Two Port Alberni sisters are seeing success in two very different equestrian sports.
Danika Britton, 17, and Kaelin Britton, 15, have been riding horses since they were young and have recently started competing in shows. Although they both share a love of horses, their preferred sports are very different.
Danika competes in vaulting—or gymnastics on a horse. She has a background in gymnastics, but discovered vaulting in 2020 after COVID-19 restrictions shut down the Port Alberni Gymnastics Academy. Because vaulting is an outdoor sport, athletes were able to continue practicing through the pandemic. Danika’s interest was piqued when she saw a Facebook ad for a three-day summer camp for vaulting.
“She was able to overlap her gymnastics skills into her background of horseback riding,” explained her mother, Leanna Britton. “It was nice for her to be able to continue on in a sport that was in her lane.”
“It’s been awesome,” added Danika. “I like the opportunities I get.”
She now trains with West Coast Vaulters in Coombs under the guidance of coach Gabe Aniello. Just in the last few months, she has made two trips to the United States for competitions. During the recent Canada Cup in Langley, she scored high enough to qualify for selection trials for the Vaulting World Championship for Juniors next year.
Her ultimate goal is to compete in that championship. Three riders from Canada will be selected, and Danika is competing for a spot to be one of those three.
“It’s pretty big,” said Danika.
Meanwhile, Kaelin has also been competing on horseback—although her preferred sport is jumping. She trains at Flying Changes Riding School in Coombs under the guidance of instructor Gina Kararrigas.
Although she has been riding since she was five years old, this will be her fourth year jumping. She has her own horse, named Karma, who is boarded at Flying Changes.
“They’ve been gelling as a team and climbing up in height with their jumps,” said Leanna. “So it was really exciting for her to hit the three-foot mark.”
Kaelin has spent the last few months competing at shows across Vancouver Island. In her first-ever mini Grand Prix, she placed third out of around 40 competitors. At the recent Saanich Shows in the Sun horse show, she competed in her first-ever three-foot class and placed first and third.
As both girls continue to train and rise among the ranks in competitions, they are starting to seek community sponsorships. Anyone interested in sponsoring one or both of the athletes can contact Leanna at firstname.lastname@example.org.