Three years ago, the ladies of Hearts N’ Hooves Trick Riding wowed exhibition crowds, and now this year, they’re back to keep you on the edge of your seat with their incredible equestrian stunts.
Ashley Furgeson, originally from Northern Alberta, starting training in the art of trick riding 10 years ago with Jerri Duce, a world-renowned professional in the sport. It wasn’t long before Ashley decided to begin her own trick riding team, Hearts N’ Hooves. Other than Ashley, members include 14-year-old Mackenzie Jensen, who has also trained with Jerri Duce, and their newest addition, 13-year-old Bella DaCosta, the team’s youngest rider.
Trick Riding has it’s origins in Russia, where riders would hang from their horses, pretending to be dead in order to fool their enemies. When some of these Russians moved to America, they brought their unique riding skills with them, and started performing for money, and so trick riding began.
It is a demanding sport, requiring not only amazing physical strength, but a great bond and trust established with the horses as well. The training these girls undergo with their horses involves lots of slow work, repetition, patience, and time.
“The most important thing is you want a horse with a great attitude, and a good mind, so that if you do get into a wreck, or something happens, they’re not scared,” says Ashley.
Ashley, Mackenzie, and Bella’s first performance was on August 14, just before the exhibition parade. Some of their tricks include the One Foot Stand, the Backwards Bender, the Windmill, the Horn-Spin Vault, Stroud, the Shoulder Drag, Under the Neck, and the Suicide Drag.
At the top of their show, Mackenzie Jensen showed off the amazing feat of ‘Roman Riding,’ where the rider rides two horses simultaneously, standing, with one foot on each horse’s back.
After their show, these three performers come back to their stable at the exhibition to sign and sell t-shirts and posters, and also answer questions about their sport. The crowd waiting for them is largely young girls and women, filled with awe and admiration for these daring riders.
Aside from performing with their team, the ladies of Hearts N’ Hooves also compete. Mackenzie is the 2016 Canadian Roman Riding Champion, and both her and Bella hold Calgary Stampede Champion titles. Not only that, but Ashley and Mackenzie both work as special skilled extras on CBC’s hit series ‘Heartland’ as well.
With a sport as dangerous and difficult as trick riding, these professionals want to promote safety, and insist that trick riding is a sport that should never be undertaken without the proper gear, coaching, and professional supervision.
The enthusiasm and warm welcome from the exhibition crowd is one of Ashley’s favourite things about trick riding in the Annapolis Valley. Ashley, Mackenzie, and Bella will be performing in the main ring at the Lawrencetown Exhibition on Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 8 p.m., and Thursday, Aug. 17 at 7:15 p.m.
Article by Elise Whitman, a Bridgetown Regional Community School student who is working with the Annapolis County Spectator.