Above: 16-year-old Jada Graham and her horse Cilano. – Submitted Photos
by Stephen Dafoe
After years of dedication, Jada Graham is off to Montana as part of Junior Team Alberta.
Fédération Equestre Internationale’s (FEI) North American Youth Championships takes place July 24 to 28 in Kalispell, Montana and will bring together competitors from Canada, the United States and Mexico. The equestrian athletes will compete for individual and team medals.
Graham is one of four on Team Alberta competing in the eventing category and one of 21 young Canadians overall. Eventing combines three disciplines of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping.
The 16-year-old Sturgeon County resident has been riding for 12 years, having started when she was just four years old.
“Davina Mottershead introduced me to eventing when I was 11,” Graham said. “I knew it was the sport for me because it requires you to excel in all three phases: dressage, cross-country, and show jump.”
Her favourite part of eventing is cross-country, something she believes she holds in common with most eventers. “For me, when I’m out on the cross-country course, it is your chance to be free, wild and bold.”
Just five years after entering the sport, Graham is en route to a major competition. It has not been without a lot of effort. Graham has spent the past four winters training in Southern California. But the specific journey to NAYC required qualifying a year in advance and being selected by an Equine Canada selection committee.
“I felt super excited and proud that a goal I set for myself four years ago was becoming a reality,” Graham said. “It’s an honour and privilege to know you are representing not only Alberta but Canada. I hope to make everyone proud.”
Joining Graham on the journey to Montana is her horse Cilano, an imported Dutch Warmblood from Holland.
In preparation for the Montana event, the young athlete has spent the past four months riding six days a week while monitoring her and Cilano’s fitness, health and diet.
The young equestrian athlete said she is expecting some serious competition from the US competitors, but she is confident Alberta will put up a strong showing.
“I do believe us Alberta girls will put up a solid fight and I hope we make it to the podium,” she said.
Graham said after the championships in Montana are over, she will take a month off.