For a Langley rider and equestrian trainer, competing locally comes with the need for a heavy dose of balance, something Andrea Strain, owner of Villa Training focuses on on a daily basis.
“I don’t know that it’s necessarily possible to keep them separate… it’s a lot of juggling,” she said of both sides of her life. “I love the two a lot. I love training, teaching people. But I aIso really love the competing aspect for myself. I couldn’t see myself doing one without the other at this point. I think it’s a really good balance.”
Balance is important. Each side of the coin comes with its own demands. Competing in Grand Prix contests requires both mental and physical endurance along with a connection to the horse.
Helping others succeed in competing demands focus, attention to detail, outstanding communication skills, and the ability to identify and interpret the cues of both horse and rider.
That being said, Strain knows her own preparations and competition experiences make her a better trainer to others because she is fully aware of what kinds of mental hurdles are placed before a rider – both real and imagined.
“It’s a huge balance to get going with the young [horses] but then being able to have the finesse to go in the Grand Prix with a well-schooled horse,” she said.
Her life-long passion for horses began early at an early age, with her parents “breaking down” and buying Strain her first pony when she was just a six-year-old.
“It just kind of grew from there,” she noted.
Having competed in national and international events, Strain feels lucky to have a facility like Thunderbird so close to home.
“We’re a huge supporter of Thunderbird. Every year you roll in there [you look to see] what have they improved on. It’s a great atmosphere. They do a very, very good job,” she said. “Their footing just keeps getting better and better.”
Like her own business requires balance, so too does competing locally. Not only does she compete with her own horses, but her clients also compete at Thunderbird, requiring Strain to wear both hats.
She’s been competing there more than six times a year since 1999 when the new Thunderbird facility opened.
“I think it’s a Catch-22,” said Strain of local competitions. “I think it’s a real job of me being able to balance the home farm and the horse show. But at the same time we’re super lucky because we have such a nice place like that in our backyard.”
Strain learns a lot from her mentors and fellow riders.
“I’m constantly writing things down,” she said.
Part of her mental preparation before a competition includes reviewing key points she has learned over the years and reviewing things others have shared with her.
“I do this because I love the horses,” she said. “And the horses come first.”