This winter show season in Wellington, Florida, I will be interviewing some of the Canadian Dressage riders who are here to compete and who hope to get scores that will qualify them to be chosen to represent Canada at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, this September. My first interview is with Canadian Olympian Belinda Trussell.
When did you start riding? When I was ten. We were living in the Philippines and our family joined an athletic club and one of the sports offered was horseback riding. So my sister and I told out parents we wanted go riding. “Riding what? ” they asked. “Horses!” we said
When did you decide that you wanted to be a professional rider? “In my thirties. I never intended to be a professional rider. I had done the Young Riders but I thought I wanted to be a chef and ride as a hobby. I went to college to train to be a chef and found I hated it. I never wanted to have to cut up another julienned vegetable in my life! I went to Germany to ride and train with Canadian Olympian Christilot Boylen with the idea that I could ride for Canada in the Pan Am Games. After one year there I was told I was not nearly good enough to do that. So I stayed for another year of training and thought I would have to look for a “real job”. Then Christilot told me I should think about being a coach. “Canada needs coaches,” she told me. I was 26 or 27 at this point and I was still not sure about what I wanted to do. But over time horses and training and coaching evolved into what I really wanted to do and loved doing.
What major championships have you competed in? I have ridden for Canada in the Dressage World Cup in 2004, the World Equestrian Games in Jerez in 2002, Kentucky in 2010, and Normandy in 2014. Also I rode in the Athens Olympics in 2004 and Rio 2016.
Tell us about the horse you will be competing with in Florida to qualify for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon North Carolina in September of this year.
My horse is Tattoo. He is 15 years old and this is his second year competing at the Grand Prix level. Tattoo is an emotional and sensitive horse and he can be quite dramatic! When I bought him he was 10 years old and had lived with his owner, in Germany, his whole life. When he came to me, in Canada, he was in shock. The stress of a new place and the loss of his old owner caused him to colic and he had to have surgery and then he developed allergies. We have worked through all of that now. I just love this horse and he brings me joy every single day. Tattoo is a horse that will be concerned if the sky is a different color but I have developed a very deep connection with him and we have formed the best partnership now.
What is the most difficult or challenging part about a competition season like this one , leading up to World Equestrian Games team selection? Being away from my family for five to six weeks at a time. I have a son 12 years old and a daughter 11. I miss them and it tears at your heart as a wife and Mum. I want to be a great example to other women but I am torn between my home life and my dreams. For me that is harder than anything. For the competitions I must strategize so as not to burn out, either myself or my horse. The strategy is different for each horse and rider combination. It cannot be a one size fits all.
If you had not become a professional rider what other career might you have chosen? Not to be a chef! I like horticulture so perhaps something to do with working in a greenhouse or garden center.
If you could ride any horse, of any discipline and either alive or dead , which horse would it be? My first choice would be my horse Tattoo! And…..my second choice would be……. Desperados ( German rider Kristina Sprehe’s stallion)
Thank you Belinda and the best of luck to you and Tattoo for the competition season.