The young vaulter, who has been named EC Junior Equestrian of the Year for 2022, turned 19 on April 16. Saunders has been vaulting since she was nine and representing Canada on the international stage for the past eight years.

She has had many firsts for Canada prior to her appearance in Omaha, including at the 2021 Junior World Vaulting Championships where she became Canada’s first female individual to ever make the top 15. She is now training in Germany with her team lunger Nina Vorberg and horse Rockemotion that she was paired with at the World Championships in Herning, DEN in August 2022 where she placed eleventh. 

Leaping Levels: Young Canadian female vaulters flying high in the world rankings

Over the coming months, Saunders will be competing in several European events in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany before heading to Flyinge, Sweden July 26-30, 2023, for the Youth World Vaulting Championships where she hopes to win Canada’s first medal in the sport.

“I have worked incredibly hard to advance Canada and the sport of vaulting in the equestrian community, and I feel, I am only getting started,” she said in her recent interview about winning the Gillian Wilson Trophy. “Breaking boundaries and setting an example for youth equestrians in Canada are daily motivators for me.”

Canadian teammate, dual citizen Shaina Hammond is 22 years old and splits her time between Parksville, BC and Utah, USA. She has been vaulting for 11 years and competing internationally for seven. She is a three-time US National champion and began representing Canada in 2018.

After a setback of severe hand injuries in the summer of 2021 that kept her from the Senior World championships in Budapest, Hungary, Hammond worked extremely hard to come back even stronger. She competed alongside Saunders placing 20th in what was her first World Championships in Herning and is currently ranked 28th by the FEI in the world for individual females.

Follow along with their journeys: