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The Greenhorn Chronicles 12: Erynn Ballard on Canadian Equestrianism


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2022/06/22


Canadian Show Jumping Team veteran Erynn Ballard is one of the top-ranked female show jumping athletes in the world. Her career began with great success in the hunter, jumper, and equitation rings as a junior rider, including becoming only the second Canadian to ever win the ASPCA Maclay National Championships in 1998. One year later, Ballard won the individual gold medal at the 1999 North American Young Riders’ Championship. In 2006, Ballard made her Nations’ Cup debut at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ tournament and helped Canada win for the first time in the event’s history. That same year, she was named ‘Equestrian of the Year’ by her National Federation. Since then, she has accumulated numerous wins at the five-star level. Renowned for her impressive catch-riding abilities, Ballard currently rides for Ilan Ferder Stables, an internationally-respected training and sales operation. She discusses: becoming interested in equestrianism; highly accomplished in several platforms and earning awards in the industry; earliest articles; Maclay Finals; competition; great mentors; influence; a uniform training style; repetition and feel; picking a horse for the body build; Europe; the change; socioeconomic issues of haves and have-nots; career highlights post-Maclay; Canada; sit-down discussions; competitions, events, or speaking engagements; not really doing anything differently; riding; pragmatism and realism; endurance; working; an internal halt once; and career choices.

Keywords: 2024 Paris Olympics, ASPCA Maclay National Championships, Canada, Canadian, equestrianism, Erynn Ballard, Europe, FEI, Geneva, Grand Prix, horse, Kim Kirton, Leslie Reid, Milton, Nations Cup, North America, Ocala, Palm Beach, Pan Am Games, Spruce Meadows, U25.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 12: Erynn Ballard on Canadian Equestrianism

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations after the interview.*

*Interview conducted January 10, 2022.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start from the beginning, naturally, what were some of the earlier experiences for you, which stood out in terms of becoming interested in equestrianism?

Erynn Ballard[1],[2],[3]: I have been doing it for so long. I don’t know if there is one thing that stood out over another. It was my parents’ business. Before I turned 5, we lived in town, in a small house. Around my 5th birthday, we moved to the farm where I grew up. That was probably the turning point, which was living on the farm with the horses.

I grew up in Milton. It wasn’t until 2005 when my parents moved up North. The farm that we owned was right on the 401. So, it was time to sell the land, then we moved North.

Jacobsen: Obviously, you’re the number 1 ranked equestrian in Canada [Ed. At the time of the interview, now, one of the top-ranked women equestrians in the world]. You’re highly accomplished in several platforms and earning awards in the industry. Was this precocity with horses noted early? Or were you an ordinary rider who worked very hard, or some combination of the two?

Ballard: I don’t know. I don’t know how you become good. I was always good. I won from a very early stage, but I don’t know if people noticed me, at the time. Certainly, I never felt like I was any sort of prodigy. I was just a kid who liked to ride horses and won a lot of classes.

Jacobsen: What were the earliest articles written about you when you started becoming noticed? Do you recall any of those?

Ballard: Probably, the biggest most notable win was when I won Maclay Finals. I was 17 and just turned 18. It is a big equitation final in the U.S. That would have given me, for sure, the most publicity. It is one of the biggest accomplishments you can have as a junior.

Jacobsen: How many juniors take part in that competition in particular?

Ballard: You have to compete at the regionals before you go to the Finals. That year, it was at the Gardens, maybe 185. I don’t know – around there.

Jacobsen: All these ~185 have gone through their own filtration to train, go through competitions, to compete at the ASPCA Maclay Finals. So, when you’re getting trained early on and winning competitions, who do you mark as great mentors for you, trainers?

Ballard: I grew up with my parents. When I was quite young, I went on the road. When I was 10- or 11-years-old, I went on the road to ride ponies with Kim Kirton, who is a trainer in Canada. Then I went into equitation to do it properly in the United States. Missy Clark was my trainer. Still, to this day, those two people are very influential in my life.

Jacobsen: What would you attribute each individual’s influence on you? What particular quality stands out to you?

Ballard: For both of those people, they teach a very individual style. They let each rider be their own selves. Some trainers, you can see. You can pick out that rider rides with that person because they pick up a characteristic of that stable. Missy, certainly, each of her riders; she works on their own strengths. She focuses on those. You become less uniform and more individual if that makes sense.

Jacobsen: Are there areas in which a uniform training style is beneficial?

Ballard: I’m sure. Maybe, people with less natural feel excel in a more uniform training environment, where everything is done the same way. You work solely on repetition. Basically, any good trainer works on repetition, but specific to body type. How you sit on a horse, the first time you sit on a horse; it will be the way you look on the horse, for the most part, for the rest of your life.

I am lucky for this sport. I have a shorter upper body, longer legs, and longer arms. So, it is easier for me to sit in the center of a horse. Missy would work on my individual style as far as how I physically looked on the horse rather than conforming me to a different position. That’s where you have to work on repetition for training, but how you sit on a horse for the first day is how you’re always going to sit on the horse because it’s your place of balance.

Some people with shorter legs and longer upper bodies may have a harder time staying in balance. They can become heavier at the top. People with shorter arms may have a harder time if they are riding lower with a low horse because they may be restricted in their ability to bend their elbows to go with the horse’s balance. They may get stuck because their arm doesn’t give them the freedom to go with the balance.

So, when you’re working on training, and when you’re working with kids developing, you have to focus on their physical build. You have to focus on a horse suitable for them, suitable for their physical build. Then you can focus on their abilities.

Jacobsen: You mentioned repetition and feel. What is the importance of repetition regardless of the training style in equestrianism, generally? What is the importance of feel? I have heard this term a lot as a greenhorn.

Ballard: Feel, you can’t teach. It would be comparable to a golf swing. You can’t teach somebody feel. That’s where repetition comes into place. Feel, you would have to associate that with pure natural ability. Some people have more. Some people have less. You include the repetition. So, maybe, those with less understand how to work a horse’s movements.

So, take, for example, I work on a pole line. Two poles on the ground, not even a jump, every time, I walk my own 22 steps. I do that so every single horse that I ride; I know how they make what should be 5 strides in between those 2 poles feel good. Then I can make 6 strides feel good. The repetition of doing that, making me understand the horse’s stride, also helps with the feel. A feel for 5. A feel for 6.

What do I need to do to make it do 5 strides? What do I need to do to shorten it to make it do 6 strides? So, when I do it, I am, specifically thinking, “What do I need to make the horse do to make it feel good?” When the kids are doing it, the horse should already know how to do it. So, I’m teaching them how to feel how 5 feels good and how 6 feels good.

If I change the distance, if I make it 25 steps or 27 steps, you can still do 5 or 6 strides in between those two poles, but it is not consistent. The repetition of keeping it the same every single time, for me, when I am training a horse or when a kid is doing the same exercise; I am trying through exercise to teach them feel.

Jacobsen: The idea of picking a horse for the body build. I’m intuiting picking the horse with the psychology of the person, so understanding the psychology of the horse as part of the feel. Is that part of the feel?

Ballard: Horses have independent thoughts. That’s a problem. We can’t always control them. So, when I pick a horse for a kid, I do think their body types have to be suitable. If a person has shorter legs, I don’t want to put them on a very wide horse. The shorter their legs are, the wider the horse is, the less comfortably their legs will sit on that horse’s body. In a shorter person, I need to create more length. So, it would be more suitable to put them on a normal-bodied horse. So, from their hips, they have the ability to make their legs longer rather than wider if that makes sense.

