Ashley BUSS' riding career began more like a rodeo than a smooth country trot.
But the 23-year-old equestrian show jumper stuck with the sport, and has now won events in large shows as far away as Iowa.
"It took me a long time to get going, and for three years I never thought I'd really make anything out of it," said Buss, who is competing at the Heart of the Continent Horse Show this weekend at Red River Exhibition Park. "I didn't have the greatest coaches at the start. It was more just a schooling barn. Every person was just a number, they didn't care about the individual or anything like that. It was a rough start."
Buss began riding when she was in Grade 6, but estimates that it took about five years to get the right horse and coach. She credits Christine Penner with matching her with a better horse, which helped kick-start her show-jumping career. With Penner, Buss said she received more individual attention as opposed to being grouped into one lesson with a number of riders.
"It was more of a show barn and a competition barn," said Buss. "The horses are a bit nicer, they were more individual, had a lot more personality to them.
"When you're starting off from a young age, it's pretty important that they've got a good attitude, if they're happy-going."
Buss said that her current horse, 10-year-old Livingston's Pride, was a challenge to deal with when she first teamed up with him. By earning his trust and letting him know who's in charge, Buss turned Livingston's Pride into a contender who she's been competing with for four years.
"When I first got him, he was pretty spooky and goofy," said Buss. "When I first got him, he bucked me off. I could hardly ride him.
"He started right at the bottom, and now he's in the Grand Prix (today)... Usually it takes a little bit longer, but he just bonded with me."
That bond helped the pair win the four-foot class, referring to height of the jump, at the Dayton Horse Show in Dayton, Iowa last July. Buss said that American horse shows are larger than Canadian ones, so it adds some pedigree to win abroad.
"It's a whole different ball game," said Buss. "Some of the classes will have 50 to 60 horses in them. (I was) going down there with my green horse, never really having that much experience with it."
In addition to high-level competition, Buss also teaches approximately 20 students. Her foray into coaching wasn't planned, but came out of being asked to lend a hand.
"I really enjoy helping people and I had a couple kids who were riding and they were having troubles," said Buss. "They asked me one day if I could give them a hand and it progressed from there."
Buss also started up a boarding stable, Grand Oak Meadows, in January. She said it's not uncommon for riders to open stables, but are usually older and have more help when they do.
"I do all the chores there myself and then start teaching at 10 o'clock and finish at eight o'clock every night, seven days a week.
"It's a good thing I enjoy it, because otherwise, I wouldn't be able to do it."