How a patchy, warty, parasite-infested pony yearling with a leg injury and a little girl with no interest in horses eventually came to be tearing up jumper tracks in Alberta might be considered a rags-to-riches story. Today the flashy dapple-grey, 14.2-hand Beauty Queen and her devoted 12-year-old owner, Kamryn Sitter, have a Facebook page and even the hashtag #teambeauty, not to mention a squad of admirers and supporters celebrating every well-earned success in the low and pony jumper divisions.

Beauty Queen was one of a large herd of horses seized from a farm near Andrew, AB, about 100 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, in a well-publicized 2008 animal neglect case. Twenty-seven horses were already dead when the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) arrived. One hundred others were emaciated, sick, or injured. The SPCA turned the animals over to breeder Susan Fyfe, who established the organization Rescue 100 to rehabilitate and find homes for the horses. The non-profit has since gone on to save hundreds of other abused and neglected horses, but at the time, desperately needed money to look after that first group.

To help, six women from Crossfield, who dubbed themselves the Desperate Horse Wives, put together a fundraiser that brought in $54,000. One of the women, Anne McKinty – Kamryn’s grandmother – took home two rescued fillies, nursed them back to health, and essentially let them be for five years. “The horses lived on my quarter section along with my other six horses and pretty much just ran wild,” she says.

A Jumper in the Making

In 2015, Kamryn, who had shown absolutely no interest in horses despite being around them at her grandmother’s farm, suddenly announced to McKinty she wanted to start jumping. “I babysat her the first six years of her life and would often ask her if she wanted to come feed the horses with me. She would reply, ‘No thank you.’ So, needless to say, I was very surprised,” says McKinty.

The statement may have taken aback her grandmother, but Kamryn remembers exactly when the horse bug first bit her. “My friend Jordan was going to buy a horse. It was actually my uncle’s horse she was going to buy, so I went along with her and she was riding it. That made me really want to ride.” McKinty signed Kamryn up for a three-day camp with Jill Fuselli at Eastwood Stables in nearby Acme. Kamryn was a natural and loved it.

Not long after, the newbie rider was “sitting on the fence eyeing up my horses,” recalls McKinty. “She came into the house and said she would like to try and jump Beauty. I told her Beauty was not broke to ride and it would take some time to train her. I had other horses that were trained, some even trained for jumping, but she seemed set on Beauty.”

Fuselli came to McKinty’s farm to see if there might be an appropriate mount for her young student. She chose Beauty Queen as well and the pasture ornament was shipped to Eastwood to become a riding horse. Fuselli’s oldest daughter Sarah started training Beauty Queen for about five to six months before Kamryn took over the ride.

A Rodeo, Sometimes

Since then, the duo have been racking up ribbons in pony and low jumpers at several Alberta shows, including Spruce Meadows. A highlight came this spring with a win in the .70-metre Mini-Prix at the Rocky Mountain Show Jumping Bow Valley Classic II, along with a first place in the .85-metre Pony Speed round.

But the path to red ribbons hasn’t all been a fairy tale. Beauty “likes to get her own way,” says Kamryn, and there were lots of bucks, balks and spooks at the beginning. “It was difficult for me because I was a green rider and she was a green horse, which didn’t make things the best.”

McKinty says, “It was most definitely a rodeo for quite some time,” adding there was even talk of selling Beauty at one point. “But I never gave up on her,” says Kamryn. “I never stopped wanting to do it with her.”

Fuselli describes the grey as “cheeky and lovable at the same time” while being a “forward and spicy” ride. “Kamryn did spend some time on the ground when she first started riding her,” she says. “But Beauty taught her how to stay on.”

Of her student, Fuselli says, “She is tiny and determined and is tough as nails. She has a great skill at staying with the horse. She stays out of the horse’s way when it’s jumping well.”

The next competition on the schedule is Spruce Meadows Oktoberfest this fall. Kamryn hopes to move Beauty up to the .90-metre division, but Fuselli may temper that desire. “We’ll see, because Beauty is only 14.2.”

Meanwhile, Kamryn continues to enjoy riding and spending time with Beauty, even teaching her to do tricks such as bowing. Her favourite trait about her partner?

“Her way of thinking. She’s always happy. She’s never rude and she’s super tolerant.”