Ottawa, Ontario— Equine Canada (EC) has named Taylor Bland of Calgary, AB, the 2006 â€˜Junior Equestrian of the Yearâ€™.
The Gillian Wilson Award is given annually to the ‘Junior Equestrian of the Year’ in recognition of a junior competitor who has made outstanding contributions to equestrian competition and who has exemplified exceptional talent, sportsmanship, and dedication to the sport. Taylor was a prime example of each of these qualities in 2006. The 13-year-old rider qualified for the annual FEI Childrenâ€™s International Jumping Final, open to riders aged 12 to 14, after finishing third at the Eastern Qualifier and fifth at the Western Qualifier.
At the FEI Children’s Final, held October 22-28 at Spruce Meadows in her hometown of Calgary, AB, Taylor made Canadian show jumping history. Paired with the 12-year-old Spanish-bred gelding Las Marismas Tango, Taylor faced off against 32 competitors from 12 different countries. Having placed second in the first two days of competition, Taylor was among the 16 riders who advanced to the Final.
Jumping two clear rounds in a lightning fast time, Taylor claimed the top spot on the podium, marking the first time in the history of the FEI Childrenâ€™s Final that a Canadian has claimed the Gold Medal.
Taylor has proved herself a hard worker in all aspects of her life. A very dedicated rider, Taylor trains with Jenn Serek in Alberta, as well as Sandi Patterson and Canadian Equestrian Team member, Jill Henselwood, in Ontario. After spending the 2006 Canadian competition season traveling across the country from Alberta to Quebec, Taylor will travel to Indio, California, to compete at the Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS) Desert Circuit. Despite her busy riding schedule, Taylor still maintains her grades and she is an honour roll student at Monsignor Smith Junior High School in Calgary, AB. She even finds time to volunteer, both at her school and in horse-related activities.
Taylorâ€™s dream is to someday represent Canada internationally at the Olympics or the World Equestrian Games.
â€œIt feels really good to receive this award,â€ commented Taylor. â€œIt is one step closer toward my international jumping career, and it means a lot to me.â€
At the annual Equine Canada National Awards Banquet on Saturday, February 10, 2007, in Ottawa, ON, Taylor was awarded with the Gillian Wilson Trophy, created in honor of Gillian Wilson, who was the Technical Director of Canadian Equestrian Federation (now Equine Canada) from 1977 until her retirement on December 31, 1992. Each winner holds the Trophy for one year, retains a plaque and receives $1,000.