Haley Picard (QMS) – Photos by Mrs. Barbara Rankin 

April 2nd, 2013 ‐ Duncan, BC, Canada (ISN) – After journeying south almost 2,000 kilometers, three Queen Margaret’s School Equestrian team members, their coach and one QMS Alumna were ready for the famous HITS Thermal Desert Circuit in California.

HITS Thermal California is a Hunter/Jumper equestrian show hosted southeast of Palm Desert, CA, in the dry terrain of Thermal. From February 14th – March 1st, QMS Grade 9 students Natalia Soto Leites, Kassidy Keith and Catherine Rankin represented QMS at the competition with Head Coach, Cheryl Keith.

Catherine Rankin on Go Shorty2 (800x533)
Catherine Rankin on Go Shorty 2 – Photo by Mrs Barbara Rankin

“The QMS girls did exceedingly well given the sheer quality and amount of competition,” explains Barb Rankin, a parent who travelled with the team to California. “The Hunter classes were huge. I believe there were over 2,000 horses from all over North America there. It was a staggering sight to see.” The size of the event didn’t seem to faze these already seasoned equestrian riders.

Natalia Soto on Evening Star (800x533)
Natalia Soto on Evening Star – Photo by Mrs. Barbara Rankin

“I was impressed with each of the girl’s performances,” says Cheryl Keith. “This was their largest show to date, and I think that they did very well.” Natalia Soto Leites rode Evening Star in several Child Jumper Classes, placing well and receiving numerous ribbons. Yet it was her performance in the Low Children’s Jumper (3’3″) class that saw her highest result, Reserve Champion.

Soto’s Teammate, Kassidy Keith, was given a horse to ride from Victoria’s Lochside Lane Stables. The horse, named Forever After, was described as lovely and brave. “Kassidy and the horse formed a good partnership throughout the show,” outlines Cheryl Keith. They placed 3rd and 7th in the Low Junior Jumpers Classes (1.2m). “The horse was feisty, but exciting to ride!” says Kassidy.

With weather varying from freezing the first week to above 30 degrees Celsius the second week, Catherine Rankin worked hard on her horse, Go Shorty. “Catherine placed consistently in all her Children’s Hunter classes. Her strongest performance came in the T.H.I.S. National Child Medal. Catherine made it to the final ride off and came away with an outstanding 4th place against 60 other riders,” states Keith.

As QMS Alumna Dr. Jolene Benham trains with Keith at the Shirley Burr Equestrian Centre, she joined the QMS team in California. Benham rose to the occasion, placing 4th in the Adult/Child Classic and winning championships in the Adult Amateur Jumpers during both weeks of competition. Jolene and her horse, Wallabee, also ended up with the Reserve Champion Mid Circuit Title. “I am so proud of everyone,” states Keith.

The QMS Equestrian Team is now preparing for a busy spring of events including appearances at SSITS in Saanich, Thunderbird in Langley, and the QMS Spring Classic on May 8th‐12th at the Shirley Burr Equestrian Centre at Queen Margaret’s School.