The recipient of Horse Sport’s 2011 Youth Scholarship, Esmee Ingham, 21, was born and raised in West Vancouver, and was plopped on a horse before she could walk. Pursuing dressage was not necessarily a conscious decision; she just never really considered another option. ìThere is something so addictive about the sport of dressage,î she explains. ìIt is an art form and once you get a taste of what true collection is, even for just a stride or two, it leaves you wanting more.î Esmee began competing seriously in 2008, winning a silver medal at the 2008 BC Summer Games aboard coach Wendy Christoff’s schoolmaster, Caboose. She purchased Norseman (Normy), a Swedish Warmblood previously trained and ridden by fellow BC competitor Joni Lynn Peters. The pair quickly progressed, winning team gold and freestyle bronze medals at the 2010 North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC); technical and freestyle championships at the 2010 Canadian Youth Nationals; and team silver at the 2011 NAJYRC. ìNormy is a dream to ride. He’s the type of horse that you can compete in the FEI show ring one day, and take him out bareback on the trails the next. He is honest and kind and the main reason I bought him was due to his disposition.î Plagued by shoulder problems for years, surgery became inevitable in November of 2011 when Esmee’s shoulder began dislocating even while she was sleeping. She was given a six-month rehabilitation program and spent the first six weeks post-surgery in a sling. ìI was upset, as I had never been forced to take time off riding and Normy and I had just reached the peak of our training. I will never forget the last ride I had on him before my surgery: I got nine one-tempis across the diagonal with tears streaming down my face.î She kept busy throughout this downtime by auditing clinics, brushing horses at the barn, and getting her feet wet as an instructor. ìI really took a step back and realized that my passion for the competition ring will always be a part of me, but it is the smell of the barn, the sense of accomplishment you get after currying a mud-caked horse, and spending hours out on a trail ride or playing around in an arena that I love the most. Teaching has really solidified my knowledge. I realize now that in the grand scheme of things I am still a novice, and the beauty of riding is that you are always learning. With this time away from high performance I have been able to look back at the basics and really focus on the proper development of the horse.î It was during Esmee’s rehabilitation that Normy was also sidelined with a persistent lameness and placed on full stall rest; he is now officially retired at 17. ìWe are looking into options for him as a therapeutic horse, as he is very well-behaved with children. I have brought my students with special needs to visit him and it is so heartwarming to see him just melt around the kids.î Esmee graduated from the Special Education Assistant Program at Capilano University, and will pursue her masters in counselling. She is a Youth Rider Representative for Dressage Canada’s Youth High Performance Committee and was selected by Dressage Canada as one of two riders to compete at the Sydney Invitational CDI 3* in 2012. Even with her hiatus from the competition ring, Esmee’s drive has only intensified. ìI have hopes of one day purchasing and training my own young horse, with the ultimate goal of taking it all the way to grand prix. Until then, I will ride whatever I can and train with Wendy, because the learning never ends. For me, competitions are not about the ribbons; the most rewarding part is setting goals and working towards surpassing them.î