Name: Veronica Bot
Date of Birth: April. 14, 1996
Hometown: Burlington, Ontario
Based out of: Burlington, Ontario
Favourite Inspirational Quote: “You learn from your mistakes”
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Competing consistently at the 1.50-1.60m Grand Prix level, with hopes of competing on Nation’s Cup teams for Canada.
Horse Name (Show name, “Barn name”): Cool Down 3, “Chacco”
Date of Birth: January. 4, 2007
Breed (Pedigree): Hannoverian
Loves: His job
If he/she were in high school, he/she would be: Track and field star athlete
I started riding at 7 years old at a local stable in Milton. It was here that I learned the basics of horsemanship, such as proper grooming, tacking-up, and cantering. The following year, when I was 8, I jumped for the first time. This would be the beginning of my long journey towards earning two medals at the North American Young Rider Championships and more recently, competing in my first 1.60m Grand Prix.
Let’s start in 2013, when I first met my trainer Chris Delia and established my major goals. Before coming to Chris Delia Stables, I was riding with renowned hunter trainer, Sue Pritchard Laing. With her, I had gone from the large ponies all the way to the 1.20m jumper division. Even though I enjoyed my time with Sue, it had become clear that I needed to be in a more specialized jumper training program. He requested an interview with my parents and I shortly after we expressed interest in his program. I told him my goals very clearly… to compete in the 1.40m division and go to the North American Young Rider Championships one day. I was ashamed to tell him about these goals because I though they were unrealistic, or worse, that he would just sit and laugh at me. But he never did, and he instead saw somebody with potential. He eventually agreed to take me on as a student. I was not convinced he would do that, but I am so grateful he did- I just “needed polish” is what he said. Shortly after, I moved to his farm and had my first lesson on my 10-year-old OTTB jumper “Guinness”. He was surprised how difficult he was to ride and insisted that I needed a different horse to work towards my goals. Guinness was sidelined for 4 months and we were in limbo. No jumping, no training, but our journey to Europe was in the works. In October of 2013, I went to the Netherlands with Chris in search of the perfect 1.40m jumper. It was a pleasant surprise for him that my abilities shone through on this trip. I think this is when he started to realize that those goals I set were achievable. Eventually we found our grey Holsteiner gelding Calato’s Charles “Charles”, who was 7 at the time.
In the summer of 2014 we started competing in the 1.20m division and quickly posted wins up to the 1.30m level. Then we moved into the 1.40m division. Charles qualified for the 1.40m finals at the Royal and we won the championship together that same year. This win put my riding on the fast- track and we were aiming for Young Riders in 2015. The following May, Charles and I competed in our first 1.50m Grand Prix at the Kentucky Horse Park with only one rail down. This score earned us a place on the team and we competed at NAYRC for Canada in July of that summer. At the championship, we finished 5th on the Canadian team and 12th individually. The chef d’equipe for the Canadian Olympic team, Mark Laskin, happened to watch us compete at NAYRC and invited us to participate in the $100,000 U25 finals at the National Horse Show in October of 2015. We did compete in that class, despite the near overlap with the Canadian Championships at the Royal, which I also planned to ride in. I was the youngest rider in the Canadian Championships, at 19 years old, competing against veterans like Ian Millar and Jill Henselwood. Eventually, the whirlwind 2015 show circuit came to a close, and we had positive experiences at the 1.45m and 1.50m level. After much discussion, we decided to start the search for some new horses to build my string.
In November of 2015 we headed to Europe once again. It was on this trip that I found Chacco “Cool Down 3”, and my third horse, Caprice “Quidam’s Caprice M”. They are both hot types, very much the opposite of lazy type Charles. They arrived in January of 2016. Riding them has been a big learning curve. Trying to coordinate my body to influence a hot horse was a mystery to me before having these two, as was the importance of soft hands (which I am still learning to this day). When the summer arrived, Charles was aimed at NAYRC for the second time, while Chacco and Caprice were starting in the 1.20m division. My relationship with Chacco developed quicker than with Caprice, and we were in the 1.40m division in only a few weeks. He would eventually go on to finish 3rd in the 1.40m division in the zone, and 3rd in the Canadian U25 championships at the Royal in 2016. Caprice went back and forth between 1.30m and 1.40m while we tried to develop an understanding of each other. I would eventually go on to win the $10,000 1.40m jumper stake with her at the Royal in 2016. Charles did qualify for NAYRC in 2016 but had an accident in the first qualifier. We were disqualified and he was off for a full year. I just got him back to showing midway through this season and he recently competed in a CSI2* 1.45m class a few weeks ago, at Angelstone. This was a significant lesson for me, as I began to understand that this sport is more about overcoming your weaknesses rather than avoiding them. I was embarrassed and lost confidence after the accident, yet I came back and started to build up again with my other two horses.
