Lessons Learned from Michael Jung at The Royal

Michael Jung with Cruising Guy's owner Shawn Ferguson (left) and Kelly Nicholls of Horseware and his daughter. Photo by Ben Radvanyi Photography. Michael Jung with Cruising Guy's owner Shawn Ferguson (left) and Kelly Nicholls of Horseware and his daughter. Photo by Ben Radvanyi Photography.

I was at our local farm-to-table dive bar when I read on EN that Michael Jung was going to be in the Horseware Ireland Indoor Eventing Challenge at The Royal in Toronto. I was able to reasonably contain myself as I told my daughter and texted a friend. We were going to be there; we already had tickets! 

A group of friends, sisters, daughters, cousins and nieces were going to spend the weekend eating carnival food, shopping, wandering the barns and watching the ponies — the ultimate girl’s weekend which now would include an appearance by Michael Jung. I’m the only eventer in the group so I was by far the most excited about this addition to the itinerary. 

I kept an eye out as we wondered the barns. We did see several people getting ready, but not Ze Terminator. Everyone else wanted to sit down and the electronic tickets were on someone else’s phone, so I couldn’t stalk the schooling ring, but I kept on telling myself that was OK; I would see him ride in the next hour. 

As we were getting ready to enter and take our seats, he came out of the bathroom just a few feet from me. I grabbed my daughter to show her and was able to contain myself until he was out of sight. At that point I jumped up and down clapping like a kid hopped up on sugar. I love that he hits the restroom before he competes just a like real person does. Then it was show time.

Let me tell you: The man is a total pro. He won on a horse he met the day before (I’ve had my guy for 19 years and there are days I have trouble getting him to walk), but what I was most impressed with was how he walked the course. He walked it at least three times more than any other rider.

He went up to each fence to the spot he was going to take off from and stopped. He then went around it to the spot he would land, stopped, looked around and went on from there. The other riders just walked next to each of the fences and kept on going.

During this process he was stopped several times for pictures by some lucky people in the ring (how did they get down there?); he smiled and accommodated them, but then it was head down and back to business. He used every second of the course walk. It was a demonstration in preparation, classiness and professionalism. 

I loved that my 10-year-old got to see that. I loved that she got to see the entire thing, but that was a life lesson and made it a little more OK that she missed a day of school for the trip.

We screamed and yelled and jumped up and down and had a blast. We saw some amazing riders: Jessica Phoenix, Selena O’Hanlon, and the entire Millar clan. I did find it amusing how there were amped up lights and music for the indoor eventing but calm silence for the show jumping later in the evening, which Captain Canada Ian Millar rocked.

While the Saturday night performance was a personal highlight, the entire trip was amazing. We wandered around looking at so many different things, ate great food, shopped, saw Snowman (we all cried), and watched amazing horses of all shapes and sizes (as well as goats, cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and bunnies). We will be back.