We are almost entering the fifth month of 2022, which means show season in Canada is upon us. A number of competitive athletes have recently returned from the south, where they have spent the last few months competing and training in warmer temperatures. We had the chance to connect with one of them, Kelley Robinson, to provide insights into what it’s like to pack up and compete away from the cold weather for the winter.

Robinson, a show jumper who also operates Cimarron Show Stables in Ottawa, ON, developed a passion for horses at an early age, in the pony ring and progressed to the children and junior hunters, which eventually led to her riding under the guidance of Jill Henselwood at Juniper Farms. Once her junior career finished, with a lot of hard work, Robinson took the professional path and opened her own stable. Since launching her business in 2007, Robinson has been mostly showing in Florida.

When travelling to Florida, packing up your life for the 12 weeks can be challenging, even for Robinson. “It’s amazing to be able to compete in Florida all winter, but the challenging part is getting everything down there – campers, horses, equipment, golf carts, and dogs. It’s a lot to get from Canada to Florida and back again. But once we were there, it was a very successful circuit,” said Robinson, who takes several horses for her 12 week trip. A rotation of horses between show grounds and farm facilities allow horses to be shown for two weeks at a time.

Due COVID-19 restrictions, Robinson couldn’t travel down south last year and continued to experience issues this past winter. Many of her students who travel back and forth faced challenges, having to re-arrange flights because of testing requirements.

Despite the setbacks of the pandemic, Cimarron Show Stables and Robinson were able to take a total of 19 horses to Florida. She took the first two loads down after Christmas and another a week later. “We rented stalls at a farm down the road from the show and then also circuit stalls at the show venue as well. We brought campers for the staff and I, which was the most affordable way to be close to the WEC venue,” said Robinson.

A popular destination in Florida is the 12-week festival in Wellington, but Robinson suggests to those who wish to compete in the Sunshine State that Ocala is just as good. She said, “the show is more affordable for me to take multiple horses – Wellington is beautiful, you are up against some of the best riders in the world, but the opportunity is there in Ocala to win enough prize money in the bigger classes to pay your way to rent stalls, accommodations etc.”

I Am EC – Spending a winter away from home training in Ocala

Photo Credit: Andrew Ryback

“The World Equestrian Center (WEC) in Ocala is enormous,” said Robinson, “everything is pristine, unlike anything I’ve ever seen, it was indescribable – I kept telling everyone who had not seen it yet.” Robinson added, “there is a lot of atmosphere, the jumps are beautifully decorated, and it is a venue that is used year-round, built to accommodate over 3,000 horses.”

Robinson had success at WEC, with her own Blue’s Yer Daddy (Mr. Blue x Lys de Darmen), a 15-year-old homebred gelding, placing in the top 10 six times and the duo’s highest finish in third during week seven in the $75,000 WEC Grand Prix and week 11 in the $20,000 Jarvis Insurance Welcome Prix.

Being an athlete but also a full-time business owner, the 38-year-old Robinson is fortunate to have a great team of staff that helped all winter at the show and back in Canada to look after the horses that didn’t come – “I couldn’t have made it through the circuit without them.”

Now that she is back in Canada, the preparation for showing in Canada has begun and the horses that went to Florida will have an easy month in April before beginning to show in May. “We will be mostly showing in Canada this summer in hopes to be at the Royal Winter Fair,” said Robinson. Along with showing, she will be continuing to coordinate rentals and accommodations for next winter in Florida.

Follow Robinson and Cimarron Show Stables on social media on Facebook and Instagram.

For further information on Robinson, Cimarron Show Stables and tips on travelling to Florida to train and complete, please click here.

I Am EC – Spending a winter away from home training in Ocala

Photo Credit: Andrew Ryback

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