Now, we arrive at 2017. Chris and I decided to aim Chacco at NAYRC for my final eligible year. Caprice was to be introduced to the FEI 2* division and the Grand Prixs. Both horses had consistent results in classes up to 1.40m+, so winning a medal at NAYRC seemed like a realistic goal. Chacco and I were under observation by the Young Rider selection committee during the early part of the season, which was something I tried to keep from interfering with my thoughts. Beth Underhill confirmed my acceptance into the team and we were set to go in July. We competed in a few National Standard Grand Prix’s (1.50m) in Vermont prior to the championship, and placed in all of them. Then it came time to go to Saugerties, New York, for the Young Rider Championships.
It was hot that entire week- probably 34 or 35 degrees Celsius by noon every day. I doubted that Chacco would have enough stamina to jump 5 big rounds in 6 days. Despite this concern, I stayed focused on our goals and the performance of my horse. Chacco was stellar the first day, finishing 4th in the individual qualifier on Thursday afternoon. We then entered the team competition on Thursday. The Chef d’equipes Beth Underhill and Dave Ballard decided on the team order for the Young Rider Nations Cup, and I was selected to be the anchor rider. Being in the position can be more stressful than the other positions, since your score has the final say in the standing of your entire team. Soon enough the competition was underway. It was a big course, with the open water and some technical elements. There was one particularly tricky line off the in-gate. Being the anchor rider, I was able to watch my teammates go in the first round. Chacco and I had trouble with one line and accumulated 8 faults. I was determined to fix the problem in the second round, since with Nations Cup format, the course is identical to the first. At this time, Canada was just trailing behind team USA. In the second round, team Canada improved their scores, with Chacco and I also posting a clear round to close out the competition as the anchor combination. Our team performance earned us the silver medal! We stood on the podium and did a victory gallop to finish the day. After 2 days of competition, Chacco was sitting in 6th place individually in the standings. The medalists would be named in the individual final in the two round competition on Sunday. All the horses qualified for the final had Saturday off and I felt poised to perform on Sunday with my well-rested mount.
The next day, upon walking the course, I thought it was similarly big and technical to what I saw on Friday. There was a new tricky bending line from the open water to a tight skinny 1.50m combination. I feared having that element down, and despite my intricate planning we did have the “a” part down. We finished the first round on 4 faults. I didn’t know what our standing was at this time, and just focused on the second round. It was a different course that was shorter, but slightly higher than the first. Despite this increased difficulty, Chacco delivered a clear round. Our total score was determined and it was a matter of seeing how others did in the class to seal the deal on gold, silver and bronze. In an incredible turn of events, three Canadians swept the podium- Julia Madigan gold, Alexanne Thibault silver and me (Veronica Bot) bronze. It was a magical moment as we stood on the podium while the Canadian anthem played. The 1-2-3 finish had never happened in the history of equestrian sport in Canada, and the result was a glimmer of hope for the future of Show Jumping. I was so grateful to have been part of this experience and I can never thank all my supporters, parents and staff enough for all they have done to help me get to the podium that day.
More recently in the 2017 season, I competed in my first 1.60m Grand Prix under the lights. Chacco handled the height with ease, which makes me very enthusiastic about the future. The time has come to set new goals, and I am looking onto Spruce Meadows, the Pan-Am Games and even the Olympics one day. I have confidence that success materializes from hard work, dedication and a little bit of luck. I am a living example that this is true. Those goals I was so ashamed to mention back in 2013 ended up becoming my reality. Don’t be afraid to dream big, anything is possible!