Calgary sisters taking show jumping by storm – Kara and Bretton Chad use sibling rivalry to get ahead of the game
For most families, sibling rivalry consists of who gets the biggest bedroom, who gets to use the iPad, or who gets the last piece of pie.
For Kara and Bretton Chad, their sibling rivalry is unlike many others.
These two Calgary teens are professional show jumpers competing against each other in equestrian events in countries such as Switzerland, Austria, France and Spain.
“Definitely there’s a rivalry, but I honestly think that it motivates both of us,” says 18-year-old Kara Chad. “We’re always neck-and-neck or one is beating the other. It really does help us perform to the best of our abilities.”
“It is always fun to compete against her when we are in the jump-off,” 20-year-old Bretton Chad says. “There’s little smack talk so it’s a good time and a mostly positive competitive relationship.”
The desire to outdo each other has helped push both riders to success in competitions in North America and Europe.
Kara has posted numerous top 10 finishes in competitions during the past year and she was a member of Canada’s Nations Cup team that won gold at the Furusiyya FEI event at Xalapa, Mexico this past May.
Bretton has been able to make waves within the past year by being one of only five riders to post a clear at the Sacramento International Horse Show in October. (A clear means that the rider has completed the course without any time or jumping faults.) She also appeared with Kara on the Canadian Young Riders team that finished second in the Young Riders Nations Cup in March. More recently, she finished third in the Trimac Junior/Amateur Jumper 1.40m event at Spruce Meadows in June.
Costs and challenges of show jumping
Both Chad sisters have overcome mental challenges in order to get ahead in this sport.
“This sport is just a huge mental game so just being in the right place and getting your head in the right place is always a bit of a challenge for me,” Bretton says.
“This is something I’m constantly working at.”
Kara feels the same way.
“It is a humbling sport so you’re knocked down quite a bit,” Kara says. “There’s always a sense of competing against others and it’s a very mental sport. Mental in a sense that you have to get over things and thinking forward into the future and really keep yourself positive.
“Honestly, I’ve definitely had my ups and downs,” Kara continued. “But I’ve been lucky throughout the sport to have a great support system and great success.”
The financial expenses that show jumping demands is also a challenge for the Chad sisters.
“That’s one of the downturns of the sport,” says Bretton. “It’s quite expensive at the end of the day. For the uniforms and jackets, they probably are around $200, the saddles are expensive and they can be, depends on what you buy, around $2,000.”
However, the Chad sisters are certainly willing to put in the time, effort and money into getting, ahem, a leg up on the competition.
Susie Schroer and Dick Carvin have been training both the Chad sisters for the past 11 years at Meadow Grove Farm north of Los Angeles, Calif. They started training Kara when she was seven and Bretton when she was nine.
Schroer says both girls show a strong conviction to improve their show jumping skills.
“They are always happy to get here early and stay late,” Schroer says. “They are always willing to learn something new. They are attentive to other riders around them to watch and learn from them.”
According to Schroer, neither Chad has a steady training routine. During the downtime between competitions, the Chads put their horses through lighter workouts, but when they are gearing up for a show their training intensifies.
When it comes to competitions though these young ladies do have a routine, particularly when they are in Calgary jumping at Spruce Meadows.
“Here at Spruce Meadows, I’ll start pretty early,” Bretton says.
“I’m here at 7 a.m. or 7:15 to start hacking (riding a horse for light exercise) my horses, so they move around and move their legs before the competition. Then, I walk the course and review it with my trainer by going over the details of the course and how I’m going to attack it. Each horse’s warm-up is a bit different so it’s a little tailored to them in the schooling area (riding area).”
Bretton has the additional challenge of balancing school with her training while she is in California full-time.
She is currently a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College, east of Los Angeles, with the goal to earn a major in religious studies.
“Basically, what I try to do is push all my classes to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday part of the week,” says Bretton. “Having a good relationship with your professors and being honest is key.”
Kara will be joining her sister at Claremont this fall, although she is not sure what her major will be.
Inspirations and Role Models
When Kara took part in the Nations Cup event in Mexico in May, she had a chance to get up close and personal with perhaps Canada’s most celebrated equestrian rider: Ian Millar.
That was an experience that Kara treasured due to her respect for the 10-time Olympian.
“Watching Ian Millar, being able to walk next to him, hearing what he has to say and hanging out with him in a non-equestrian setting where you really get to know him is awesome,” Kara says.
The Olympian has respect for the rising star.
“With young riders you really don’t know what they are capable of until they’re in a trial-by fire situation,” Millar told the Calgary Journal at the Spruce Meadows ‘National’ tournament on June 4.
“We needed her to have a good first run for us at the Nations Cup and she did. We needed her to have a second good run and she delivered.”
The equestrian figure that inspires Bretton is another Canadian Olympian: Eric Lamaze.
“Eric Lamaze is someone that I loved to watch,” Bretton says. “He’s just insanely competitive and for the last while he’s been on a fantastic roll so that’s really cool.
“I also like to watch some female riders just because they are good role models too. Laura Kraut is always one that I’ve really loved to watch.”
Kraut has represented the United States in the Olympics, the World Cup finals and has been on American Nation’s Cup team.
The Chad Sisters’ Future
Bretton will be spending some time this summer training with her idol Lamaze in Berlin, Germany. She hopes to continue making waves in future competitions.
As for Kara, doing well at the Nations Cup this past May has opened her eyes to more possibilities. She has a dream to compete in the Summer Olympic Games. Qualifying for more Nations Cup teams is another one of her goals.
Both girls certainly want to have a long career in what they consider to be a very special sport.
“You can’t really compare it to anything else,” Kara says. “You have that connection between horse and rider that’s really unbelievable and I think that keeps a lot of people in the sport.
“It keeps us going because it’s a very humbling sport where you lose more than you definitely win, but being able to have that connection with an animal, as well as grow with the animal, and have success is something different.”
Both sisters ride multiple horses. Bretton has earned her third place finish riding one of her newest horses, “The Pugilist.” Kara starred for Canada during the Nations Cup riding “Alberto II”
You can watch the Chad sisters and their horses in action at Spruce Meadows, including the Pan American CSI 5 outdoor tournament taking place from July 10-13.
Calgary Journal - Jun 22, 2014