For at least three riders, competing at Langley’s Thunderbird Show Park represents a return to very familiar territory.
Hayley Mercer, Samantha Buirs-Darvill and Kassidy Keith all grew up near tbird, and were all set to ride in the various competitions hosted by tbird over three weeks this month.
Hayley Mercer and Crown Royal, her even-tempered 11-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding, have been partners since he was five.
Mercer described the “low maintenance” Crown Royal as her “favourite ride.”
“He’s a very chill dude in the barn,” Mercer told the Langley Advance Times, but when the big horse is in the arena, he has his game face on, much like Mercer.
“We’re both very relaxed, but we’re both very competitive,” Mercer summed up.
In June, the pair won the $5,000 MarBill Hill U25 League 1.35m, taking advantage of Crown Royal’s height to omit a stride down each of the middle lines in the arena.
Following the win, Mercer explained the two have “grown up together.”
“I’ve had him since he was five, and he actually was my equitation horse,” Mercer commented.
“We nickname him ‘the surfer dude’ because he has such a chill personality, but he does have a little spice underneath. He’s super big, but you feel like you’re going fast on him.”
Samantha Buirs-Darvill grew up at Fairway Farms, a boarding, training and breeding facility that was established before Thunderbird moved to Langley, just across the street.
“This used to be a horse and barn pasture,” Buirs-Darvill remarked.
After taking a little time off to have her son, Buirs-Darvill resumed her winning habits, including a second place finish behind Vanessa Mannix in the CSI3 $100,000 ATCO Cup at the Summer Fort Classic in August of 2021, and finishing second behind Kyle King in the $20,000 Grand Prix 1.40m.
While she continues to aim for first, Buirs-Darvill said she doesn’t want to put pressure on her new, “young horse”, Chic D Emma Z. a nine-year-old stallion.
“They’re delicate creatures,” Buirs-Darvill remarked, adding Chic D Emma Z has shown lot of promise.
“He’s been great. He seems like a competitor. He’s getting better and better.”
Aldergrove’s Kassidy Keith was “excited” to be back at Thunderbird.
“Its right in my back yard,” Keith noted.
“I’ve been showing here since I was five years old. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
She will be accompanied by Havana, her 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, and Fenelon Wf, a nine-year-old stallion.
Keith and Havana have been a winning combination, with victories that include the CSI2 $36,900 tbird 1.45m in October of last year and the $5,000 MarBill Hill U25 League 1.40m in July of this year.
Keith said Havana is a real pleasure to work with.
“She always tries her heart out in the ring, and I love her.”
READ ALSO: Aldergrove’s Kassidy Keith wins at tbird
Keith works alongside her mother Cheryl at Keepsake Farms in Aldergrove, where Keith rides, trains and coaches.
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