Vancouver, British Columbia – Calgary’s Julia Tops won the CET Medal Western Regional Final on September 25 during the BCHJA Fall Finale held at Southlands Riding Club in Vancouver, BC. The youngest rider in a field of 18 entries, Tops, who shows as a 12-year-old, claimed her first victory in a CET Medal Regional Final. Open to riders 21 and under and held over three phases, Thursday’s opening phase saw riders complete a flat test from memory. Tops earned a score of 83 in the flat phase to place fifth.
Friday’s gymnastic phase proved to be the biggest challenge for Tops and her mount, Tom Foolery. Questions included bending lines, innovative approaches and a difficult quintuple bounce combination which required horses and riders to tackle five fences in a row. “That was for sure the phase I was most nervous for,” admitted Tops, who was not the only rider who encountered difficulty in the gymnastics phase. Her score of 66 was still good enough for eighth place, putting her sixth in the overall standings.
The third and final jumping phase was held Sunday. Tops had no problems there, scoring 78 and earning her way into the six-horse ride-off. Drawing names from a hat, each of the six finalists ride three horses belonging to the competition. Separated from their coaches, the final six competitors walk the course alone, setting their own plans, and warming-up their unfamiliar mounts without input from their trainers.
It was Tops’ time to shine. Having placed third in the 1.10m ‘Final Four’ during the Spruce Meadows “Skyliner” Tournament in June which see riders jump a course on all four horses in the Final Four, Tops is no stranger to catch riding or to executing her plan under immense pressure. In the CET Regional Medal Final ride-off, Tops drew the mounts of Calianne Kirker, Micara Muir, and Sydney Tanye. “I was way more nervous for the gymnastics phase than I was for switching horses,” laughed Tops. “I felt I had practiced that when we did the ‘Final Four’ at Spruce Meadows. Everything went well; I did the right number of strides on every single horse. I didn’t miss!”
When the riders were called back into the ring for presentations, Tops felt confident that she had done well. “Micara was also very good, so I thought I might be second,” said Tops, who last year placed eighth overall in her CET Regional Finals debut. “I didn’t know if I was going to win because I am so young. I was so shocked when they called Micara second. It was really exciting. It is still a little bit unbelievable.”
The top four riders from each of the four regional finals held across Canada qualify to compete at the prestigious Royal Horse Show held November 4 to 12 in Toronto. In addition to contesting the Running Fox CET Medal Final, Tops plans to compete in the JC Medal Final and Junior Hunter division.
Tops was quick to praise her mount, Tom Foolery, saying, “He’s perfect. He’s an angel. He was wonderful for all three girls. I am really proud of him. ‘Tom’ is the perfect horse.” Tops and Tom Foolery were partnered together in December of 2009 by her equitation trainers, Missy Clark and John Brennan of North Run Stables in Warren, Vermont. In addition to competing in the equitation divisions, Tops also shows Tom Foolery in the junior hunter and jumper divisions. “At the beginning it was a little tough – he does have ‘foolery’ in him!” laughed Tops about the nine-year-old gelding. “He hadn’t done a lot before I got him. He still bucks, but he likes his job. He’s amazing.”
At the CET Medal Western Regional Final, Tops was coached by renowned Canadian trainer, Bobbie Reber of Reber Ridge Stables in Maple Ridge, BC. “She’s a wonderful person, really positive, and she believes in me,” said Tops, who is a grade nine student at Strathcona Tweedsmuir School in Calgary. “She always tells me not to give up, saying, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings!” Missy and John (Brennan) have got me to where I am in the equitations, but Bobbie is good at the details and fine-tuning everything.”
Tops, who is the daughter of Dutch Olympic gold medallist Jan Tops and short listed Canadian Show Jumping Team member Tani Zeidler, continued, “My mom has had a huge impact. She is always there for me. When I walk the course, I talk to Bobbie and then I talk to my mom. She gives me a lot of advice. And I am always thankful for my grandma. She was able to come out to Vancouver for the first couple of days.
Tops trains at her family’s Zeidler Farm, located just a 10 minute drive from her home in DeWinton, just south of Calgary. “They are all such huge supporters,” said Tops of her family and her trainers. “All that went through my mind when I was riding the other people’s horses were the words of my trainers – what Bobbie would say, what my mom would say, what Missy would say. It is nice to have all of them, because you learn something from each of them.”
Tops also puts her talents to use as a Rider Ambassador for JustWorld International, a not-for-profit, humanitarian organization working as a catalyst for positive change in the developing world by helping impoverished children. At a recent fundraising event held at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC, Tops made JustWorld signature cell phone covers and charms with sales contributing to the $11,607 raised in support of JustWorld’s Rice for Families Project at Stung Mein Chey in Cambodia.
Zeidler Farm is a world-class show jumping facility featuring an outdoor grand prix arena with natural obstacles and an oversize indoor riding arena. It is also home to Zeidler Farm’s successful breeding program. In 2011, Zeidler Farm won the National Five-Year-Old Reserve Champion title with the homebred Lavender ZF, as well as the National Six-Year-Old Reserve Championship with Incognito. For more information, please visit www.zeidlerfarm.ca.
Photos: Julia Tops of Calgary, AB, and Tom Foolery won the CET Medal Western Regional Final on September 25 during the BCHJA Fall Finale held at Southlands Riding Club in Vancouver, BC; Julia Tops, mounted, far right, with Bobbie Reber, Sue Braund, and Tani Zeidler.