If a person has short arms, I don’t want to put them on a horse that has a very long neck. Because like I said earlier, otherwise, they don’t have the ability to bend their elbows. Then they get stuck. If they get stuck, a term we’d use is “hanging” on the horse’s mouth. They can’t take or give. They get stuck there. I do think in order to make a good match; their body types have to match.

They have to suit each other. You have to look at each other together and say, “Those two look good.” If you look at a kid on a horse, and from the get-go it looks awkward, then it will probably feel awkward. It is up to the trainer and up to the person as well. They have to say, “I don’t feel that comfortable on this horse. He is too big (or too small) for me.” If the horse has a shorter front end, and if it is a taller person, they will not feel comfortable because they will be looking over its ears.

The taller person needs a horse out in front of it to control their upper body and help them with their balance. So, I’d say, “That’s education.” It is a feel for training and for finding a horse for somebody.

The psychology of it; we don’t have that much control over the thought of horses. I’ve picked out horses for someone before. In that trial, with a horse, you have two or three times to try it.

Say, from the first day to the third day, the horse is jumping higher and giving more air, and looking more careful. You’re thinking, “Wow! I’m doing a great job.” However, what that horse, actually, told me, I didn’t know. The horse was jumping higher and with more care because he was scared. That fear turned into a bad match. So, sometimes, we pick a horse that doesn’t work. It isn’t necessarily our fault.

That horse couldn’t tell us, “What you see is not what I’m thinking.” For the most part, if a horse goes well, for a rider, then you should be able to manage it in a program. I am always, when I sell a horse to a kid, there to ride it. If the kid makes a mistake, or a horse is green or makes a mistake, I have the ability to get on it and fix it. Even myself, the horse’s I jump in the biggest classes; Ilan (Ferder) trains them. He is bigger and stronger.

He instructs them. Then he puts me on them for the final result. It is the same for the kids. We ride them. The professionals ride them. The bigger, the stronger, person manages the horse. The owner should be able to produce the horse. The better the owner gets, the more they are able to do on their horse. The one thing with equestrianism or horse riding, there is no one way better than another.

There are books on horsemanship, but there are no books on individual styles in training. Each rider picks a person that they want to ride with because they believe in them. Each person that they pick to ride with has their own style and their own program; that’s what makes everyone a little different.

Jacobsen: How is this kind of upbringing, thinking about training, and suitability of a horse to a rider, different from Europe? I’m told in some conversations, though early in the series, granted, about the difference between the Western European and North American mindset about training and selection of rider to horse. It is a little bit different. Is this something that you note as someone more experienced in the field?

Ballard: In the last 20 years, Europe has, definitely, caught up to the North American style of riding. They, certainly, have an edge on the buying, selling, breeding, and the development. So, at your highest level, when you’re talking about the best 100 riders in the world, I don’t think there’s much difference between your European training and North American style training, maybe below that.

The startup, our education is much more sophisticated with the pony-hunters and the equitation, and the customer service. A long time ago in Europe, there weren’t customers. Even individual riders had their own barns, they weren’t involved in a specific training program. Now, even in Europe, the biggest trainers, the biggest dealers, they all have people who work under them as trainers. They have developed our style of training the amateurs, the 1.20, the 1.30, the FEI children.

Even in South America, the best are the best; and it is comparable around the world. North America has a little edge on development. Everyone is developing very fast.

Jacobsen: What convinced them in the last 20 years to make the change (the Europeans)?

Ballard: They saw our success.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] Fair enough.

Ballard: Especially with the amateurs buying expensive horses, the U25 has opened a market for sales. The Europeans always had the horses. It was always the Americans going to Europe to buy the expensive horses. Now, it is hard to go to buy the expensive horses because they are keeping them for their own U25 riders. So, they learned from us.

Jacobsen: Do these socioeconomic issues of haves and have-nots, increasing income disparity, wealth disparity, in many countries in the world, impact this sport from the bottom level and up, as a follow-up to that question?

