The average age of retirement in Canada is 63.6.
Employees in the public sector tend to retire a little sooner at 61.5—*no comment*—and those in the private sector, a little later, at 64.2.
Then there are equestrian athletes…
While most people are a decade or so into their golden years, presumably enjoying leisurely mornings over coffee and the daily crossword, Canadian Olympic dressage rider Christilot Boylen continued to compete at the top levels of the sport, most recently bringing her current partner, Rockylane, up the ranks to the CDI grand prix level.
This week, at age 73—four decades and six Olympics into her national team career—she has officially retired from international competition. It’s a legacy, both in and out of the 20×60, that won’t soon be matched or forgotten.
“It’s hard to capture what Christilot means to the sport of dressage in Canada, as her impact has been so vast,” said Christine Peters, EC Senior Manager, Dressage Olympic/Paralympic Program in a press release. “Her incredible depth of knowledge and talent has been invaluable to the Canadian Dressage Team, and we have been proud and honoured to be represented by her on the world stage time and time again.”
Cue the highlights reel:
1. Boylen got her start in Pony Club.
She joined the Toronto and North York Pony Club at age 10. Also in the club at the time was a star-studded cast of equestrians that included Jimmy Elder, Sandra Silcox, Tommy Gayford, Major Anatole Pieregorodski, Colonel Michael Gutowski, Bob Hollingsworth, Dr. Jack Chassels, Dick Day and Jimmy Day.
“It was a great time to be a pony clubber,” Boylen told Horse Sport.
2. She bought her first horse in 1957 at the age of 10.
Boylen used the profits from her role as a child actress on “The Howdie Doodie Show” to purchase her first horse.
3. But it was an $800 OTTB that inspired her dressage career
Boylen focused on dressage when her second horse, Bonheur, an off-the-track Thoroughbred purchased for eight-hundred-dollars, turned out to be an unsafe jumper.
“In those days pony club rally competitions were essentially mini versions of a three-day event. I came to the realization that Bonheur was going to kill me over fences. He hung his front legs terribly! However, he always won or was good in the dressage, and so the dressage bug hit me,” she told Horse Sport.
4. At 17, Boylen became the youngest-ever Olympic dressage competitor.
Bonheur took her to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics—but she got lost on the way when she took the wrong connecting flight in Paris!
“In those days, there were no trainers, no managers, no back up. I was sent by myself,” Boylen told Roy Tomizawa. “I get to the airport and I saw one of the famous jump riders Nelson Pessoa of Brazil. I followed him, thinking ‘he’s going to Japan. He knows the way.’ I was feeling a little scared, so I introduced myself. He said, ‘Stick by me.’ Sure enough he picks the wrong plane. We land in Calcutta.”
5. She went on to compete at five more Olympic Games.
Boylen represented the Maple Leaf at the 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984 and 1992 Games, landing in the top 10 seven times in team competition and three times as an individual. She was the highest placed North American rider at the 1984 Olympics in the individual dressage (10th).
6. She also slayed at the Pan American Games
Boylen’s most impressive championship medal record is from the Pan American Games where she earned individual gold medals in 1971, 1975 and 1985.
7. Boylen is a breast cancer survivor.
She continued to compete throughout her treatment, winning the grand prix at Devon shortly after her second chemotherapy treatment.
8. And the author of several books
Boyen penned Canadian Entry, a book that chronicles her first journey to the Olympics, as well as Basic Dressage for North America and The Horse Lovers’ Diary.
9. Beyond her personal accomplishments, she had an instrumental influence on the Canadian dressage team.
An EC certified High Performance 1 Dressage Coach, Boylen has coached Canadian Olympians Megan Lane and Belinda Trussell, both of whom rode for Canada at the 2016 Rio Games and the 2018 World Equestrian Games. Four-time Olympian Ashley Holzer credits Boylen for inspiring her dressage career.
10. Not to mention, Canadian dressage as a whole.
Boylen is founder of the Canadian Amateur Dressage Owners Association (CADORA), an organization dedicated to supporting the sport at the grassroots across Canada. In 2019, she was awarded the 2019 EC Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her numerous contributions to Canadian dressage.
Concluded Peters in the press release, “Christilot has approached each role in her dressage career with passion, commitment and unwavering determination. While we will miss her presence in team competition, we wish her the best with future endeavours and look forward to the next group of talented athletes she develops for Canada’s future.”