Natalie Alves of Mission capped a tremendous year of equestrian competition by collecting the Half Arabian Horse of the Year award at the Equine Canada gala last week in Winnipeg.
Alves, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Heritage Park Secondary, and her horse Shake It Up Baby – also known as Stella – had a memorable 2013 together, winning a series of championships in competitions on both sides of the border.
At the Scottsdale Horse Show in Arizona, they combined to bring home championships in two events, one reserve championship (runner-up), and three first-place results in the qualifying classes. The performance led to Alves being featured in Arabian Horse World magazine.
At Canadian regionals in Langley, the duo continued to shine, winning three championships and one reserve championship.
Then, at the Canadian nationals in Brandon, Man., Alves and Stella earned the national championship in the Half Arabian Ladies Side Saddle event, to go with three reserve championships and additional third- and fourth-place finishes.
The national horse of the year award for Stella was the cherry on top.
“For me and my horse, it’s a big accomplishment,” enthused Alves, who has been working with Stella under the tutelage of trainer Brenda Driediger since December 2011.
“We’ve got a couple years under our belts, and you build a bond. It’s something that takes time, but it lasts a long time. I’ll be spending a lot of years with her.”
Alves grew up around horses on her family’s two-and-a-half acre property just outside of Mission.
“My dad has had horses for a long time, for about 30 years or so, and for a lot of that time, he picked up Arabians,” she said.
“Working with horses my entire life has been a huge benefit for me. Not only do I ride, we also have a breeding program. It teaches you a lot with the babies and the different kinds of horses. It give you a sense of responsibility and accomplishment as a kid.”