Langley rider Morton making his mark on show jumping circuit

There’s something about competing on home soil that brings out the best in Brian Morton.

The 28-year-old Langley resident, who says he has been riding horses competitively since was “eight or nine years old,” began specializing in show jumping in his mid teens, and graduated to the Grand Prix level at 18.

“There’s so much to enjoy [about show jumping] but I love two things,” Morton said. “I played a lot of sports but nothing equals the thrill of competing in a jump off, where the win is so close you can taste it. And nothing comes close to that thrill of connecting with an animal, a living, breathing, partner. That connection is very special and that’s what I love about it.”

Morton is forging a path of consistent success at the highest level the sport has to offer.

To wit – his first place showing at the $55,500 CSI*2-W Purica Recovery EQ World Cup Qualifier which was at Thunderbird Show Park on June 1.

Riders from 10 nations took to the grass for the event, with just eight besting a tough course set by Peter Holmes.

It took 10 rounds and a lot of rails to get the first clear ride from Israel’s Danielle Goldstein, but Morton, right behind her, cleared with the fastest first round time to guarantee a jump off. And when the class wrapped up 28 rounds later, Morton was still on top.

Aboard the 17-year-old Selle Francais gelding Spitfire, Morton won in a jump-off.

“I had the advantage of riding first on my young horse, so after that trip, I knew exactly what I had to do when I went back in on Spitfire,” Morton said, following the victory. “When I had a rail down in the Friday’s grand prix, I thought, okay Sunday’s my day. Spitfire rose to occasion, as he always does, and was outstanding. The jump off course wasn’t that long and in some ways that favoured me. Spitfire is 17 and I need to think about fatigue.”

On Aug. 17, Morton will return to Thunderbird, a place where he has spent years honing his skills. He is among the international field looking to capture the $100,000 CSI***3-W Facet Advisors World Cup Qualifier.

He will be riding Spitfire and Atlantis, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding.

“My goal is to win,” Morton said. “If both horses are going well, I have a real shot at it. What I really want to know is, that on the day I rode my best and that my horses jumped well. If that happens, I will be satisfied with that. Of course I won’t be completely satisfied unless I can win. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy be with second or third, but if you don’t have that real drive to win when the competition gets as tough as it’s going to be on Sunday [the 17th], then you won’t get there.”

Morton works with horses and riders nearly every day. He and his business partner Mark Laskin, chef d’equipe of the Canadian show jumping team, run Equimark Inc., a Langley-based horse training business.

“I love training horses and [coaching] riders, it’s a big part of my life,” Morton said. “It’s rewarding when you get to bring a horse along and see it progress over time, and with bringing riders along, too, and helping them meet their goals. It’s fulfilling and very enjoyable for me.”

For Morton, there’s a symbiotic relationship between competitive show jumping, and training horses and coaching young riders.

“The two support each other very well,” Morton said. “I become better at training and teaching because I completely relate to horses and riders on that level. That helps me break it down and understand it well, and ultimately it makes me a better rider. The two complement each other beautifully.”

Like a dangling carrot, competing in the Olympics is a dream of Morton’s. Short-listed to the Canadian show jumping team, Morton realizes that making the Canadian Olympic team for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro will be a tough task, but he continues to push forward.

“I have a lot of ground to cover before I get there, but it [the Olympics] is something on my radar screen,” Morton said. “It’s something I’m pushing for.”

The seemingly ageless Ian Millar sets the bar high in a sport where your birth date is just a number.

Now 67, the Canadian show jumping team member broke a record when he took part in his 10th Olympic Games in London in 2012.

“Ian Millar is a great role model and fantastic in a sport that rewards mature champion riders,” Morton said. “Riders typically reach their peak in their mid-30s. It takes a long time to put all building blocks of success in place. That’s very unique to show jumping.”

Elite competitions like the one this Sunday at Thunderbird helps Morton to become an even better rider. And competing in very familiar surroundings could give him an extra advantage.

“My horse is very comfortable on that field and I’m very comfortable there, too. It’s wonderful, the fan support I get there, and I really appreciate that. In the end, it makes me a bit better.”

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