Ballard: There are a lot of people who gain from it. A lot of professionals and dealers who gain from it, who can sell horses more expensive, who are able to have more opportunities because we are working with wealthier clients. Does it make it harder for the average, middle-class family to keep up? Yes. But I think the world always works itself out and always finds a balance. You take Palm Beach and Ocala. Palm Beach is the best of the best.

It is the most expensive. I could go on and on, and on. In Ocala, they have the World Equestrian Centre, which is – literally – the best facility ever made in all of the world. That man offers free stalls. So, you get to go to Ocala and show at the best facility that has ever existed at, maybe, a 1/3rd of the cost of Palm Beach.

You are gaining opportunity. Maybe, you are not riding against the best people in the whole world, but he is offering ridiculous amounts of prize money, beautiful stables. People can go there as a source of income because the overhead, for once in your lifetime, is less than the money offered in prize money. So, that is giving a huge opportunity to people that, maybe, can’t be here. Maybe, if they win enough there, and if they get seen, and if they are in the spotlight, then they have the chance to go work for somebody or to come to Palm Beach for a week and show off what they have.

There is always a way. I am not really a believer in the idea that if you don’t have the means, then you don’t have the chance. I think there’s always a way. You may have to work harder than some other people. But if you want it bad enough, then you are going to do the work anyways.

Jacobsen: What would you consider some of your career highlights post-Maclay?

Ballard: I mean, so many, but the biggest ones would be winning the Nations Cup in Spruce Meadows twice. For a Canadian team, it has only won the Nations Cup there three times. I was on the first winning team; I was on the third winning team. I was double clear in the Nations Cup in Lima for Canada at Pan Am Games. I got to show in Geneva two weeks ago.

I didn’t have my best results [in Geneva], but it is one of the hardest shows to get into. I had the opportunity to show. Sometimes, it is not always based on results, but on opportunities. At the moment, I am the second highest ranked female rider in the entire world. That’s massive. Every year gets better than the last. On Friday, I won the last Grand Prix in 2021. On Sunday, I won the first Grand Prix of 2022.

In three days…

Jacobsen: …[Laughing] feeling pretty good.

Ballard: [Laughing] that’s pretty cool. Not major classes, but to put that on your resume or to talk about, “I won two Grand Prixes in three days and in two different years.”

Jacobsen: I asked some of the young ladies who I work with, some of whom compete. I said, “Is Erynn Ballard a big thing in your industry?” They paused, and then said, “Yeah.” So… [Laughing].

Ballard: [Laughing].

Jacobsen: Even bigger!

Ballard: Your background is not horses.

Jacobsen: 3 months into it, maybe, I’m working 7 days a week. Basically, landscaping, gardening, basic stable hand work, anything they need. There’s always work to do. I transitioned out of restaurants because it was supporting the independent journalism. I was thinking, “I’m working ~91hrs/week in restaurants. I want to see what it was like working with horses.”

I sent some resumes out. In a week or two, I was transitioned into working at a stable. So, taking a step back, if I am doing these interviews with the small ranches to trail rides to those who do dressage to those who do hunting or jumping, the whole range of equestrianism starting with Canada. I am sending emails out. In some of the preliminary conversations and interviews, including your own, people are in this industry as a lifestyle.

100%, they are in this as a lifestyle. Or if they aren’t, they weren’t intending it as such. It was a foot in the door phenomenon. They slowly ended up sinking into the industry. Now, they’re here. Reflecting on it more, I am getting more information from different perspectives in the industry.

The issues of those running farms or stables. The issues of land cost, property costs rising; and this causing an issue for some being able to survive. For instance, Leslie Reid sold her property who was a big name in dressage.

Is this something on your radar or something who you have conversations with in Canada about some areas of Canada having rising property prices or bylaw restrictions preventing the full flourishing of the sport in their area of Canada?

