Five Questions with Beth Underhill
1) AST: Congratulations on winning Thursday’s Open Welcome presented by Horse Sport aboard your mount Viggo. How did you feel the class went for you?
BU: "I was particularly proud of Viggo last night… he injured himself two years ago and has just come off of an extended rest. He was turned out in the paddock for a year, with three potbelly pigs, a donkey and a goat! The rehabilitation seems to have done him very well because he’s feeling better and better. It was so exciting to win since it’s been such a long way back with Viggo.
2) AST: The Angelstone International in September will feature the $100,000 FEI World Cup Qualifer. What are your plans with Viggo as we head into September and for the rest of the year?
BU: "I plan to do the World Cup Qualifier and the Royal Winter Fair and then head south to Wellington, where I’ll spend the winter with my students and my own horses. Viggo just started competing in the Grand Prix classes this July, so the World Cup will be the biggest he’s jumped yet. I’ve gradually been building him up to a meter 60. Preparation for him is just continuing to build his fitness, and really that’s something that has to be done in the ring on the technical, big tracks in the most competitive classes. I feel like we’ve been gradually building on those skills all summer and that we’ll able to peak in September at the World Cup.
3) AST: This week your win was on the beautiful EEC Grass ring at Angelstone. Viggo seemed particularly comfortable there, do you feel like that gave you an edge in the Open Welcome?
BU: "I feel that it’s a great opportunity for us to jump our horses on grass footing. It’s something that we don’t get to do enough in our country. The turf offers a different flavor for the horses, for some it’s a spookier experience. For Viggo it gives him an extra presence and he jumps really well. The footing was just right and really nice. Dave Ballard did a great job designing the course; it was well designed for the field of riders competing. My students and myself love this show, we’ve been to every Angelstone show since it was founded. We keep coming back because we’ve been treated very well. I think Keean White and his team have put together really exciting classes for spectators as well as for developing horses. It doesn’t get much better than the jumping we’ve been able to experience here this summer.
4) AST: You’ve had such a long and successful career as a rider and a coach. What were some of your best, most memorable moments in your career?
BU: "My dream as a young rider, as I went through pony club and all the shows as a developing rider was always to be on the Canadian Equestrian Team. The most thrilling moment was when I put on my red jacket, on that Nations Cup Team in Washington. When we won that competition, it was the most defining, and inspiring moment for me. It was the moment my dream came to fruition. Of course representing Canada at the Pan American games was fantastic, not only for the horse I rode, but also as a representative of Canada internationally. The feeling was second to none. My other favorite moment, even though I didn’t win, was when Altair was second by two tenths of a second at Spruce Meadows. Even though we didn’t win, it felt like we did! It was such an inspiring competition. He gave me his all, and it will always stand out for me.
5) AST: You’re an incredible mentor to students in the sport. You’ve successfully developed many young riders, and horses to the highest level. What advice can you give to riders wanting to reach the level you have achieved?
BU: "First of all, you have to be proficient in anything you do, you have to be prepared to work hard, regardless of who your trainer is. Obviously, at the top level of the sport, you’re getting the best education and purchasing the best horses possible for the job. As an individual and a young rider, you should always remain a student of the sport. I still consider myself a student of the sport. Watch the warm-up ring, study Ian Millar, walk any course you can! It’s too easy to create tunnel vision and have an insulated view of how things are supposed to be done. It’s so important to widen your view and experience other clinics, shows, and coaches. Always be striving to give yourself a broader and better education. I think remaining committed to learning will create riders that we want to see at the highest level.