Joe Carruthers was in need of a good horse, and Rialto SM was in need of a consistent rider. The two came together in March and immediately struck up a strong partnership. Then, after just three months together, they helped the Canadian children’s team take the silver medal on June 1 in the Children’s Nations’ Cup held during the CSIO5* Odlum Brown BC Open at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC.
Rialto SM, a 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Simply Spruce Meadows x Rhapsodie) owned and bred by Spruce Meadows Ltd., was being used as a lesson horse in the Spruce Meadows training program when his path crossed with Carruthers’. Carruthers had been riding another Spruce Meadows-owned horse that had incurred an injury.
“They were looking for another horse for me to ride, and I tried Rialto and it worked,” said Carruthers, 13. “He likes to have ‘his’ person. He doesn’t like getting switched around between different people. He loves to cuddle; he’s very sweet. He can be a bit skittish on the ground, but when you get into the ring, he’s very brave. He loves to listen to your voice.”
Carruthers and Rialto SM turned in two clean rounds for the Canadian effort in the Children’s Nations’ Cup and also placed second in the Children’s Grand Prix during the CSIO5* Odlum Brown BC Open. The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) children’s division was open to riders between the ages of 12 to 14, and the jumps were set at 1.20m. All in all, Carruthers and Rialto SM jumped six clean rounds the week of the Odlum Brown BC Open tournament in the Welcome, Nations’ Cup, and Children’s Grand Prix classes; the only rail they had was in the jump-off for the Nations’ Cup title, where they had the fastest time.
“I think he now feels as if he has a person, and that he has somebody he can try for,” Carruthers said of his clean rounds on Rialto SM. “I can really feel that within him, because when I first started riding him, I didn’t have the same feeling or connection that we have now.”
Carruthers grew up with horses in his back yard in Millarville, AB, as his father is a farrier and his mother rides.
“Joe started riding at home, going on trail rides, doing 4-H and Pony Club, and taking lessons in both jumping and dressage,” said his mother, Samantha Carruthers.
Joe spent some time taking ponies cross-country for trainer Jessica Ray, and also rode with Rita Behan, Liam Buckley, and Samantha Heinrichs.
Last year, Joe outgrew his 14.3-hand Morgan, Touch N Go, known around the barn as “Shorty,” on which he’d trail ridden, participated in Pony Club, and showed in dressage and show jumping before selling. He then started riding at Spruce Meadows with trainers Breanne McAllister and Nikolaj Hein Ruus to help hone his show jumping skills.
“I always loved the sport of the show jumping, watching it,” Joe said.
“I’ve learned lots of different things, like handling myself and my nerves,” Joe said of his time training at Spruce Meadows. “I’ve learned a lot about the connection between me and the horse. They’ve taught me a whole bunch of different techniques and skills that I can carry forward to later in life.”
Joe doesn’t currently own a horse but rides Spruce Meadows-owned mounts that McAllister and Ruus match him with.
Joe attends Tanbridge Academy in Calgary, a school that caters to students pursuing serious athletic endeavors, so he gets out of school early and is able to ride multiple horses in the afternoons. He rides seven days a week and takes lessons two or three times a week.
“My long-term goal is to improve myself and to learn as much as I can,” Joe said. “I feel like it would be great if I could make a junior team and then go on to the higher levels.”
Joe said he thoroughly enjoys showing, but that his demeanor doesn’t always show it.
“People make fun of me sometimes for not smiling because I’m very focused on what the course is, what the plan is, and how I’m going to ride,” he said. “I feel like when I’m in the ring, I don’t have nerves. I always try and stay very calm.”
It was just two weeks before the Odlum Brown BC Open that Joe got the word that he’d been chosen for the Canadian children’s team, his first experience riding on a team.
“It wasn’t necessarily in the cards for me. Then when I found out I was going to be on the team, I was very excited,” he said. “The horse and I were very prepared. I thought it was an amazing opportunity and a great experience. It definitely boosted my confidence. Rialto SM tried his heart out for me. It felt to me like he really wanted to try and do well.”
With a knack for creating successful partnerships with his mounts and a successful team experience behind him, Joe’s future in the sport looks bright.