This month, we introduce you to Marni von Schalburg, who is currently in her first term as an EC Jumping Committee member. A former grand prix competitor and now show jumping trainer and coach, Marni is based in King City, ON. She is married to Stefan von Schalburg, a member of the Canadian Dressage Team that won bronze at the 1995 Pan American Games in Argentina. The couple has one child, Michael, a student at Queens University in Kingston, ON, where he is the captain of the Varsity Club men’s golf team.

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

When Mark Laskin became the Chair of High Performance for Jumping, he asked me to join the High Performance Selection Committee. I’ve really enjoyed the role.

I also became more involved with EC when the Under 25 program was introduced. I used to be involved with the Ontario Young Riders program; that morphed into being part of the Under 25 program and I was on the selection committee.

With the experience gained in those two roles, I decided to put my name forward for the EC Jumping Committee.

What age did you start riding and what was the name of your first pony or horse?

I was seven. My first pony was a little white pony called Gunsmoke who was very naughty! And then my first horse, when I was 13, was Beacon Hill and he was my first jumper. I did the junior jumpers on him. When I bought him, he was 19 years old, and I showed him for four years. He was a fantastic first jumper. He was 17.2hh or 17.3hh and I was a little shrimp!

I did a clinic with “Torchy” Millar when I was around 15 or 16 and then started training with him. I rode with him and stayed connected throughout my competitive career. We remain good friends to this day.

Do you currently still ride?

I ride the clients’ horses, but I do not ride competitively. I run a 15-stall barn with 80% jumpers.

Marni von Schalburg and her first horse, Beacon Hill. (Courtesy of Marni von Schalburg)

What is your favourite competition memory?

My favourite memory was in the early ’80s when I showed in Lake Placid. I went for a week, and it was just an unbelievable experience – driving my two horses there, showing in the grass ring, and seeing all the great riders of that time. Part of what made it so memorable was breaking down on the way to Lake Placid, and then losing my license before trying to cross back into Canada. Here I was, trying to get back into Canada to go to the Quebec City horse show. The horses had their papers, but I didn’t have mine!

I was with my friend, Claire Lawrence, on that trip to Lake Placid, and she also had two horses to show. We had a camper that was always causing problems and, on the last day, the septic backed up into the shower. It was just one of those weeks. Despite all the bad things that happened and everything that went wrong on that trip, it made for amazing memories. Amazing showing, amazing learning experience, and great fun!

What is your favourite horse show venue?

Spruce Meadows. What’s not to like? It is incredible jumping, and the feeling of walking into the International Ring on a horse is very special. You can relate to what it feels like to come in under the clock tower and into the ring even when you’re just watching. The course design, the huge crowds – everything about Spruce Meadows is just great.

I also love some of the shows in Europe. Even the small shows are fun and have lots of atmosphere.

Which competition is still on your bucket list?

Aachen, Germany.

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

Any great horse would be fun to ride.

What is your dream vacation?

After COVID, any vacation will feel like a dream! At the top of my list – and we were actually planning to do this in 2021 – was to go to New Zealand’s South Island and do some hiking and exploring. The Galápagos Islands and Krueger National Park in South Africa are also on my list. And Patagonia – I’d love to go hiking there.

Cats or Dogs?

Dogs. I have an eight-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Joey. He was named after Joey on Friends. I like the Pembroke Corgis in particular, but Corgis in general are just hilarious. They are so loyal, and they really have a sense of humour. Joey makes me laugh every day.

Last show you binge-watched?

Schitt’s Creek.

Favourite motto or saying?

Follow your passion. Be true to yourself. I like both of those mottos.

What three things are always in your fridge?

Hummus, coconut Liberte Greek yogurt, and Beck’s non-alcohol beer.

What are your interests outside of equestrian?

I love golf. I spend most of my spare time golfing and going to our cottage when I’m not at a horse show. I play with my husband and our son, Michael, when he isn’t working or in a golf tournament. I also love gardening, paddle boarding, and cross-country skiing.

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

I try to have as many vegetables as possible from my own garden. I have a real fear of heights; when people find that out, they can’t believe I jump horses for a living! I studied environmental science. I was a really good basketball player in high school which is kind of funny because I’m only 5’2”.

I was into debating in high school. I used to do all the high school debating competitions throughout Ontario. It’s amazing training for the mind to analyze an argument from both sides. It’s an advantage in that you can look at things from both sides, but it can almost become a disadvantage as well if you become too neutral.

That was more than one thing but there are lots of things that people in the horse world don’t know about me!

Best part about your job?

Being with the horses. That’s the reason I do this job.