Joelle Froese’s path to a professional career in horses had a pretty inauspicious beginning. The winner of CWD’s 2018 and 2019 1.30m Saddle Series at Thunderbird Show Park got her introduction to riding aboard a three-year-old rescue pony that she shared with her sister. The pony outlasted the shared custody arrangement (“You can only imagine how long that lasted!” laughs Joelle) and the semi-retired pony is still a reliable lesson mount and travel companion for Joelle’s top horses.

When she was 11, the family moved to a farm and Joelle became more serious about riding. She navigated through the usual ranks of the pony, hunter, and equitation rings before starting as a jumper rider. “I got my junior jumper mare, Sprite, when I was sixteen, which pretty much confirmed me as a jumper after that,” says Joelle. “She was a fantastic find. She was six years old and only 15.2hh. The owners didn’t know what to do with her because she was so small, but she fit me perfectly and was incredibly competitive in the metre-twenty, including winning Top Horse in the 1.20m Final Four at Spruce Meadows.”

For the remainder of her junior years, Joelle competed successfully throughout the Pacific northwest and trained with many international riders. “I’ve been so fortunate to be able to ride with and learn from many professionals including Susie Hutchinson, Jill Henselwood, Buddy Brown, Kyle King, and Kate Perrin, as well as taking dressage lessons from Sandra Verde-Zanatta,” says Joelle. She is currently coached by Dutch rider Patrick Snijders. “I love walking courses with Patrick; he has taught me so much about strategizing. He strikes a great balance between being highly competitive, but still being able to have a ton of fun doing it.”

In 2013, Joelle opened her own business, In Stride Training, out of her parent’s farm in Abbotsford, BC, where her business model is a mix of breeding, training, coaching, competing and sales. “I grew up riding young horses and I love development, both of the horse and rider. It’s an incredible feeling to take a horse from jumping its first crossrail all the way to winning in the competition ring.” This love for developing young talent and not shying away from a challenge started early. “By the age of thirteen, I would ride anything at the barn that I was allowed to sit on. I love a challenge. Now, I love the opportunity to work with a horse and figure it out, or find out how to tap into a rider’s motivations and learning style.”

The first horse she credits with taking her into the grand prix ring was her Young Riders bronze medal partner Condor, a Westfalian gelding she also rode to a third-place finish in the Talent Squad Finals and was Junior/Amateur Jumper Champion with at the 2009 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. “Neither of us had jumped a metre-fifty before, but nothing fazed him that week of Young Riders – he just kept jumping clean. His whole career there was no challenge he wasn’t up to.”

A horse she is currently excited about is Fusion, a five-year-old Dutch Warmblood purchased early in the year she calls “probably the most willing horse I have ever owned. He tries so hard to figure out what I want and remembers every lesson. I can’t wait to see where he is going to go.” There is also Storm, a horse bred and raised by Froese out of her mare Sprite that took her to her first International Hunter Derby at Thunderbird. “That’s the exciting thing about working with horses, and especially young horses, is that you never know where they will take you.”

Romeo’s Child, the first horse she imported (from Germany in 2013), is the horse aboard which she won her first grand prix. The pair went on to win the BCHJA Luigi Grand Prix Horse of the Year award in 2017 and 2018 and they continue to compete in the grand prix ring (for more about Romeo’s Child, see page 66). Romeo’s Child shares top billing with her other upper-level horse, Onyx, Joelle’s mount for the last eight years. “Onyx is a big, powerful horse, but super-sensitive, and I credit him for making me a professional,” she says. “He could be tricky and he always lets me know when I did it wrong, but he also never gives up. I have gotten to go a lot of places and train with a lot of top professionals on him. He can turn incredibly fast and will jump anything I put in front of him. Every win on Onyx is particularly special because of all the hours we logged together. For eight years we have pushed each other to be better and better. Every year there is something new to learn, to achieve.”

Joelle is motivated by her success in the ring, but speaks more of the profound fulfillment she gets from her relationship with the horses and the rewards of training horse and rider to reach their full potential. “Of course I love to win. But more and more I also recognize the huge therapeutic value of working with horses. Sport in particular can have a huge character-building effect if you let it. Both horses and riders can come with baggage; being able to help them on an athletic and personal level and watch how much they can change and flourish is amazing. Seeing progress as a rider and a coach makes me incredibly proud of my human and equine athletes.”

Joelle admits she has done less travelling and more teaching in the last few years. “Running a farm and a business keeps me pretty busy,” she laughs. “I am continuing to breed, train, compete and sell horses, as well as increasingly taking more clients to shows. And, of course, I am always open to the next adventure that working with these beautiful animals may bring my way.”