By Trina Maus
For as long as Kendra Mitchell can remember she has always wanted a horse of her own. She spent hours looking through classified ads, but having to pay back student loans and a being a first time homeowner, money was tight. The talented rider instead showed sales horses for other people in the Hunter/Jumper ring in Ontario. The Muskoka resident has also developed a reputation for being able to compete on the more challenging horses.
Still the 26 year old continued to look through the ads, a girl can always dream. Then one day while looking on kijiji.ca, she spotted a yearling paint gelding. Just looking at his huge white blaze put a smile on her face. Even though he was not expensive, she still couldn’t afford his price tag. So she went on riding for other people.
Two months later a familiar face popped up on her computer screen – it was the little paint. He was still for sale and she worried no one wanted him. “I thought he had potential,” Mitchell said, “so I decided to go see him, and ended up bringing him home.” That day was February 10th, 2014.
She named him McIlroy, since Rory McIlroy was the number one golfer in the world at the time and her boy friend is a golf pro. “I thought it might make breaking the news to him that I bought a horse a little easier if he was named after McIlroy”.
Mitchell worked off his board to help keep costs down. “At first people thought I was crazy for buying a registered paint gelding out of a field, it is not the typical breed you see in the Hunter ring, but he was all I could afford,” Mitchell said. She had big plans for the now 2-year-old. Her heart was set on qualifying for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in the Lieutenant Governor’s Cup. Mitchell has shown twice before in the cup classes, with other people’s horses, and she wanted to do it on her own. “I figured if I worked hard enough, why couldn’t McIlroy compete against the big Warmbloods!”
She knew the odds were against her, but she had hard work and determination on her side. McIlroy did not have a big pedigree, but he had excellent conformation and a big heart.
On August 30th of this year, Mitchell got McIlroy ready for his first horse show to qualify for the Royal.
“I really didn’t know what to expect, he was up against almost 30 other horses,” Mitchell said with a nervous tone in her voice. “When we placed 15th against all those expensive horses, I was ecstatic”.
A few weeks later Mitchell and McIlroy went to the final qualifying horse show and once again came home with a big ribbon, but better yet, they had solidified a spot in the Lieutenant Governor’s Cup Class at the Royal. Mitchell and her little paint gelding were heading to the big city!
The pair will compete against all the other top Canadian breed 3 year olds on November 14th at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.
However the class will be bitter sweet for Mitchell. “It will be my last time ever riding him. He is so talented and I cannot afford to show him. It is not fair for him to not reach his full potential, so I had to sell him to someone who could continue his career. It was such a hard decision, but I know it is the right one for him”. McIlroy’s new owners have allowed Mitchell to finish her goal of competing with him at the Royal and will take him home from there. “Luckily his new farm is only a few hours away so I can visit him when ever I want”.