Ballard: I think the sport in Canada is not in a great way. I think Ontario is struggling without having The Royal and the creation of this Silver Series. I have done an interview about it before. I think the Silver Series offers more for less. As far as showing at the same venues, it costs you less money. Ontario survived for so long with the idea of The Royal.

Without The Royal, people are looking at different ways to spend their money. They may not be looking to buy a second horse or a better horse. I think the Ontario circuit is struggling. I am a little lucky because my parents own a farm. They have the farm in Tottenham. I am not there anymore because I am here full-time, at least while I have this job. This job could last forever. You never know with a job.

I hope it lasts forever. However, you don’t know. Have there been conversations if their upkeep of the farm is worth having? I don’t know the ultimate answer. We are fortunate. We have a beautiful farm. We can run a business off it. I don’t know what the long-term is for ourselves, personally, or for the long-term of the industry in Ontario.

Without me as a full-time presence out there, will the business be enough to balance the overhead? There’s a lot of businesses in Ontario doing quite well because they have nice properties and the locations. The Silver Series is making offers for lower-level stables to do more. So, in a way, there’s growth, but I don’t know if it is the growth that we are looking for to be stronger.

For a while now, the West Coast has had a stronger presence as far as the higher level of the sport. That’s probably because of what Thunderbird has; they’re so close to Washington state and offer the U.S. ratings. So, pre-Covid, I know it was a huge show for Americans to go to; the West Coast has Spruce Meadows, where Vancouver does quite well in the Hunters and Equitation because of their proximity to the U.S.

Spruce Meadows is Spruce Meadows. It is the coolest place to show and everyone wants to go there. I think the West Coast is stronger than the East Coast. I think Ontario is suffering.

Jacobsen: Do the higher ranked performers in hunter and jumper ever have sit-down discussions and meals to discuss these issues?

Ballard: Not really, we’re quite a diverse group of people. We have our own strengths and weaknesses. I am not afraid to talk. People have asked my opinion. If they ask me my opinion, I’ll give it. But some people don’t want to hear it.

The supporters of Silver Series don’t want to hear that, I think; it is doing more harm than good to the highest level of the sport. They’ll come at me with disbelief, which is fine. Maybe, I’m wrong. But I do know there is a gap with what the Silver Series is creating. It is an industry. It is a business. That, I don’t take away from it. It is thriving. I don’t see them taking those riders and turning them into U25 riders and 5-star riders, and riders for Canada.

I see it like being in a club, like a camp. I’ve said many times. Ontario, when it was The Royal, especially, it was an exclusive riding camp. You went to x amount of horse shows a summer to go to The Royal. The way that the layout is in Toronto. Very few people have to pay hotels. They live in Toronto and the shows are quite close and their stables are quite close. They keep the overhead quite low. They know how much it will cost from April to November.

If they have the ability, they go to Florida from December to April, and then go back to camp for the Summer.

Jacobsen: Looking at 2022, what competitions, events, or speaking engagements if you have them, are you looking forward to?

Ballard: Right now, if you’re talking about high performance, we’re working backwards from the 2024 Paris Olympics. So, Paris is the ultimate goal in three years. The easiest way to qualify for Paris is to get a result at the World Championships this year. So, working backwards from Paris, we need to be good enough at the World Championships this year, so we can take some pressure off ourselves at the Pan Ams to qualify for the Olympics this year, and then build for the next two years for Paris.

So, this is probably the most important year moving forward, in terms of high performance. Past that, I simply really like showing. I am looking for more experience in Europe if that comes my way. Right now, I am an employee. I have a great job, but, at the same time, I have to do what I’m told. I don’t necessarily not get to go to pretty cool places. So, I don’t have any complaints.

Jacobsen: Hypothetical, in some future, if you had the freedom to not have to do what you’re told, and only had to do what you wanted to tell yourself to do, what would you do?

