Ever since she was a child, Jennifer Wood loved to ride horses.
Growing up in Nanoose she dreamed of reaching the Grand Prix level of horsemanship and competing in international competitions such as the Olympics.
Riding has been part of her life since she was about four years old. It was always something that pulled her attention.
She trained throughout her youth learning horsemanship and horse care, but the Island only offered so many opportunities and she knew to get to the next level she would have to leave home.
When she was 18, she left Nanoose to train in California with her horse Mister. Now 21, Wood has the satisfaction of knowing she has reached the Grand Prix level, the highest level of modern competitions.
“It takes a long time to get to that level,” said Wood. “It takes hard work and dedication.”
She trained with Sandy Burns Gardener in California and her first competition at a Grand Prix level was in Los Angeles.
The day she competed is one of her most memorable moments – she had finally made it and her co-coach was three-time Olympian Guenter Sidel.
“He was someone I always wanted to ride for and it was the first time in the Grand Prix – it was a great day,” said Woods. “It was pretty amazing – a dream come true.”
She now competes across North America, mostly in Southern California and on the Lower Mainland.
Wood recently returned to her Island home to support the inaugural Island Equine Affair, an educational, entertaining and fundraising event.
Wood gave a Grand Prix Dressage Freestyle presentation. Proceeds from the Equine Affair went to the Hope for Horses Society, which helps horses in distress by covering veterinarian and feed bills and other expenses.
Jacque Duncan, president of the Hope for Horses Society, said about 500 people attended the event and the society raised about $2,200.
“As a first event, I think it’s fine,” she said. “The talent locally on this Island is just phenomenal.”
The Equine Affair raises awareness in a positive way and Wood said it’s great people are trying to make a difference in the lives of horses, because they do so much for their owners.