Being a horsewoman and a news anchor/journalist may seem worlds apart, but not for Amber Schinkel of Global News Calgary. “I feel that being around horses and other animals through much of my life has made me a better listener. You gain so much from simply watching body cues from your horse, whether it’s the flick of an ear or the resting of a hoof, and I feel that translates into listening and talking to people every day in my profession. Sometimes the questions I ask aren’t based so much on what people are saying, but their body language toward a particular subject.”
Growing up in rural Calgary, Amber got an early start in the equestrian life. “My dad has always had horses. I started riding originally by doubling with my dad on his horse. When I was four and a half or five, I got a horse of my own and joined Pony Club, which is located just down the road from my parents’ farm,” she explained.
Through Pony Club, and then 4-H, Amber was able to broaden her experience into English and western riding. “I actually started riding English initially. I did some dressage and stadium as well as cross-country – I really enjoyed that. By the time I was 10, a lot of my friends were in 4-H, so I switched over and started riding western. I continued to ride English at shows on the side as well, just not as often. On the horse I have now, I have never ridden him English, but it’s something I’d kind of like to get back into.”
Her father’s original horse, a Polish Arabian, made a lasting impression on Amber, as Arabians now classify as her dream horse. “Alberta is such a Quarter Horse heavy community, but I have always just really loved Arabians. They are so beautiful and really gentle animals for the most part. [My dad’s horse] was high energy, but the best horse to be around. He never spooked, was very gentle. At three years old, I could walk underneath his belly and in between his legs – he was a really wonderful horse.”
Amber credits her aunt for most of her knowledge about horses. “My aunt, my mom’s sister, has always been really into horses and various aspects of riding English and western. She cares such a great deal about horses, and treating them properly. I got my current horse, Wizard, from her late husband, so I’ve done so much riding with her. She’s been really influential in riding technique as well as caring for animals.
“When I found out my uncle was thinking of selling Wizard as a three-year-old, I jumped at the chance to have a Palomino. I have had a couple of greys, an Appaloosa, and a buckskin, but I’ve also always had a soft spot for Palominos.”
Amber’s position as news anchor for Global News Calgary allows her many opportunities to go out and ride. “I work from about 3:30 in the morning until 11:30, so basically, I have all my afternoon to go out and spend time with my horse and ride year-round, which is nice. While I enjoy doing some arena and equitation work with Wizard, we spend a lot of time trail riding near my parents’ farm north of Cochrane.”
According to Amber, Wizard has a personality all his own. “Wizard, or Whiz, is certainly a character. He’s very particular about ‘his people.’ I’m not sure why, but his most noticeable quirk is how nervous most men make him. That said, once you win over his trust, he’s your best buddy – and it certainly helps if you happen to be carrying his favourite treats which include crunchies, apples or potatoes.”