Ballard: I’m not really sure if I would do anything differently.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ballard: I believe you have to go where you are the strongest. You make a plan, accordingly, for the horses that you have with you. If you don’t have the best horses in your string, you don’t go to Spruce Meadows. You stay where you’re competitive. If you have a 1.45m horse, you jump 1.45m. You win at 1.45m. If you have a 1.45m horse, and try to jump 1.55m, and if you’re not making your result, you can’t be mad.

You signed up to not be good. I think that that’s something hard in our sport as far as wherever I go I want to feel like I have the chance to win. I never want to go in over my head. Even going to Geneva, I didn’t have my best horse show, but I had my best horses. My best horses in 5-star, in Mexico, in Spruce Meadows, in Sacramento.

So, I went with my best horses and didn’t have my best show, and that happens too. But I would never go to the biggest show of my life without my best horses. I’d pick another show. There are so many. There are five horse shows every single week. So, you have to make smart choices. Five years from now, it depends on the horses.

If I’m going to not have Grand Prix horses, then I go back to riding hunters. Then I want to ride the best hunters. I want to go to Derby Finals and want to be champion in The Royal in the hunters. The thing about me, I like riding so much. It doesn’t matter where I ride. But wherever I go, I don’t want to lose.

Jacobsen: What’s the feeling of love while you’re riding? Can you add more tone to it?

Ballard: I just don’t think there’s anything else I would do. You meet a lot of people in this sport who are good at riding or, ten years later, as you said, fell into this. Maybe, they are unhappy. Trust me, there are plenty of people. If you talk to everybody, everybody in the whole world, there would be more people who feel like they have to ride or have to be in the industry, because there’s nothing else they can do, rather than people who feel lucky to be in the industry.

There will be a group of people who are lying if they tell you; that they feel lucky to do it every single day. Because not everybody does, but I do.

Jacobsen: My sense of you is two things. One is a pragmatism. Another is a realism. Where you don’t go to a competition ill-equipped, ill-prepared, or with the wrong expectations, the expectations seem accurate and proportional to the reality of the situation. It’s not pessimistic. It’s not pollyannish. Have you noticed other riders who make it – so to speak – who have a different outlook, or are most, at this very high level of competitiveness, pragmatic and realist?

Ballard: I don’t know, actually. I don’t know. That would be up to you, to talk to enough people.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] When I finish with Canada, I will move to other areas to see about the findings. It’s interesting. I am learning along as I do this series. It is very educational. 

Ballard: Also, if you’re only talking to people about horses, then you also have to have a passion for horses. It is not something you can understand if you don’t like them. It’s so foreign to a normal 9-5 job. Because it is a lifestyle. If you didn’t have a sense of the passion people get when they’re around horses, then you wouldn’t enjoy this. Equally, there are people who start out with a passion and get burned out, or get stuck.

They thought that they really wanted to do this. Maybe, they didn’t, but they don’t know what else they can do. They got in over their head. It cost too much money. It is a hard industry to make money, very hard, because the overhead is so high. You make $25,000 a month. But it costs you $35,000 to get to the end of the month.

If you’re talking about a boarding stable, what is the right way to do it. How do you charge enough? So that, at the end of the month, you are not losing money. Where are you making your money? Where do you gain to make it worth your while? When does the lifestyle [Laughing] part kick in? There’s not many Canadians who have the opportunity that I do.

So, I think that that, maybe, is something. I have seen both sides of it. I won my first Nations Cup at Spruce Meadows when I was 25. I didn’t ride on another team for 10 years. I stayed home, made a business, rode hunters, and taught riding lessons. That’s all I could do. That’s all the opportunity I had. I couldn’t go to the horse shows because my horses weren’t good enough.

So, practice what you’re good at and work on the opportunity given to you, it is not a job for the faint at heart. It is not for someone who doesn’t work 24 hours a day.

Jacobsen: Every person who I met who competes and works in the stables, or as a full-time in the stables, have all been incredibly impressive in their own ways. Some have tragic personal histories and have overcome them. The work ethic is there.

