Following an exceptionally good summer season, and several weeks to settle in to her school requirements at that University of Ottawa, local equestrian, Rayanna Marcellus will be back in the saddle on her horse “Keepsake” to prepare to ride at the prestigious Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and Horse Show in Toronto, November 7-16.
Marcellus has been riding competitively for about six years. This will be her second trip to the Royal, having experienced it in at the age of 13 years when she rode the pony, Skip the Frosty.
However, while Marcellus herself has experienced the thrill and excitement of riding at the Royal, this will be a whole new experience for Keepsake (stable name) Louis.
Keepsake is an off the track thoroughbred horse, explains, mom Sandi who operates the Sarabeau Stable on Pigeon Island Road east of Morrisburg, where Rayanna rides. Three years ago, he was enjoying success on the track. “Last year was his first year to show,” explains Sandi. “From race track to the Royal in three years is amazing, and he is only seven years old.”
Keepsake ran six races during his race career and had one win, two seconds and three thirds when purchased by the Marcellus family. “He is actually a really lazy horse, but he is absolutely beautiful to watch,” says Sandi. “And he is like a sponge, he soaks everything up, and he is just going to keep getting better and better.”
During the summer riding season, Rayanna and Keepsake competed in both the AERSO A and B circuits which meant two schedules and a very busy season. It is the A circuit that has the opportunity to qualify for the Royal, and Rayanna and Keepsake finished the season fourth overall for a qualifying spot.
In the AERSO B Curcuit, Keepsake finished the season, second overall in Children’s Hunter, third overall in Sandridge Medal and third overall in A Equitation.
At the AERSO B championship September 19-21, he and Rayanna won gold medals for firsts in Children’s Hunter and A Equitation.
“All summer Louis has done really well,” says Rayanna. “I have competed in Toronto before, so I think I should do well. But it is so scary up there for the horse. It’s indoors, and they have been riding outdoors all summer. There is so much going on, the noise and the music. I think he will be okay, and I am really looking forward to the trip.”
Cheryl Levere, who has been coaching Rayanna since she began riding competitively, is extremely proud of her student and also impressed with Keepsake.
“This was Keepsake’s first real year of showing,” says Levere. “He showed last year, but he was still learning. He is much less experienced than the horses he shows against, but you would never know it by watching him in the ring.”
Levere explained that in trying to earn a spot at the Royal, Rayanna also rode Keepsake in some Ontario shows in the Toronto area this past summer. “Showing there is tough with the best of the best showing, and Rayanna proved she belonged by winning a class and always bringing home some ribbons. She also did all this while getting ready for her first year in University. Rayanna is a very talented and dedicated rider which shows in everything she did over the summer. She proved that hard work pays off.”
The Royal Agricultural Horse Fair is the number one ranked horse show in North America. Over 900 entries will compete in their respective divisions.
In addition to preparing horse and rider, Sarabeau stables is lining up sponsorships to assist with the many cost which comes with being part of the show including horse transport costs, stabling, entry fee, etc.
“People are certainly welcome to sponsor,” says Sandi. “We have the McIntosh Inn and some friends. Any little bit helps as it’s very expensive. This is just such an amazing opportunity for a young rider. Just to get Keepsake there is absolutely amazing.”