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Team #626 Bernadette Carter and Sparks

Team #626: Bernadette Carter and Sparks
From: Sylvan Lake, Alberta
Ages: 76 & 27
Combined Age: 103
Test: Training Level Test 2
Date: April 15, 2023

My journey to the Century Club ride has been long, always with a love of horses. Growing up there were heavy horses at the farm, ponies at the fair, carousel horses, and sleek Thoroughbreds at the track. It wasn’t until my 30s, while living in Spain, that I got on a borrowed horse and followed my friends on their horses on the trails.

After 13 years in Spain, we returned to Calgary. In 1987, I began weekly lessons at age 40 on school horses. In 1997, I bought Spike, a wonderfully kind, ex-ranch horse who was a dark bay Thoroughbred. Spike was my partner for eight years. He waited for me to return from Spain each winter. I rode flat classes at the Hunter barn where I boarded and enjoyed the grass ring for summer fun.

Sadly, Spike was injured and never recovered to be ridden at more than a walk. I moved him to an acreage to live out his days with other retired horses. I continued to ride at the stable until we moved to Sylvan Lake.

There I met Klara Bystrom, who had three horses and no time to ride them all. Soon, Klara and I rode out around the crops that fall, then basic dressage lessons in her sand ring. We traveled to lessons and some shows. I earned Senior High Point Walk-Trot Champion at DoubleW Ranch in 2011, on Ted, a Quarter Horse, who eventually threw me, knocking me out.

After recovering, Ashley Radtke invited me to ride her Appaloosa. Peavy was a kind, safe partner for 10 years while taking lessons with Rebecca Cade, at Burnt Lake Stable. Last May, Peavy retired at 26 and Rebecca found me another ride for weekly lessons and rides.

The completion of my journey to the Century Club came as a surprise. Upon return from Spain in mid-February, Rebecca had planned for me to join one of her senior students, Cheryl Coates, and ride our tests the same day. I would ride Sparks, a 27-year-old Canadian Sport Horse, Westfalian x Thoroughbred, belonging to Judy Brock, another of Rebecca’s students. Sparks and Judy have been partners since she first rode him when he was five, and she has ridden and shown him since.

I had some rides on him in mid-March, later we began an intensive two-week program to prepare for the test. Rebecca’s lessons pushed me to strive for my best effort in this challenge, while Judy’s generous help and support were immeasurable. Sparks was a special horse to ride on this journey to my Century Club ride.

Many thanks to everyone at Burnt Lake that encouraged me on this voyage and to The Dressage Foundation for this exciting opportunity.