Ballard: People are drawn to horses, maybe, if they aren’t good with people.

Jacobsen: That’s an interesting hypothesis, maybe.

Ballard: A connection with the horse that they can’t have with the person. The turnover in my life, as far as clients who ride with me – and people who work for me, is very high, very. Grooms come and go, there’s students, young kids, even riders. A lot of girls ride until they turn 15 or 16. Then they have a choice to make. Are they going to keep riding, to go skiing, to go hang out with boys, to go to university? At the younger age, it is mostly girls.

If a teenager sticks through that stage, maybe, they’re not that social. They don’t love going to the parties on the weekend. Or they struggle with being in a school, in girl gangs. They like horses. They hang out with horses. Then they create a friend group, which they didn’t think they could have in school because they have a common interest with other kids in horses. Maybe, they don’t want to go to university.

They have to work for a living, so they become a groom. Maybe, they want to go to law school, but they don’t have enough money. So, they groom on the weekends. The turnover of people who work in the industry versus me is high, because not everyone is a lifer.

Jacobsen: What do you attribute the endurance to?

Ballard: Mine?

Jacobsen: Yes!

Ballard: I think I’m a crazy person. I just have more energy than most people.

Jacobsen: How many hours a week are you working?

Ballard: Oh! I don’t even want to count!

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ballard: October, November, December, all of October, all of November, first two weeks of December, I was never in the same place for more than one week.

Jacobsen: That’s a lot.

Ballard: I was back in Florida for a week at a time before I went somewhere else. For three months, basically, I was never in one place for more than a week. By the time I came home from Geneva, I had 7 suitcases packed. I sent one home from California. I sent one home from Vegas. I sent this one with the horses. My garage was an explosion of suitcases.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Ballard: I unpacked every suitcase, but one. I don’t know where all these clothes are going to go. We are gypsies. We live on the road. I went from California to Geneva. I had a bathing suit and the Lululemon puffy jacket that went to my ankles. You never know where you’re going to be. You take your passport with you everywhere.

Because, at a moment’s notice, you can go to Europe and not expect to, “You need to try a horse.” We are high energy people in general.  We don’t need the structure of 9-5 and weekends off. We thrive on this crazy lifestyle. We get to see the world. But yes, most of us are a little bit crazy.

Jacobsen: In spite of the endurance and the affirmation of doing it, whatever “it” is at the time, what moments in your career have you ever felt a halt internally, almost as if, ‘I can’t do this,” or a feeling of “I don’t have enough in me”?

Ballard: I think just the summer I got hurt, which was 2013. I broke my collar bone and my shoulder joint. I shattered my scapula. I was out for 16 weeks. There was a minute, where I was walking around; I was teaching riding lessons. I was going to the horse shows. It is the only time in my life where I hadn’t.

There was a minute. I was like, “I don’t need to ride to make money. I don’t need ever need to get back on a horse to make money. I can teach. I can give clinics. But I don’t have to do that. If I don’t do that, then I won’t ever be hurt like this again.” That lasted a minute until I got back on a horse again. Then it was over.

I think, any time you’re hurt. You’re down anyways. I came back from that stronger than ever. I came back from the injury. Two years later, I was on a team. I hadn’t been on a team in 10 years. Maybe, it was the reset that I needed to figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I don’t feel that, not yet, anyways.

Jacobsen: When you were a kid, as many Canadian kids do, they write careers that they wanted when they were younger, what they thought they wanted to pursue in the maturity of a child’s mind. Do you recall what those career choices would have been for you?

Ballard: I don’t think there was ever a question.

Jacobsen: Why did you focus on jumping, by the way?

Ballard: That’s the sport that my grandpa was captain of the Canadian team. So, I guess, it is in my blood.


[1] Canadian Show Jumping Veteran.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 22, 2022:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022:

[3] Image Credit: Jump Media.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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