There aren’t many roles that Ann Hodgson hasn’t played in Canada’s hunter/jumper industry. From her early days as a competitor to becoming one of Canada’s first certified Level 3 coaches, Ann now focuses primarily on her judging career and giving back to the sport as a volunteer.

Ann joined EC’s Jumping Committee in 2020 after being encouraged by former Jumping Committee Chair, Pamela Law, to put her name forward for consideration. Given her wide range of expertise and life-long residency in “la belle province” of Quebec, Ann was a natural fit for the role.

We caught up with Ann to learn more about her career and interest in horse sport.

When did you first start riding?

I grew up in Sainte Agathe des Monts, which is known as a ski area, but I never had any interest in skiing. As a child, my grandfather plunked me up on one of the work horses and there was no looking back. I spent most days at my uncle’s stable where he had boarders and a riding school. He was a well-respected horseman and was also considered the local vet because there weren’t really any veterinarians between Montreal and Sainte Agathe in those days. People would bring their dogs and cats to him and he treated them using a little supply of medications from his vet friends in Montreal.

What role do you play in equestrian sport?

Together with my husband, Brian, we ran Hodgson Stables Limited in St. Lazare, Quebec. We were based on the same farm where he had grown up; it had been a dairy farm that had been in his family for several generations. He passed away about a year ago. He was a good horseman and did everything from truck driver to stallion handler to carpenter. We were a good team. We owned and operated this business for over 40 years. It’s been a great life, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

About three years ago, Hodgson Stables Limited was leased to a fellow who worked for us, Chris Gahan. I’m still in the house on the farm, and he’s running the business. The farm is on 120 acres with a large portion rented out to someone who makes hay.

How long have you been involved with Equestrian Canada, and in what capacity?

I’ve been a member for as long as I’ve been riding, competing, coaching, and training through the years. I began riding when I was quite young and joined the Canadian Horse Shows Association, as it was known then, and have maintained my membership since the 1960s. I even saved all my rule books over the years and recently donated them to EC in case it had any use for them.

I’ve had my coaching certificate since 1985 and was part of the pilot project for the first Level 3 certification back in the 90s. I remember being at Tommy Gayford’s farm with Wayne McLennan and a few others, trying to figure it all out.

I currently hold four different judges’ cards. I have my EC senior card in hunter, hack, equitation, and jumper. I’ve had my hunter license for more than 20 years, and the jumper one for at least 10 years.

I also volunteer as a member of the EC Jumping Committee and the Ad Hoc Hunter Committee.

Ann Hodgson leads her grandaughter, Evan, pictured at age four, on a pony.

Do you still ride?

It’s been about six or eight years since I’ve ridden. I don’t really miss it. The fun of it for me was the training although I used to hack my show horses a lot; I thought it was good for them. I find it hard to believe that some people never get out of the ring anymore. We used to have wonderful trails all around the property, but things have closed in around us and there are a lot fewer trails than there used to be. We can still ride down the farm lane.

What did you like the most about your job as a trainer?

When you find a horse that you think has real talent it’s quite exciting. I was always about the hunters; hunters were my thing. Over the years, of course, I came across horses that belonged in the other ring. Countdown is a good example. We got him off the racetrack, trained him and sold him to Dwyer Hill and Ian Millar rode him in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. That one was definitely a jumper! Some of the clients we had over the years also had jumpers.

What is your favourite competition memory?

I really enjoyed going out to Spruce Meadows with Katelyn Carter (nee Lesway) who was riding a jumper at the time named Limited Edition. We went out there two years in a row and she did the 1.30m amateurs. She was quite competitive and I was proud of her as I had bought the horse in Europe for her. She had a hunter and wanted to do the jumpers so off we went and bought Limited Edition, who we called “Sam,” from Jan Broek in Holland. I bought many horses from Jan over the years.

We also used to go down to Florida in the winter and a few times in the summers to Stowe in Vermont. It was always nice to see different people and show venues.

Favourite horse show venue to compete at or visit?

It’s hard to pick out any particular one. If I wanted to go to a horse show tomorrow, I think I would say the Caledon Equestrian Park in Palgrave, Ontario. I’ve always enjoyed that one.

Which competition is still on your bucket list?

I’d love to go to England and go to one of the big shows over there. I’d like to visit HOYS or Olympia or even just a local horse show in England. I’m always interested in how people do things in other countries. In England they have their own type “hunter” classes; I’d love to see one of those. It would be great to go and just spend some time over there. The history of it all also appeals to me.

Cats or dogs?

I like them both, but I’ve never been without a dog until this last year. The last one was a yellow lab that passed away last year. I’ve had mutts and I’ve even had Great Danes. The way we live, I’ve never had to have a dog on a leash. Of course, we’ve had cats in the barn forever.

Last show you binge-watched?

That would have been the Tokyo Olympics!

I don’t watch a lot of television but last year I watched Virgin River; I got into that and watched the whole thing on Netflix. It’s the story of a girl who was trying to find her way and the guy she met who tried to help her and they figured out life together. The actors, the people, appealed to me as much as the plot.

Ann operated Hodgson Stables Limited in St. Lazare, QC, for over 40 years with her husband, Brian, who passed away last year.

Do you have a favourite motto or saying?

“Calm, forward, straight.” I live by that, whether it’s riding or my approach to many things in life.

What three things are always in your fridge?

Salad dressing, peanut butter, and milk. And yes, there’s wine in there, too.

If you could ride any horse, which one would you pick?

Just about any one of the current four-foot hunters in the States are amazing. They can canter those four-foot jumps and make it look easy. It looks like so much fun!

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I was a phys. ed teacher for four years. I taught gym at the elementary school level. People will look at me and say, “you were a gym teacher?!” My mother always said, “you girls have to choose a career,” and all I could think was, “I want to ride!” I figured if I was a teacher, I would have my summers off to ride, and being in the gym sounded like more fun than the classroom.