2021 Award Recipient

Avery Brennan

As a fellow young rider, I was shocked and saddened by the tragic death of Zara. I know I shared with so many others the interest in always remembering and honouring her legacy. I was glad to be able to ride at Will-o-Wind last October 2020 wearing a #rideforzara shirt and join our community in honouring Zara. When I first learned about the truly amazing effort of the Haque-Buren family to create a Foundation in her honour and to create a bursary, I thought that it was an incredible opportunity to honour Zara in the best possible way by highlighting the values that were so important to her.

In February, I was thrilled to learn that I had been chosen to be the first recipient of this important award. Right away, I knew it was both an opportunity and a big responsibility to live up to the ideals of the award and the Foundation.

At 15 years of age, the award really came as a game-changer for me in so many ways. The award has allowed me to learn and grow, to excel and to contribute in new ways.

Given the ongoing Covid-19 challenges, plans have had to be a little bit flexible. Because of the award, I was able to fully join my coach Selena O’Hanlon to take part in numerous learning opportunities including being part of a social bubble to train and learn every day in Caledon, ON at Ann Heuckendorff’s facility over the spring. With my horse Havana, my coach and a small group of riders, this focused time of training in all three phases and attending school virtually was an incredible learning opportunity in many aspects. During this time, my relationship grew with Havana and my riding became better in every way. I learned so much more about all aspects of Eventing both on the ground and in the saddle, I got to experience being part of a team dedicated to improvement and excellence. My coach Selena has been so generous in sharing her knowledge, insight and helping me understand how to become a better rider. I also thank other members of the Balsam Hall team, Morag and Anne-Marie for sharing so much of their experience and wisdom with me.

The learning and growth continued as we looked towards competition. I was fortunate to compete at Bromont in June and then Will o Wind in July. I was proud of the improvements Havana and I have made as a team. While always so much more to learn, we have increased confidence in each other. At Will o Wind in particular we had a great day with very solid dressage, double clear show jumping and just some time over cross country to finish 5th in a very competitive Open Prelim class. We continued schooling opportunities as well as daily training while planning and looking forward to the next set of competitions in late August. Havana’s fitness was the best it had ever been, and our dressage skills were also greatly strengthened. Unfortunately, just days before our plan to be back at Bromont, Havana suffered a check ligament injury. Thankfully given the amazing support of my team, Havana has had the best possible care and rehabilitation support. While this injury meant a sudden end to our season, I have shifted my attention to her daily care and have had the chance to ride other horses which has been hugely educational. This experience has certainly taught me the importance of taking a longer-term view of my competitive career, to have patience and to always recognize other opportunities to learn. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to compete on a horse owned by the O’Hanlons at a few events this Fall, and I am still planning a short trip to Florida, to learn and train there in the new year.

Lastly, the award has meant contributing to the Eventing community. I have had the chance to help in a few different ways including volunteering at Events. I look forward to doing this more throughout the Fall as well as helping to support and promote Young Riders and the Foundation in any way that I can.

Through learning, competing and contributing, the award has opened up new opportunities for me, allowed me to build relationships and to really grow both as a young equestrian and as a person. Now in grade 11 at high school, I continue to strive for academic excellence alongside my riding career. The award has allowed me to balance all of these interests. I am so grateful to Zara’s family, so proud to represent her legacy and so excited about the future and additional ways I can contribute and honour Zara.

Zara Buren Memorial Award 2021 Recipient Avery Brennan Avery Brennan riding his horse