Two Sets of Canadian Siblings to Compete at 2023 North American Youth Championships

Mon, 08/07/2023 - 17:47
Claire Robinson on Glamour Boy   :: Photo © Sue Stickle

- Text by Equestrian Canada

The sibling bond is a unique one. For those with brothers or sisters, the relationship between them is one of the longest and sometimes most significant in life. In the world of equestrian sport, the passion and love for horses can quickly and easily become a family affair!

For Eliza and Zachary Marshall of Burlington, ON, and Kathryn and Claire Robinson of Edmonton, AB, their relationships are a mix of collaboration, competition and support. The two sets of siblings will represent Canada in the discipline of Dressage at the North American Youth Championships (NAYC) in Traverse City, MI, from Aug 8 – 13, 2023.

They took a quick break from their preparations to answer some of our questions about what it’s like to be team mates and family all at once. Seems like they both appreciate having each other in their corner cheering them on.

Claire & Kathryn "Katie" Robinson

Claire, 21, will compete in the U25 riders level, while Katie, 19, is set to appear on the Young Riders team.

When did you both first become involved in horses? What inspired each of you?

We both grew up riding dressage, almost since before we could walk, as our mom has been an avid rider since well before either of us were born. With that being said, it didn't take an overwhelming amount of "inspiration" to get us into the sport - our mom just packed us both into the car and drove us straight out to the barn 5 days a week, whether we wanted to or not! Since she was a dedicated dressage rider herself (and, more importantly, our dad strictly forbade us from the jumping world), this led the both of us to a strong focus on competitive dressage from a very young age. Despite countless adventures jumping bareback over logs, trail rides, and jousting with pool noodles, both of us found that our true passion lay in the dressage world. I think what inspires us both is the same as most avid riders - the love of the journey and the special connection that you form with each and every horse, regardless of what exactly that looks like.

What are some of your similarities/differences?

Growing up as two girls in the same house, doing the same sport, and attending many of the same schools, the both of us tried hard to break free of the other's image, however I think we share a lot more similarities than we care to admit. Both of us are extreme time-crunchers as we both pursued post-secondary education alongside riding and extracurriculars. We do like to say, however, that Katie has a "science brain" while Claire has a "humanities brain"- where Katie sets her timer for how long she has to spend at the barn (even if that means leaving her stuff out all over the place), Claire would rather spend all day at the barn and deal with the other work later (or not...). Accordingly, we pursued very different degrees in school and have different motivations and aspirations with the horses, but at the end of the day we both still share the same love for our four-legged friends that we did as little kids with our pool noodles and ponies.

What's your sibling relationship like? Is one of you more competitive versus the other?

We are very fortunate that the three-year age gap has often prevented us from competing directly against each other as we are both incredibly competitive (especially against each other!). We have certainly had our fair share of spectacular "sibling fights", however age, maturity, and differing life paths have brought us closer in the past couple of years. For Katie, riding has taken a bit more of a back seat during the school year as she focuses on a sciences double major as well as working in a research lab, while Claire has just graduated university and is looking forward to dedicating even more time to the horses in the coming months. Despite this, the two of us are equally competitive by nature, making for interesting dinner conversations and a positive, inspiring learning environment.

Do you share horses? Trainers? Coaches? Something else?

Kathryn Robinson on Forget-Me-Not
We both ride with the amazing Pia Fortmuller (although we haven't yet managed to get a solid answer as to which one of us is her favorite student...) and therefore we share a lot of road trips to Calgary for boot-camp, as well as most of our show experiences. Most importantly, of course, we always share our fabulous horse-show mom! Horses, on the other hand, not so much... It wasn't until just this year when Katie was out of town for a couple of days that Claire rode Froggy for the first time ever and, to this day, Katie has never sat on Glamour for even a second... And don't even get us started about the shared bathroom that is no longer shared...

In the end, we are both very supportive of each other as we happily share a lot of time, space, and resources together, and especially love spending time on the road with each other. 

What was a memorable moment that you have together in the sport?

