For the past decade, show jumping spectators in Western Canada have been watching a once-in-a-lifetime pony in the local jumper rings. Born in 1995, standing 14 1/4 hands high, the Canadian Connemara pony Jewel (Bally’s Friar Tuck x Sea Me Two, bred by Devon Ridge Farms) has enjoyed a storied career with unprecedented success.
From 2008 to 2016 the gray pony dominated the jumper divisions in Western Canada; from 2 time Canadian Pony Jumper Champion to 1.20m Alberta Champion to being the media darling at Spruce Meadows as the first pony to compete in the International Ring against the horses with a 5th place finish on national television.
The pony spent most of her time competing against horses. In a seven-year period, Jewel won 43 championships of the 55 shows she attended. In 275 classes, she had an astounding 211 victories. That is a 77% winning percentage! She competed up to the 1.20m level at Spruce Meadows and at other world class facilities such as Thunderbird Show Park and RMSJ.
At 21 years young, Jewel is being retired after a long and generous career to enjoy the grass and naps that accompany the golden years.
Jewel’s riders were Karter Duke and later with younger sister Halle Duke. I asked them a few questions about their time with the pony.
Q: What is your favorite memory of Jewel?
Karter: “In 2009 my 5-year-old sister did up her noseband way too loose and we went too fast in the jumpoff and flipped. I had to go in the ambulance and then we went to Subway for a meatball sub which I spilled on my white breeches. Upon returning to the show I learned that I still won the class because nobody else qualified for the jump off and I had to take my championship picture with a meatball sub stain on my pants.”
Halle: “Trail riding, Jewel loves it.”
Q: What is Jewel’s favorite treat?
Halle: “Strawberry yogurt chewy bars and Welch’s fruit snacks.”
Q: What International Grand Prix horse is Jewel most similar to?
Karter: Hickstead, she never has a rail and she always wins.
Q: What is your biggest victory?
Karter: Placing 5th in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows in the Double Slalom against the horses and making the front page of the Calgary newspapers.
Halle: Jewel only likes leading the victory gallop, she pins her ears and tries to get to the front if she is not the winner.
Q: What made Jewel such a winner? What is different about her than other horses or ponies?
Halle: Jewel loves horse shows and to compete. She loves being applauded. She is very confident and fearless. Jewel likes to take care of you.
Karter: She is ultra-competitive. She is also a great teacher. As I became a better rider, she would not let me make as many mistakes.
Thank you so much to Halle and Karter for sharing their stories with us about Jewel, and we wish her a very happy, very well-deserved retirement!
About Jay Duke: Jay has been a Canadian Equestrian team member, and has represented his country at shows in Washington, New York, and Toronto. He’s been the leading rider at the Spruce Meadows North American Championships, trained notable hunter and USEF horses such as Mindful, King David, and Caymus, and coached two riders to medal-winning performances at the NAJYRC. He is also a senior course designer with Equestrian Canada and offers clinic opportunities around the world. You can read more work from Jay Duke at his website, jayduke.com