Hannah Rajotte (CAN) celebrated her Gotcha Day with Irish Sport Horse gelding Patronus at Thunderbird Show Park’s Summer Fort Festival. Saturday marked three years that the grey joined her string, so they celebrated appropriately.
On Sunday, the pair won the $15,000 MarBill Hill U25 Grand Prix.
“I’ve had him for three years now, exactly, [as of] yesterday,” the 18-year-old said post-win. “It’s a good way to celebrate the anniversary.”
Patronus, affectionately known as “Theo,” previously competed primarily as a three-day event horse, and when he paired up with a 15-year-old Rajotte, he had only jumped up to 1.20m in the sport of show jumping. His rider, likewise, only had experience up to 1.30m, but the duo has climbed the ranks together. Now finding their best stride at 1.40m, Rajotte believes they still have more to give.
“We have been learning [together] up the levels,” she said. “He’s a funny ride, but he’s a pretty special guy.”
Watching the pair quickly reveals Patronus’ sensitivity in his mouth, and it’s quickly made apparent why the grey had success in eventing: He relishes an open gallop. On Sunday, that forward rhythm proved to be a key factor in producing a clear first round on a day where faultless performances were hard to come by.
“My horse is a bit funny in the mouth, and he’s really good when going forward,” Rajotte explained. “My goal in the first round, with so few clear, was to just be efficient and not do anything too crazy to the jumps. I was efficient on the track and supported [Patronus] in jumping clean, which he can do easily. It’s just about setting him up.”
Just one other pair joined Rajotte and Patronus in the jump-off. Ashley Arnoldt (CAN) and Lestat OLD were the first to return over the shortened track, and her two rails left Rajotte with a single focus: keep the jumps up. She and her mount would finish with a rail in hand. They won on a score of four faults.
“After Ashley went in and unfortunately had two down, my goal changed. I just wanted a clean round and didn’t focus on being super quick, since it was just the two of us,” Rajotte said. “I started with a good canter, but not anything too crazy. After our first rail down, [Patronus] spooked a little bit, and I just tried really hard to focus on keeping everything else up.”
Rajotte has long been considered a rising talent in Canadian show jumping. In 2017, she won the Children’s FEI Classic and was the sole Canadian representative in Beijing, China for the International Finals. A year later, she was one of six young athletes to receive a Jumping Youth Bursary from Equestrian Canada, which was established in recognition of “the challenges young riders face as they strive to continue their education while competing at high levels of the jumping sport.”
She made her first appearance at the North American Youth Championships at Traverse City, MI (USA) in August, representing Canada in junior competition. Along with teammates Lea Rucker, Sasha Maniaci and Austin Krawitt, Rajotte contributed to a team silver medal aboard Spruce Meadows’ Charlie S 15, a horse she began leasing in December.
“I needed a second horse to give me some confidence, as he has more experience at the [1.40m] height,” Rajotte explained. “He has been more than we asked for. He steps into the ring every day the same, he’s super good in the head, and he’s a great guy. He’s really level, and it’s just been a great partnership.”
Both Charlie and Patronus will next head to Spruce Meadows to contest the venue’s September series.
“I’m hoping to maybe do the 1.40m there. [Spruce Meadows] will have pretty solid, difficult tracks,” Rajotte said. “It would be a first for both me and [Patronus].”
Rajotte graduated from high school this spring, and while a post-secondary education is in her future, she’s first going to see where the sport can take her.
“At the moment, I’m taking a year or a few off from post-secondary to pursue riding in whatever way possible,” she said. “Eventually, I will be going back to school. I have an interest in neuropsychology, but I’m not sure where I’d be going to pursue that [yet]. I’m going to see where riding takes me for the first few years.”