Five years ago, as Miranda Burruano went through what had become a frequent routine of wiping off sand and picking herself back up after falling off of her new horse, Quixote, she never would have guessed that he would one day become her most trusted equitation partner.
And only six months ago as Burruano, 18, battled mononucleosis (mono) and missed horse show after horse show, she didn’t think she and her Oldenburg gelding would still have time to qualify for the Jump Canada Medal Final held at Toronto’s Royal Horse Show from November 2 to 11. In fact, only two weeks before The Royal, Burruano found herself still sitting on the waiting list for the year-end national final.
On November 6, Burruano and Quixote defied the odds and exceeded all of Burruano’s own expectations to win in the 2018 Jump Canada Medal Final.
“I never thought I would win, especially after this year,” said Burruano through tears following her victory. “It’s a huge accomplishment. It’s one of my biggest dreams.”
The Road to The Royal
Burruano’s road to the fulfillment of that dream began at the young age of four, when she started taking riding lessons at a barn close to her family’s home in Orchard Park, NY.
“I just fell in love with it,” said Burruano, who was born in Toronto, ON, and has dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship.
Burruano began training with Jennifer Ramsey and then moved to Chris Delia Stables in Burlington, ON. In 2013, she began to train with Ainsley Vince, the 1994 winner of what is now known as the Jump Canada Medal Final, and her younger sister, Courtney, at Linden Ridge, also based in Burlington, ON. Burruano bought her first horse eight years ago while training with Delia.
“His name is GI Joe; I still have him,” she said. “He’s like our baby.”
With GI Joe, Burruano contested the children’s jumpers and the equitation divisions before beginning the search for a new, competitive equitation horse. Enter Quixote, a now 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Quidam de Revel that she found on a horse-shopping trip to Florida in early 2016.
“He was very, very different from anything that I had ever ridden,” said Burruano. “He was a bit lazier. I definitely had some struggles with that, and honestly, I fell off every single day at least once. It was a little bit of a disaster.”
Burruano, however, was not one to give up.
“[Quixote] had been a jumper, and he had been in Europe for most of his life,” said Courtney. “I think to go from that to a tiny girl was an adjustment for the horse as well, but she worked hard. Whenever we ran into a problem, if Ainsley and I were a little bit erring on the side of caution, she was always the one who would say, ‘I want to learn, and I want to get it with him. I want to learn how.’ That’s her personality, and that’s the trait that stands out the most to me – her determination and her will to work through problems.”
Over time, with Burruano’s hard work and Courtney and Ainsley’s instruction, Burruano and Quixote’s relationship progressed. By 2017, they were consistently among the top performers in the Jump Canada Medal classes held throughout the season to earn a spot in the 2017 Jump Canada Medal Final, where Burruano and Quixote ultimately finished as the reserve champion in the prestigious year-end final.
Defying the Odds
With such a solid 2017 show circuit under her belt, Burruano set her sights on similar goals for 2018, with hopes of again contesting the Jump Canada Medal Final. The year, however, would pan out a bit differently than Burruano had planned.
As the spring and summer show season got underway in May, Burruano opted to forego the first few horse shows on the Linden Ridge calendar in order to finish her senior year of high school and attend her high school graduation. Then in June, just as Burruano was beginning to hit the ground running with the goal of again qualifying for The Royal, the now college freshman contracted mono.
“I couldn’t ride for five weeks,” explained Burruano, who has 16-year-old twin siblings but is the only member of the Burruano family who rides. “Then I was just riding my horses, trying to get as much time in as I could, and we tried to get me to as many shows as we could. I tried to do well every time out.”
Two weeks before the Royal Horse Show however, it was uncertain if Burruano’s successes at the horse shows she had managed to attend would be enough. She sat one position away from qualifying for the Jump Canada Medal Final until the odds played out in her favour.
“Someone dropped out, so I ended up making it in” said Burruano. “It is crazy to think that I wasn’t even supposed to be in it!”
Clinching the Championship Title
With such a tumultuous and unpredictable year leading up to The Royal, Burruano was ecstatic to have once again qualified, so winning was not necessarily even on her radar.
“I was just trying to ride my best,” said Burruano. “I wasn’t even trying to win; I was just trying to have a solid round.”
And have a solid round she did. Twenty-five top equitation riders contested the initial jumping round of the Jump Canada Medal Final on Tuesday, November 6. After delivering a seamless first round over the 12-obstacle course designed by Rob Carey, Burruano decisively punched her ticket to be among the top eight riders invited back for the flat phase.
“The first round, I was really nervous,” said Burruano. “I was anxious about everything, and then the flat was good. I thought I probably could have done better, but I thought I did okay.”
Judges Kitty Barker and Rob Bielefeld deemed Burruano’s flat phase more than okay, ranking her in third and giving her the opportunity to come back among the top four for a final test. Joining Burruano for the test were Mikayla Brabant, Ellah Dubeau-Kielty, and 2017 defending champion, Sam Walker.
Burruano was the second rider to execute the test, and her smooth and near flawless trip over the short course, which included both a trot fence and a fence taken from the counter-canter, proved that she was a serious contender for the win. As the two remaining riders to return incurred minor errors, Burruano ultimately made her way to the top of the judges’ cards for the victory with Walker of Nobleton, ON, settling for second riding Willem. Dubeau-Kielty of Burlington, ON, took third riding Cupidon while Mikayla Brabant, 17, of Chestermere, AB, rounded out the top four aboard Cortofino, a seven-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Spruce Meadows Ltd.
“It was just awesome,” said Burruano, whose victory marked the conclusion of her junior riding career, as she is now aging out of the division. “I have to thank my parents and my trainers, Ainsley and Courtney Vince. They’re so supportive; they’re really always positive. They have put in so much work and time and patience. I’m so grateful to them. It was a long journey for sure.”
“This year and last year have been great for her, and her parents have been so supportive,” said Ainsley, a two-time Canadian Show Jumping Champion. “She’s a great kid, and they’re a great family. She is great to work with; she’s a really, really hard worker, so it was so rewarding to see her win this year.”
“Having her persevere through a difficult couple of months and be able to win was a really proud moment for all of us,” added Courtney.
As she ends her junior career on a high note, Burruano’s time riding Quixote is also coming to an end as the horse is now offered for sale. She has turned her focus to her studies and to advancing in the jumper ring aboard d’Ophelia, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare that she competed in the Junior Jumper division at this year’s Royal.
“I really try to devote most of my time to riding because I love it so much,” said Burruano, who is currently a freshman pursuing a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences at the University of Guelph in Ontario. “I would love to do Young Riders’ with her one day. That’s definitely a goal of mine.
“Right now, after all that we’ve been through, ending the year with the Jump Canada Medal win was really rewarding,” concluded Burruano. “It was a great experience; I couldn’t have asked for anything more, that’s for sure!”
Reprinted with permission from the December 2018 edition of The Warm-Up Ring, the official news of Equestrian Canada’s Jumping Committee.