We have many amazing memories together, however Claire would like to put an honorable mention on when she beat Katie the one time they competed together in an equitation class (and Katie would like to have that stricken from the record). That aside, some of our fondest memories on horseback include jousting bareback with pool noodles as children and spending countless hours roaming the back fields with our ponies. The most memorable moment in sport, however, would have to be riding together at NAYC in 2019. There's nothing that compares to the team atmosphere of a championship and the intense pressure and emotion as you are rooting for not only a teammate, but for a family member at such a prestigious event.

Do you do things together outside of showing and competing?

While both of us keep quite busy with our own individual lives and don't get to spend a lot of time together on a daily basis, we are each others designated "plus-ones" on road trips or at events like the Calgary Stampede. We also love to go on trips with the whole family, including our often (in the horse world) forgotten brother. These usually include fun outdoor activities like lake sports or skiing, but in the end we just try to spend as much time together as a family as we can, regardless of the itinerary!

What are each of your future goals?

Katie is currently half way through finishing her undergraduate degree double majoring in chemistry and biology at the University of Alberta, and is focusing on chemical biology research with the Mahal Lab team where she is currently looking into the miRNA regulation of cancer-related glycogenes. She is also looking forward to taking the LSAT this September with an eye towards heading on to law school at the completion of her first degree. While she is not yet clear on what the future holds for the rest of her riding career, she is incredibly excited to be representing the maple leaf at this year's NAYC!

Claire has a lot less letters in her future, and is looking forward to (at least) one year off of school to focus on horses before reevaluating her educational goals. Currently, she is enjoying developing a couple of our home-bred youngsters as well as some sales horses on top of furthering her learning towards the Grand Prix with her main man Glamour.

Eliza & Zachary Marshall

Zachary, 20 will appear on the Young Riders team and Eliza, 18 will take to the ring in the Junior Rider division.

Zachary Marshall on Gatsby
When did you both first become involved in horses? What inspired each of you?

We became involved because of our mother, Cassandra! Mom had been riding with Canadian Dressage rider, David Marcus at the time Zachary was a small child. Zac had developed an interest in horses as he was brought around the barn while my mom was riding. After that, our mom stopped riding in the two years before Eliza was born. Zac was incessantly nagging his parents to ride, a wish which was granted on his fifth birthday. Not long after he began to ride, Eliza was exposed to the horses, and horse fever grabbed hold of her as well.

What are some of your similarities/differences?

We are both fairly detail focussed, and we love to overfill our schedules, Zac tends to be more outgoing than Eliza, but I think we share very similar values and ambitions!

What’s your sibling relationship like? Is one of you more competitive versus the other?

We try very hard to be very supportive of one another; we genuinely want each other to be happy and successful. We would like to pursue this as a business together, so each of our success(es) is collaborative. We work together as a team to make sure the horses are done well. As a result of the shared responsibility, I believe we both feel a sense of personal pride in how the other does beyond the fact that we are just supportive; we’ve actually been involved in the other's success.

Do you share horses? trainers? coaches? Something else?

We do share a coach in Cindy and Kahla Ishoy who have been beyond instrumental in our development as riders and people. Eliza and I will help each other out in their absence by keeping an eye on one another as we ride. While we each have our own horses to compete with, we do ride one another's horses if one of us has other commitments, or needs a bit of help with their horse.

What's a memorable moment that you have together in the sport?

Siblings Zachary and Eliza Marshall
Making the NAYC team together! Eliza did all the work on her own horse so it was never certain that we would have two horses on the same trajectory to be ready to go at the same time. It is a feat we hope to repeat in the senior ranks in the not-so-distant future!

Do you do things together outside of showing and competing?

With the little time that is left between training, work and school; we will go to dinner with each other, hike, travel, and train on the ground. We spend a lot of time together in and outside of the barn doing nothing in particular.

What are each of your future goals?

We would love to be on a senior team together and share a successful business/life with the horses! Our overarching goal is to remain close throughout our lives!

Anything else you’d like to share?

If the barn closes at 9pm, Eliza WILL be there until 9:01 regardless of whether or not we’ve been there for over 12 hours, while Zac always has to polish his boots even if it makes us late.

Text by Equestrian Canada - Photos © Sue Stickle - private

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