Even though they had never met until today, Courtney Vezina has shared a bond with a foal born earlier this spring at Spruce Meadows.
It's one they'll share for many years to come.
Vezina is one of four winners of the CN and Sun-sponsored Name the Foal contest after offering the monicker, Sudoko, earlier this year.
"I don't really know where I came up with the name," she said via e-mail while travelling from her hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to Spruce Meadows yesterday.
"It just came to me and I went with it."
Vezina's winning entry was one of hundreds of thousands submitted from all over the world during the months-long contest.
Winners hailed from all over the globe, including Shoshanna van Dijk, 23, a native of Prince George, B.C., but now living in Johannesburg, South Africa who came up with Fast Forward.
Duane Allison, 48, of Milford, Mich. submitted For Sure and Conrad Bluteau, 51, came up with Fantome De L'Opera.
Each was flown to Spruce Meadows where they will meet their namesakes and pose for photos this morning before taking part in a special, televised ceremony in the International Ring later.
Entrants could put forth any name they wished, with one stipulation -- in keeping with the Hannoverian bloodline tradition, the first letter of the foal's name must match the first letter of its sire's name.
Once ballot boxes closed on July 31, said Spruce Meadows promotions co-ordinator Amy Evelein, a committee chose the four that best-suited the foals.
"It was me doing days and days and days of data entry," she said noting entries were received both online and on paper.
Because the naming committee wants the monickers to have meaning, the foals are brought out at each of the five major tournaments throughout the year, including the National, Continental, Skyliner, Canada One and North American.
The exposure allows entrants to catch a glimpse of the foals' stature and personality.
Because many of the names were multiples, the eventual winners were then drawn from a hat, meaning along with a good entry, winners also needed some good luck.
Finding out she'd won likely felt as good as a clear round in the International Ring, added Vezina.
"Winning the Name the Foal contest means more than anything else in the world to me," she said.
"It has been my lifelong dream for this to happen, and now my dreams have come true."
Most entrants are equestrian enthusiasts, including Vezina, who rides at the High Rail Stables in Sault Ste. Marie.
"The highest I have jumped is 3-ft., 4-in.," she said.
"Equine jumping is my passion and I hope one day to compete all over the world, including Spruce Meadows."