Calgary’s Chad sisters lean on Lamaze during Spruce Meadows summer
When an experienced show jumper and decorated Canadian athlete such as Eric Lamaze offers you a piece of advice, you listen.
So, when the sport’s ‘Great One’ offered his first nugget to Bretton Chad, she immediately snapped it up and applied it to her approach in the International Ring.
“He’s like, ‘You go into the ring and you shrink,’ ” recalled the 21-year-old Calgarian, enjoying a quiet moment at Spruce Meadows on Thursday. “He said, ‘You need to grow. Get taller. Be there and know you’re there to compete and be confident in yourself.’
“Really huge for me.”
Because even though Bretton and her 19-year-old sister, Kara, have grown up steeped in the sport, know Spruce Meadows like the back of their hands and have all the signs of being future stars in the sport, they still can benefit from the words of someone who has been around longer than they’ve been alive.
Someone who, definitely, has grown taller throughout his career.
“I tend to be a bit nervous and in my head sometimes,” explained Bretton. “That’s kind of an issue for me. But he was able to help me coming into the ring . . . really huge for me. It was huge for me to hear that and have something to think about.
“‘Get Bigger. Don’t shrink.’ As silly as that sounds, it’s been really helpful.”
Which could be said about Bretton’s entire semester studying abroad last fall. The stars aligned in such a way that she was able to spend it in Belgium, training and learning from Lamaze at his Brussels-based facility.
The experience was so beneficial that both sisters arranged to work with Lamaze during the summer series at Spruce Meadows, starting this week at the National Tournament, which runs until Sunday.
Following the season, they’ll compete in Europe on this summer’s Longines Global Champions Tour.
“After Brett came back from her study abroad, it was really noticeable how different her riding was,” chimed in Kara. “Eric has been a huge idol for our whole riding lives. I mean, he’s ERIC Lamaze.”
Tough to argue.
The 47-year-old is the top money winner at the facility with $4,257,782 over his career and a Spruce Meadows hall of famer. He has represented the nation at multiple Olympics, having won individual gold and team silver at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Again, Lamaze is clearly a favourite for Canada’s Pan-American Games team this summer, which is a qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
He’s also worked with a handful of promising riders, including Caitlin Ziegler and Calgary’s Mackenzie Edwards. “As long as we’ve been watching this ring, he’s been riding — and winning it,” Bretton said. “The entire time. Definitely watching him compete here and just seeing him. Before, Kara and I would see him around the show grounds and be like, ‘Oooh. There he is.’ ”
A feeling that hasn’t worn off even though Kara and Lamaze were competing directly in Thursday’s Westmoreland Cup. The two walked the course together to observe the jumps prior to the 1.50-metre class.
“I’m still quite in awe,” Kara said. “It’s great getting to know someone who has done wonders for the sport. “Sometimes you have to stop and take a second to realize who, exactly, you’re working with.”
The sisters also attend Claremont McKenna College in California — Bretton, a senior this fall, and Kara, a sophomore.
As for this week, Bretton’s horse Quelmec du Gery suffered a cut on Wednesday and is not competing this week. Kara has her sights set on qualifying for Saturday’s $400,000 RBC Grand Prix presented by Rolex.
“That’s a big step,” said Kara who is riding Zamiro 16. “It’s the feature class of the week. It’s pretty huge . . . a really, really big deal.”
The sisters, who are based out of Stone Ridge Farms in Priddis, have been riding together at Spruce Meadows International Ring for the past three years but have been competing at the facility for a while now, mostly in the Rocky Mountain ring (on development courses).
Still, the feeling never gets old.
“Especially for Kara and I,” Bretton said. “The first time you step in the International Ring, it’s quite an experience. It’s something you’ve looked up to for a long time. But I don’t think (the ‘wow’ factor) has worn off. I don’t think it should ever wear off.
“There’s some pretty amazing riders here.”
Calgary Herald - Jun 4, 2015