Community Clubs Equestrian

HIGH ACHIEVERS: 5 Ottawa and area show jumping riders receive national bursary

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

Aylen Ferguson riding Absolut (owned by Katie Bird). Photo: Ben Radvanyi

By Martin Cleary

Life is interesting right now for student-athlete Aylen Ferguson. She either is at or close to the finish line of two major projects, which will allow her to advance to the start line for two others.

The Carp resident is about to graduate with a BSc in mechanical engineering. Her ideal job would allow her to design and build state-of-the-art equestrian complexes and indoor arenas for the horse industry.

At 22, this was the final year Ferguson could apply for Equestrian Canada’s Jumping Youth Bursary funding. She didn’t know about it before, wasted no time applying for it and was one of five successful local riders.

Ferguson will use her $1,000 bursary towards earning her equestrian instructor certification. Already a certified alpine ski racing coach, she wants to guide young equestrian show jumping prospects.

Equestrian Canada’s list of 10 bursary winners also included Olivia Blaber, 16, Ottawa; Sasha Maniaci, 17, Ottawa; Mackenzey Nadeau, 22, Carleton Place; and Julia Wiggins, 18, Kanata.

Ferguson is the uOttawa Equestrian Team captain, but there have been no Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Zone 2 Region 2 or Ontario Collegiate Equestrian Association meets this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the past four years, she has competed for the Gee-Gees and trained at Wesley Clover Parks in Nepean. Through a partnership program, the student-athletes ride horses provided by Wesley Clover.

“What I want to do is get my instructor certification in non competitive so I can teach the basics, have fun and maintain my amateur status,” said Ferguson, who has already received online manuals from Ontario Equestrian.

“This is my last year of mechanical engineering at uOttawa. I plan to take my knowledge and find a job with a company that builds indoor venues. There are two in the States (World Equestrian Centre in Wilmington, Ohio and Ocala, Florida).”

Olivia Blaber riding Serenade de Mai. Photo: Sarah Latterner

A top Gold-level rider, Olivia Blaber helped Canada’s Children’s Team win bronze at the 2019 North American Youth Championships. She is recognized for her incredible horsemanship, attentiveness to horse care and peer support.

Riding in the national Grand Prix ring, Sasha Maniaci is training to compete at the 1.50-metre show jumping level. She also volunteers at events staged by the University of Ottawa and as a show groom for young riders.

Mackenzey Nadeau has been successful as a show jumping rider as well as a business program student at Algonquin College. She has earned several top-10 finishes in her recent entry into the Under-25 Grand Prix level.

Known as a well-rounded individual, Julia Wiggins spends countless hours training, caring for her horse and dedicating herself to earning the Equestrian Canada Learn to Ride and Canadian Pony Club levels.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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1 comment

  1. So great to see equestrian content in your magazine as equestrian sport is not usually covered by the media. A real shame as Ottawa/Canada has a lot of up and coming talent and an amazing equestrian competition venue at Wesley Clover Parks to boot. Keep up the great coverage!

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