November Feature Athlete – Natalie Popham
The Athlete Centre is excited to present our November Feature Athlete, Natalie Popham! Natalie is an equestrian athlete, competing in show jumping and works with our amazing A.T. and resident equestrian expert, Sydney Champman. Natalie is representing BC this week at The Royal Agriculture Winter Fair, North American’s #1 Indoor equestrian event. We asked Natalie some questions about her riding history, about the sport of equestrian and to add some inspirational words about her path to becoming an elite athlete.
I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to attend “The Royal” this year and to represent BC. I started riding at Westside Stables in Victoria, BC and it was here that my love for horses and riding first started. My experiences with the horse community on Vancouver Island has helped me grow as a rider and set me on the path to where I am now. I hope to follow the footsteps of our past island riders at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
This past season I am began riding with Cheryl and Kassidy Keith, from Keepsake Farms, who are both from Vancouver Island and have experience with the Canadian Equestrian Team Medal Final or CET Medal, which is a yearly event that requires qualifying to compete in Toronto. Qualifying classes are held throughout the competition season with the top young riders in Canada. Some CET winners have gone on to represent Canada at the Olympics! Keepsake Farms have helped make my dream of going to the CET and Jump Canada Medal finals a reality. I would like to be in the top ribbons in the Junior Hunters (a competition for riders 16 years of age and younger competing at the 3 foot 6 height) and my dream goal is to represent Vancouver Island and BC by winning the CET finals.
When did you start riding horses?
I started to ride in a program when I was six years old.
When did you start competing?
I started competing at small shows when I was eight then moved to the “A” circuit when I was 12.
What events have you competed in and what is your favourite event?
I have competed in a lot of hunters, jumpers and equations (disciplines within the sport, hunters and equitation are considered stepping stones to higher level show jumping). My favourite events are the equitations like the CET and the Jump Canada.
What are your future plans – goals, short and dream goals?
I plan to continue riding for as long as possible and hopefully be able to make a career as a professional rider. My short term goal is to win the CET at the Royal Winter Fair this November (this week).
What are the physical demands of your sport and what do you find most challenging?
Show jumping is a very physically demanding sport, not only riding but horse care itself. The major demands of the sport include; balance, upper body strength, agility, and mobility in the hips and ankles. My biggest challenge with riding is that It takes a lot of core and back strength and I end up with a very sore lower back. Sydney is constantly working on my back to maintain even strength and to ensure my back isn’t rotating. Athletic therapy has played a large role in my riding career with injury rehabilitation and prevention, as well as building and maintaining strength in my body.
We are so excited to see where you go Natalie – keep up the incredible work.