Mission native Danielle Royston’s journey with equestrian got off to a rocky start.
The grade 12 student at Mission Secondary started horseback riding at three years old, inspired by her mother’s own interest in the activity. Her first pony, Rocky, nearly cut her time in the saddle short.
“I really didn’t like riding. It kind of scared me,” Royston said. “My pony was really bad for me. He would buck me off all the time. So for a while, I stopped riding.”
She returned to riding after her friend reignited her interest a few years later.
“My mom used to have a reining horse and she was training with someone. She used to go to all the shows and I started going to them with her. As I was watching, I thought, ‘I want to do this.’”
From there, Royston dedicated time to competing in equestrian. She started at ten years old when she got her first reining horse and began competing in the lower mainland. She attended shows in Chilliwack and Victoria with her first horse before receiving an 18-year-old horse from Texas.
With her second horse, Royston expanded the scope of competition to Alberta. From there she began to win. She’s since become a decorated rider, winning competitions in Canada and traveling to the United States for more prestigious events. Royston was the 13 and under champion with the West Coast Reining Association and Reining Alberta, and placed in the top ten at a competition in the United States, among other awards.
“I’ve had a hard couple of years with COVID going on because I couldn’t really get down [to the States],” Royston said. “I was flying by myself when I turned 14 and would go down to the States to ride. Then I would come home and do the 14-day quarantine and then basically go out and do it again for the next show.”
Despite her parents’ uncertainty about traveling alone, Royston was determined to compete. When she first got her license, Royston drove 12 hours to the border to ride.
“At first it was kind of scary, but I loved it. I thought it was a really fun experience.”
Royston trains with Matt McDowell in Oregon every two weeks, driving nine hours to get there. With less training time with her horse than the competition, Royston faces a challenge in future competitions.
“It’s kind of tiring — driving that much all the time and the road conditions during the winter can be difficult but I love it down there. My plan in a few years is to move down to the States.”
The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity competition awaits Royston in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where she will compete in each level. She hopes to place in the top ten.
“It’s kind of hard because I haven’t got to ride as much as most of these people have. They’re going through and competing and I’ve only ridden my new horse 15 times this year. Most people do that in a week and a half. That’s probably the most challenging thing but I’m gonna go try my best.”
Futurity competitions are for three-year-old horses and include open, non-pro and youth events. The event runs from November 24 to December 3.