The accolades keep rolling in for equestrian athlete Natalie Alves.
The Mission resident received the Equine Canada Gillian Wilson Junior Equestrian of the Year for 2014, has major wins all across North America, and was a Canadian flag bearer at the Region 4, Youth Nationals and Scottsdale Equestrian events.
She can already add another feather to her cap this year, after being selected as the Horse Council BC 2015 Junior Athlete of the Year for B.C. last month.
Alves, who rides Shake It Up Baby or Stella, an Arabian-bred horse, said it’s an honour to be recognized.
“I’m really excited because Horse Council BC has never recognized an Arabian competitor before,” she said. “This has never been awarded to someone from my circuit before so to be recognized provincially and to be able to represent the Arabian community is a big deal.”
Horses have been around Alves for as long as she can remember.
“My dad has owned horses for over 30 years so I was kind of born into it,” she said. “My parents live on a farm and they bred me my first horse and we were kind of raised together.”
Years of familiarity with the animals led her to follow the path of equestrian.
“From there I was able to purchase more competitive horses and just got more experience riding and competing.”
The 2015 Heritage Park Secondary grad said the awards are nice, but it’s really all about building a lasting bond with her horse.
“I really enjoy the relationship with the animal,” she said. “I was involved with school sports and dance in the past, but the biggest reason why I stuck with this over everything else is the relationship with your partner. It’s something that is really unique.”
That relationship hit a snag in March 2015, when Stella had colic surgery to save her life. Alves said it was tough to see her partner go through that pain.
“She had lost over 100 pounds due to the stress associated with surgery,” she said. “But after it she sat in the stall for 90 days and couldn’t really do anything to avoid complication. I missed a lot of the show season last year but she recovered and we competed at nationals.”
It will be a busy summer competing for Alves, as she will next head to Oklahoma in July to participate in the Youth Nationals event.