Dancing in the Dark
M2 Dressage stable near Millgrove hosted a special event September 20 to recognize a milestone – the 70th birthday of local resident and well-known dressage trainer Ralph Mortimer. Ralph has trained many top horses and riders over the years, was the dressage coach for the Canadian Olympic eventing team, and served as the team trainer for Guatemala’s national dressage team for more than a decade.
Ralph now divides his time between Guatemala and M2 Dressage which is co-owned by his daughter Esther Mortimer and her husband Harper MacKenzie. Under Esther and Harper’s direction, the talented M2 riders prepared a special treat to celebrate Ralph’s big day – a musical quadrille performed in the dark.
Dressage is usually an individual sport. Often compared to figure skating, it requires a horse and rider to perform a pattern of required movements, with each movement being scored by a judge. In a quadrille, teams of four, six, eight or even more riders perform a choreographed set of complex movements to music, with the end result looking like ballet on horseback. For added dramatic effect, the M2 riders adorned their mounts in twinkling lights, and navigated the riding arena in the dark – no easy feat!
“It was so much fun to mark my dad’s birthday in this very special way,” said Esther Mortimer, an accomplished rider and trainer in her own right who has competed at three Pan American Games. “Our riders all worked so hard to learn the choreography and practice together over the past few weeks. We haven’t been able to compete this year due to Covid, and of course we couldn’t have the large party we would have planned for Ralph in a normal year, because we want to keep everyone safe. It was really fun to have this goal for everyone to work towards and to pull off a fantastic performance. The horses enjoyed it as much as the people did!”
Meet the riders and horses
Catherine Andrews & Westeross
I joined the M2 barn family in 2017. I came to Esther and Harper as a kid from Niagara with an OTTB and big ambitions! With their guidance, I’ve been able to develop my skills as a rider and gotten a lot of amazing opportunities to move forward in my riding career. Over the last year I was extremely lucky to get the chance to ride Westeross, a horse that was trained to the highest levels by Harper and Esther. Riding and competing on Wes was a big help to learn the ins and outs of riding the upper levels, and I am excited to apply that new knowledge to my own horse as we train up the levels together towards our goal of Grand Prix.
Isabella Bender & Diamond Geezer
I’m 14 years old and a student at Burlington Central High School in the ALP (Accelerated Learning Program). We recently moved to the area and I’ve been at M2 Dressage for just over two months. Being coached by Esther and Harper and learning on Esther’s Grand Prix horse Diamond Geezer (aka Gerry) is an amazing opportunity. My goal is to make the Canadian Young Riders team and compete in the North American Youth Championships.
David Haddock & Velora
I’m a retired electrical engineer and I’ve been a boarder at M2 for three years with my 12-year-old Hanoverian mare Velora. Harper and Esther complement each other in their training and instruction. They place a high priority on the care of the horses and make training a fun, enjoyable and social experience. My personal objective is to improve my riding skills and continue to advance Velora’s training so that we can successfully compete at the Prix St. George level of dressage. I own Velora’s baby as well and some day I’d love to ride mother and daughter at the same competition, perhaps one day even competing against each other. And most of all, my goal is to continue to enjoy my horses and have fun.
Megan Kinsella & Finnick
I have been riding since the age 7 had a show jumper thoroughbred as a kid. I bought Finnick in 2014 when he was 6 years old. Since Finnick showed so much potential I wanted to put him into full training and in February 2018 I moved him to M2 Dressaage. It was only supposed to be for 4 months of training but I never left. In 2019 we were the year end Third Level champions of the Caledon Dressage show series. We were hoping to compete at Prix St. George this summer and hopefully will meet that goal next year.
Helena Kvarnström & Bing
I came to M2 eight years ago. Esther helped me find my first horse, Valor, who was the most wonderful teacher. After he retired, Esther and I travelled to Florida in search of my next partner and we came home with Bing, a 10-year-old Hanoverian and former eventer. He's just a lovely horse. I hope we can be ready to compete at the Prix St. George level next summer.
Vivian Lee & Mobali
I feel incredibly lucky that for the last 5 years Janet McNally has given me the opportunity to learn on and ride her Hanoverian schoolmaster, Mobali. Momo, as he is affectionately called, is wonderful and steady, tall and handsome, and together we have shown to Third Level and play with PSG movements at home. I enjoy my partnership with this lovely horse, but of course, hope to find another partner to dance with when Mo retires.
Sherry Mcguire & Burana
As an adult amateur looking to learn more about dressage, I feel fortunate to be a part of the M2 team with my horse Burana, a 13-year-old Dutch warmblood. We’re lucky to have a safe activity we can enjoy in spite of the COVID pandemic and I appreciate all of the safety measures M2 has put in place so we can continue to learn and exercise.
Yvette Penno & Windermere
I first came to M2 when my then coach closed his barn for the winter season to compete in Florida. I’ve never looked back! My goal was to make it to Prix St. George by my 50th birthday. I achieved that goal and with the wonderful support and coaching from Esther and Harper continue to improve. I’m so happy to be part of the M2 team!
Jane Sikorski & Adajio
I started with M2 in January, 2020 after moving from New York the prior August. I had a couple of months at M2 before the pandemic put a pause on everything. I’ve ridden several of the horses at the barn, including Adajio in the quadrille last weekend. I think the fact that I’ve always ridden many different horses has allowed me the versatility and confidence to get on most horses. However, it’s time now for me to look at getting my own. It’s a fantastic barn - the most social I’ve ever experienced. The quadrilles they organize as well as the schooling shows are wonderful goals and challenges to work towards. I’ll be riding my first ever Prix St. George test this weekend.
Kaylea Smith & Linosso
I began my journey at M2 about a year and a half ago. I didn’t know the first thing about dressage! When I began, I never thought I would be able to do half the movements I am able to perform today. On this special night I rode one of Esther’s horses, Linosso. I feel incredibly lucky to be given the opportunity to choreograph this quadrille and ride such an incredible horse. I look forward to the future with this incredible team of horses and riders.
M2 Quadrille from Helena Kvarnstrom on Vimeo.
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