As an infant, she was busy crawling around the barn floor while her sister, Sarah, took riding lessons.
Liz, 22, who lives in Toronto, started riding at age five at Touch N’ Go Farm with Jane Casselman and made her show ring debut a year later. When she was seven, she got her first mount, a small pony named Cookies and Cream. She then progressed to a pony that had been her sister’s and eventually moved up to a Thoroughbred named Polo. For the nine years she spent at Touch N’ Go, she showed in the Lollipop and Trillium divisions before moving up to the “A” circuit when she was 15 with coach Mark Hayes. Although she showed both hunters and jumpers, her love was for the latter. “Jumpers were what I was interested in, but hunters are good for practising certain skills,” said Liz.
Liz moved up the ranks with several horses including Hyde Moffatt’s former grand prix mount, Ting Tin, who became her high amateur horse. When she was 20, she moved to Ainsley Vince’s Linden Ridge stable. In August of 2009, she met Marvelous 6, the horse that would take her to the grand prix ranks this year, highlighted by a secondplace finish at the World Cup Qualifier in Blainville, Quebec.
For several months, Liz had no idea that the imported 11-year-old German warmblood mare, who had shown in Europe with Swedish grand prix rider Angelica Augustsson, was hers. “She was a surprise. My mother had bought her in August, but I didn’t find out until November,” explained Liz. “Mom had Ainsley riding her, because she wanted to make sure she was going to do what we needed her to do.”
“My first show with her was in January 2010 in Florida. I really liked her and knew that she had a lot of talent. I’d never ridden a horse like her. I did the low to high amateurs in Florida and came home and did the Talent Squad with her.”
It took her several months to learn to ride a horse with Marvelous 6’s capabilities. “She’s very sensitive and has a very big stride, but she’s not a hot Thoroughbred type that runs when you let go of the reins,” said Liz. “She’s always paying attention and always tries 110 per cent. I’m honoured to ride her. She’s an amazing horse.” Known as “Em” around the barn, she is also an extrovert who demands attention, said Liz.
The mare and Liz competed as members of the 2010 Ontario Young Riders Team and this year they moved up to the grand prix ring. She describes their second-place World Cup finish in Blainville – her first World Cup qualifier – as “the most exciting and frustrating class of my life.”
“I had to go first and I was winning until the last person (Hugh Graham) went in the jump-off. But I’m very happy about it.”
She gives kudos to her coach for her successes. “Ainsley has been so, so amazing. You go in the ring and feel you are so prepared to do whatever will challenge you in the ring. She instills a confidence in you. I used to get quite anxious when I went in the ring. That disappeared over the first year that I trained with her. That was what I’ve taken from her: the basics of how to navigate courses not only accurately, but confidently.”
Liz spent a month in Germany this summer, training with Dietmar Gugler and Marvelous 6’s former rider, Augustsson. “I had the time of my life. I learned so much,” she said of the experience. Liz and Marvelous 6 were slated to compete in the Canadian Championships at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and will head to Florida for the winter circuit, where Liz will balance her last year of studies at the University of Toronto (she’s doing a double major in psychology and political science) with riding. She’ll send assignments by email and fly back to Toronto write exams. “You learn time management very effectively,” said Liz. “I’ve found out how to manage it (riding and education) and those are the two things I prioritize.” She also appreciates the unwavering support of her mother, Elizabeth, stepfather, John Breen, and her sister, Sarah, now a horse breeder, who help her balance her responsibilities. As well as Marvelous 6, Liz has another jumper, Monsieur Taloubet, and rides two of her sister’s horses. She is very excited about the future with a “super talented” young stallion her sister owns named Wildfire, by Quidam de Revel out of Eric Lamaze’s former mount, Jade.
“It would be an honour to ride for Canada,” said Bates when asked about her future aspirations. “My goal is to always improve myself and become more competitive at higher and higher levels because, in my opinion, doing this will lead to the result of riding for Canada. The opposite, having the goal to be on a team, overlooks the fundamentals required to getting there.”