There’s a lot of mounting excitement about the upcoming 2022 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair this November in Toronto. This fall marks the iconic fair’s 100th anniversary, and it’s also the first time since 2019 that the fair will be held live, after the last two years’ scaled-down versions were hold virtually due to the pandemic.

But for Sudbury, Ontario native Holly Heikkila, this year’s excitement is personal. The 12-year-old sixth grader and her 10-year-old pony Leroy Brown are hoping for a berth at the Canadian National Championships at the Fair. Heikkila has been piloting Leroy for the last two years in the Large Pony Hunter division and is currently leading the division nationally.

Heikkila trains with Cathy Inch out of Foothills Farm in Chelmsford and has been riding ever since she can remember. “When I first started with Leroy, I could barely jump an X-rail, which is the smallest jump possible,” she tells the news outlet  “Being together for almost two years has really given us the opportunity to grow together and develop a partnership.”

Leroy Brown is owned by Karen Jackson of Flesherton, who attends the shows to cheer the pair on.

While it’s still a few months until the finalists for the Royal are determined, Heikkila and Leroy Brown are in a good spot among the nations’ top 12 ponies in the division to ensure they make the trip south. As for this junior rider’s future, she has set her eyes on the North American Young Riders Championships held annually for up-and-coming athletes across the continent.