Athletes & Artists Series: Creating Unity Between School and Saddle | Trafalgar Castle School
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February 23, 2024

Athletes & Artists Series: Creating Unity Between School and Saddle

Melissa Nowakowski

Photo by Madeline Ball Photography


If you’ve ever watched an equestrian competition, you’ve likely sat in awe as horse and rider leap over a parallel oxer with gracefulness and power. There’s something about the unity between the two, how they gallop and leap as though they are one, that makes it undeniable that there’s a strong partnership. Competitive equestrian and Trafalgar Castle School student Amelia G. understands this connection and is proof that a solid partnership — not only in sports but also at school — is vital to success.

“Horseback riding requires a lot of trust and companionship between horse and rider, especially given that you’re communicating with a thousand-pound animal without words.” says fifteen-year-old Amelia, “For the past eight years of my competitive equestrian career, I’ve connected with nine horses, including two in 2023 named Bugatti and Davos B., and my current horse, Cali Hope Z., who I’ll be riding for the 2024 season. They always give their best effort and teach me something new every day. It only makes my love for the sport that much stronger.”

For Amelia, horseback riding is a passion passed from generation to generation. Her grandfather owned a farm in Ireland and competed in equestrianism. Her mother, having been surrounded by horses most of her life, also took up horseback riding in Canada. Then there’s Amelia, who first sat in the saddle at two years old.

After four years of recreationally riding at the family equestrian facility, Amelia decided to ride competitively at the Pickering Horse Centre Ltd under the coaching of Emily Wulff and Gary Yaghdjin. A typical training week for Amelia involves riding her horse for an hour, followed by two to three hours of caring for her horse daily, six days a week. In addition to training with her horse, Amelia independently exercises one or two days per week. Competitions generally run for five days straight, with one day allotted as a practice day and ending with one or two rest days (for both horse and rider). This cycle repeats for the duration of the competition.

But at fifteen years old, Amelia isn’t just an equestrian. She’s also an Upper School student, and juggling education and training can be somewhat of a balancing act.

“It’s hard for me to get work done after school since I get home quite late from training and need to prioritize things like meals and the right amount of sleep.” Amelia explains, “So I try to get as much school work as possible done during the school day, utilizing all of my class and tutorial time.”

Amelia also has the support of Trafalgar Castle School’s High Performing Athletes and Artists Program (HPAA), designed to offer greater support and increased flexibility for students in Grades 9-12 pursuing athletics or the arts outside the school at an elite level. The students who meet the program’s criteria are made known to Upper School teaching staff, who then coordinate with each other to offer extra support when needed (students in Grades 4 to 8 are supported individually by their homeroom teacher).

For example, because Amelia is away for competitions at the beginning and end of the school year, her teachers meet with her one-on-one before her absence to review the upcoming lessons. They also post her lessons and work online and provide flexibility regarding due dates for assignments. Amelia says programs like HPAA are hugely important because they enable students to pursue athletics and the arts at higher levels than the school system provides.

“It feels great knowing I have Trafalgar Castle School’s support for a sport I love.” Amelia says, “I can rely on my teachers to be flexible, recognizing my needs as a competitive athlete and alleviating the extra stressors. It really does make a difference having my school as a partner, an extra backbone for support and cheerleaders for my success as an equestrian.”

There have been numerous competitions for Amelia over the past eight years, most notably the 2023 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, where she placed second overall in the Children’s Hunter Division with her horse Bugatti. Now, not only is she building a connection with her newest horse, Cali Hope Z., and focusing on her first show of 2024, but she’s also recently been named a 2024 Junior Ambassador for the Ontario Hunter Jumper Association.

“Cali Hope Z. and I are using the winter months to get to know each other and practice basic training. Then, in the summer, we’ll apply that training to the show ring and see where it leads.” Amelia says, “He can help me compete at a higher level and has a lot of amazing qualities that I’m excited to work with. We already have a great partnership, so I’m eager to see where next season takes us.”

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