmaster for three families. He is the perfect example of how it is the difficult ones that have the most to teach you.
Fairuza or Wonky, pictured far below, is my current international level horse, a 12 year old Gelderlander x Warmblood mare. She has a story all of her own; I bought her from her breeder as an unhandled/ semi-feral 6 year old; she had been living out in a huge herd.
Again, she was to be a project horse, but she claimed a piece of my heart and stayed. She has become the horse I always wanted. For all her hot, fiery and power in the arena, I can hack her on the trails around the local woods with friends on the buckle. Wonky is that illusive mix of heart-horse and performer.
2.What’s your best piece of advice and why?
Be in the moment. If you think in the past, you will be depressed; if you think in the future, you will be anxious. Stay grounded in the here and now.
3.What’s your ultimate goal?
At the moment, the ultimate goal is team selection for the Tokyo Paralympics next year with Wonky! It would be my 4th Major Games representing Canada.
4.What would you tell your younger/teenage self?
I would definitely tell my teenage self that there will be a silver lining to this ‘thing’ that is happening to you. I developed the symptoms of rheumatoid disease when I was 15, but the doctors didn’t manage to get a handle on what was going on until I was 20, so I spent my teenage years in great pain physically, and consequently mentally, falling apart, with no diagnosis or prognosis for the future. I would definitely reassure my teenage self that this condition will actually be a blessing in the long run, and lead to you opportunities beyond your wildest dreams.
5.Which horse would you like to have ridden, or to ride?
Reiner Klimke’s Ahlerich has always been my heartthrob horse; so much charisma! That horse showed how correct training doesn’t have to make the horse slavish; he bubbled with personality and joy. He’s probably the reason I seem to gravitate towards bay horses with white faces.
6.What will you be doing in 20 years’ time?
I have no idea! Hopefully, I will still be enjoying my horses and still coaching.
Bomber Bits ambassador Bert Sheffield is a Canadian dressage rider and qualified riding coach. She competes as a Para-Equestrian Paralympic Team member, and runs a remote coaching and mentoring programme at www.bertsheffieldparaequestrianrider.com. Bert has represented Canada at three Major Games including the Rio Paralympics. Interested owners and supporters can contact Bert via her Facebook page.
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