After a year of program development, with the support of Olympic discipline experts, Ontario Equestrian launched an exciting new provincial athlete development program in November of 2019, called GRIT – Great Rider Intensive Training.
Following an overwhelming response to our initial call for applications, 20 riders have been selected to the team – 12 show jumpers, six eventers and two dressage athletes.
“We are committed as an organization with financial and human resources to work with these incredible young athletes, and to support them with leading-edge sport expertise which will help them achieve their goals. It’s the PSO’s role to provide resources to young talent to aid in their success and give them a solid foundation to become champions in sport and in life.,” commented Tracey McCague-McElrea, Executive Director at Ontario Equestrian.
On December 17th, the first training camp and athlete orientation was held at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, with the support of sport science experts from the Canadian Sport Institute of Ontario (CSIO), GRIT Head Coach, Christilot Boylen and National Eventing Committee Chair, Ruth Allum.
An important feature of GRIT is that it requires the participation of the “athlete team” – the athlete, the coach and parents that are supporting the athlete on their journey.
The orientation began with a welcome and encouraging words via Skype from 10-time Olympic Show Jumper, Ian Millar. Later Paul Poirier, an Olympic Figure Skater, shared his podium-bound story including the importance of a sport science support team that he credits to his success.
A memorable moment in Paul’s talk was his reflection that all high-performance athletes tend to be super disciplined and self-sufficient, but at some point, you realize that you can be better by tapping into sport science experts – nutritionists, sport psychologists, strength and conditioning coaches who help athletes both avoid and recover from injury.
The GRIT athletes then had a tour and a training session at the CSIO High Performance Training Centre, received their strength and conditioning “GRIT kits” and were provided an online video program to continue their training at home.
The athletes then attended a session with a nutrition specialist, providing them with the guidance to understand the effects of nutrition and hydration during athlete performance, and the importance of developing good habits for their long-term optimal development.
A team of Equestrian and High-Performance Master Coach Developers led a training session on the importance of creating a Yearly Training Plan to ensure peak performance at critical competitions. Many of the GRIT riders have North American Youth Championships (NAYC) podium performance goals in their sights!
The program for 2020 will include:
- Three designated competitions (one for each discipline, with eventing athletes invited to participate in the jump and dressage competitions as well); and
- Two training camps for the full GRIT athlete team which will integrate mounted and unmounted training, with the continued support of the sport science experts from the Canadian Sport Institute of Ontario (CSIO).
We are also reaching out to the Provincial Discipline Associations and Equestrian Canada to co-ordinate the timing and programming for these events.
For those who missed the deadline or didn’t make this year’s GRIT team, please contact: Hilary Gregory, Program Coordinator to be included in future application process communication: firstname.lastname@example.org. GRIT team updates will be posted on Ontario Equestrian’s social media, and on the News section of the OE website.