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Squamish equestrian brings back medals from Summer Games

Hannah Askew hopes to ride her passion into the Olympics one day.

There is a relatively rare breed of unique and lucky people who have a passion so strong for something that it radiates out of them

it bubbles up in their voice and out of their eyes like sparkles in champagne.

Equestrian Hannah Askew, 15, is one of those people.

Her passion is for riding — and horses.

Askew recently brought home hardware from competing in the 2022 Summer Games in Prince George.

She earned a Gold, two Silver and a Bronze in show jumping riding her bay,18-year-old Mexican warm-blood named Mira.

One of the silvers was for overall performance.

Askew said even qualifying for the Games was a big deal for her, never mind collecting medals.

"I was really excited when I qualified because I didn't know how hard it would be to get into this sort of thing," she said, adding that unlike in shows regionally, at the Games, she didn't know the competitors going into it and so didn't assume she could win.

"Being on the podium in front of everyone, you didn't know where to look because there were so many people. But it was cool. And just having the medal around your neck knowing you won it, it was amazing."

She added that making new friends made the Games an even more positive experience.  

"It was a really cool experience," she said of the Games, which ran from July 21 to 24.

A behind-the-scenes aspect of the event for equestrians is that while other athletes only have to worry about themselves, the horses come first for the riders.

This translates into arriving days before the Games start to settle them in, and then, on the last day,

Askew and her family left during closing ceremonies to ensure the horses being transported back were taken care of at home.

Mira, whom Askew got in May of 2020, is used to travelling and adjusted well, Askew said.

"She came from Florida, and she came on a big truck, so she's pretty used to the big drives... She's been everywhere, so she's pretty used to being in new places."

What she loves about it

Askew said it is hard to define what she loves most about riding.

"Growing up in the sport, I found so much gratitude for e the horses and what they really do for us. The rider and horse bond — it's so beautiful to watch," she said.

"Watching the big Grand Prix horses at my competitions that I go to is so cool because the rider looks like they're doing nothing, because just a little, little movement can tell the horse so much. And so I think growing up in it, I've just kind of fallen for the horses and how beautiful they are and what they do for us. It's really cool, but it's still a hard question for me to answer because I just love it."

Pony love

The first time Askew sat on a horse, she was about two years old.

"I started doing like little competitions in Squamish at like three," she said, laughing at the memory. "But it was just lead-lining, a little lead-line class."

She got her first pony, Rihanna, when she was seven.

"That was really when I started to do real competitions and stuff. They were just in Maple Ridge — the smaller shows," she said.

"But that was when I started getting really into it. And that's when I found my real passion for the sport."

These days, Mira — Askew's third horse  — is kept in Langley, at Askew's home barn.

Her parents drive her out to ride four days a week.

The level of competition she is at now requires the advanced training and a frequency of shows that are at the Langley facility, she said.

She is entering Howe Sound Secondary this year, in Grade 10.

This means a lot of driving for her parents and catching up on any missed school work for Askew.

Last school year, she spent one night a week at her grandparent's in Coquitlam to be closer to the barn.

Ultimately, she hopes to attend a university that has an equestrian program.

But more immediately, she is starting two weeks of horse shows in Langley. Then in September, she has another two weeks of shows there.

Her dream goal is to compete in the Olympics — perhaps the 2028 Olympics, set to be held in Los Angeles.

" I want to go like right now. But who knows? I've got lots of time to go and especially — all these riders that I would have to compete against are amazing.