Youth sit up and Take Notice

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

While some of equestrian's top riders might consider show jumping child's play, the sport's youngest athletes have their own competition to wow the world.

And those kids are coming to Spruce Meadows Oct. 25-29 for the 2006 FEI World Children's Jumping Final.

For the second time in four years, the Calgary facility is hosting the international event aimed to give riders aged 12 to 14 an early confidence boost in their equestrian career, said Spruce Meadows president Linda Southern-Heathcott.

"It's not only great for Spruce Meadows -- it's fantastic for the sport," said Southern-Heathcott.

"Even the younger riders have aspirations of making the Olympic Games, and for them, this is their Olympics."

The world event gives 32 boys and girls of the same age and experience the chance to compete against one another.

As the host nation this year, 16 Canadian kids -- eight from the West and eight from the East -- will compete for the global title, while the rest of the field will be made up of young equestrians representing other nations.

Sticking with the notion of fair play, the same course design is used in trials worldwide to determine the 32 finalists.

Perhaps among those future champions of the sport is Jenna Pearson, who booked her ticket yesterday for the coming world event by winning the Western Canadian qualifying competition at Spruce Meadows.

Aboard her horse Take Notice and in her debut at the world-renowned facility, the 14-year-old from DeWinton was the best of 18 competitors.

"It was always my dream to show at the Masters, and it tells me I can keep going and show more in the future," said Pearson, who trains under coaches Shelley McManus and Rachel Taylor of Roxbury Show Jumping.


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