Erin Braithwaite from Brantford Ontario will finally have the opportunity to cross one thing off her “Horsey Bucket List”… going to Spruce Meadows for the Masters. Yay!!!!

Victory GALLOP! Nothing was holding Cabrio back! -Photo by Keara

Olivier Phillipaerts and Carbio won the $1 Million CN International last year – Photo by Keara

A Horse Junkie’s “Bucket List”

As a horse-less horse junkie for the past 20 years, I have learned to appreciate every opportunity I get to ride other people’s horses. As an adult rider, I have learned how expensive life can be, even without a horse. I have also come to realize that there isn’t enough time in the world to do everything we want, and we have to choose carefully how we want to spend our time. This is why for now, rather than working towards owning my own horse, I have decided to work on what I call my “bucket list” of horse experiences.

Today, the list includes a variety of things, some more extravagant than others. I would love to travel to England to ride across the countryside, and to watch a steeplechase race.  I also think it would be fun to stay on a dude ranch and learn to work cattle. I would love to ride a Gypsy Vanner, as well as a police horse. I also dream of one day riding in the same dirt as the top level riders…even if I won’t be competing against them.

At the top of my list however, has always been to travel to Spruce Meadows for the Masters. Growing up in Toronto, I have attended The Royal more times than I can remember, loving the opportunity to pretend for a day that I was just like all the other riders in the stands who owned their own horses. I have also been to some excellent smaller shows, with top level riders. None of them however have quite lived up to what I have seen on television. The breath taking grounds, and the excitement created by huge crowds of fellow horse junkies cheering on riders and horses from around the world.

For years, whenever someone has asked me, “If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?” my answer has been Calgary. This response has often been met with a puzzled look and/or a comment like, “Really?..What’s in Calgary?”  I don’t have to explain to my close family and friends however. They all know how many times I have tried to win the Name the Foal Contest in order to live this dream. There were years in high school that I submitted hundreds of names, by email, fax and even snail mail.

“Why not just save up the money to pay your own way” you ask? Well, as with everything in life, it has always come down to timing and money. You may be surprised to know that travelling from Ontario to Calgary is as expensive as taking a cruise or all inclusive vacation in the Caribbean. With the tournament being the second week in September, I also felt guilty taking time off from school so early in the year, especially when I got to university.  Needless to say, 6 years and two degrees later, I had no money to travel. Of course, I wouldn’t have felt guilty at all if I had won the trip!

Last year, I came very close to crossing this trip off my “bucket list”, and in more ways than one. Early in the year, my boyfriend thought that I shouldn’t put it off any longer and said he wanted to experience Spruce Meadows with me. We were close to booking the trip, but he was also close to quitting his job in Toronto to come and live with me in another city.

After discussing it further, we decided it would not be the best time to travel as we needed to get him settled, and he still had to find a new job. With that decided I thought I would try my luck again, and enter the Name the Foal Contest. Well, they selected one of my names, but I didn’t win. More than one person must have entered the same name, and I must not have won the draw. (Sigh, I didn’t even get a consolation prize!)

The Riding Hall- you can find the tack shop inside.

Ahhh… Spruce Meadows.

Coming so close last year only made me want to do it even more. This year I decided no more excuses. To borrow the Calgary Stampede’s slogan – “Come hell or high water”, we were going to Spruce Meadows.  So, despite some unexpected expenses early in the year and the flooding in Calgary, our tickets, hotel and car are all booked.  I hope to be able to write again about my first experience at Spruce Meadows, as I can only imagine that I will be overcome with lots of emotions (and unable to talk about it coherently).  Hopefully I’m not the only one who gets teary eyed just watching coverage from Spruce Meadows. Here’s to living your dreams and creating your own horse-themed “bucket list!”

Erin