The moment she enters the competitive arena with her trusty horse, Jamie MacCallum is being watched.
“As soon as you go in, the judges are watching everything you do,” says MacCallum, who has been competing in the equine sport of reining for about four years.
“It’s kind of intimidating, I guess.”
The judges watch her horse, making sure the animal is being “guided willfully” through a series of movements.
MacCallum began riding horses when she was eight years old, and by the time she was 16, was competing in the sport of reining, a competition that sees riders guide the horses through circles, spins, and stops.
“I went to a reining show and I loved it, so I started working with coach Travis (Smith),” says the 20-year-old resident of Loch Broom, who placed first this summer in the Rookie Division (Level 2) of a reining circuit that has competitions in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec.
“You always have something to work on and you never got to the point where you can’t get better. You have to trust your horse and you have to be – I don’t want to say fearless, because I’m definitely not – but you have to be willing to push yourself,” when competing.
She also finished second in the Limited Open Division, an event for riders who have won less than $10,000 in prize money.
There is prize money at stake but almost no one makes a living competing in reining, and MacCallum, a business student at the NSCC campus in Stellarton, sees it merely as a hobby.
“I wouldn’t say you make money, but you can get paid money,” she says, adding that cash prizes are usually gobbled up by travel costs, stable and training fees and other expenses that competitors face.
Then there’s Manny, a 12-year-old quarter-horse that she’s been riding for a year, leasing him from his owners in Cape Breton and housing him at a horse barn in Pictou County.
Manny is just his barn name; his registered name – the one he competes under – is Smokin’ Gun Spot.
“We spend a lot of time together (five days per week during the summer, less so in the other months of the year). I give him a lot treats – he likes peppermints – so I’d say he likes me.”