Langley teen Hayley Mercer is going on a cross-Canada road trip accompanied by her horse Gavin.
The pair are headed to Toronto where they will compete at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair for the Canadian Equestrian Team Medal in November.
Mercer placed second at the CET regional finals in September to qualify for the national competition, which is held at Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
The top four under-21 riders from B.C. are moving onto the national finals, where 16 riders compete for the top title.
Last year, Mercer also qualified to compete at the national level.
She said this year, she knows better what to expect.
“It’s good to go back a second year because now I know what I’m expecting.
“I focus on performance and not outcome. I try to look at it like, ‘how am I going to do this best for myself and my horse,’ not ‘I want to win it,’ which really helps because it takes away the nervous energy of the show.”
Mercer rides six days a week at Langley’s Thunderbird Show Stables.
Her horse Gavin, who goes by the show name Crown Royal, is only seven years old.
“It’s pretty young. For doing the CET Medal, it’s not as common.
“It’s very technical and competitive so he can always pull something babyish, but I can’t get mad at him because he’s still learning,” said Mercer.
Mercer has been riding horses since she was five, and has been riding Gavin for one and a half years.
Mercer said she always had an interest in riding horses, but it was a relative who really sparked the passion.
“We actually like to blame my grandma. She used to live on the Island, so when we went there she would do something special for us. So one year I went over and had a couple (riding) lessons and it started from there.”
Now, she couldn’t imagine her life without horses.
“I see it as an outlet. It’s nice to go after work or after a rough day.
“Even if you’re not riding you can spend time with your horse and it’s calming. I love the competitive aspect and the challenges.”
Mercer said she likes to focus on the ‘bigger picture’ during competitions.
“There’s a lot of setbacks but you have to look at the bigger picture because things aren’t always going to go your way. You’re going to lose 90 per cent of the time and win 10 per cent of the time, so for me, it’s focusing on the bigger picture.”
Since Mercer will age out of the CET competitions in a few years, she has bigger goals set.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Grand Prix rider and compete in FEI. I definitely want to take a run at the Olympics and eventually have my own business.”
Mercer added that she definitely thinks her future career will involve horses.