By Carson Ellis
On the weekend of Feb. 13, Mikayla Hoffman and her horse Eli made their Advanced Level debut at Rocking Horse Stables in Altoona, Fla.
Three-day Eventing is the horse equivalent of a triathlon with the first day of Dressage followed by the Cross Country competition on day two. Finally Show jumping occurs on the final day.
Hoffman, 19, and Eli, her 16-year-old former race horse, not only debuted at the Rocking Horse Winter 2 Trials, but won and were the fastest in their division.
Hoffman says she has been riding all her life, but got into Eventing when she was seven. Her mom used to compete as well, and had owned the former race horse before Mikayla.
Mikayla’s aunt owns and operates the stable Mikayla says she grew up in. Hoffman says it’s because of her mom and her aunt that’s she’s been given so many opportunities that have allowed her to pursue the sport and her love of horses.
Hoffman has also benefited from other various programs for riders; programs such as the Alberta Horse Trials Association, which offers subsidies for those who compete outside of Alberta and the Preliminary level or higher. The association also operate the Alberta High Performance Program which provides regular coaching and clinics.
It was in this program that Mikayla met Kyle Carter, who was coaching in the program. Carter has been working with Hoffman over the years and is known for coaching award-winning riders. He was with her at the Rocking Horse Stables 1 Trials, and after putting on a great performance he suggested she sign up for the next event at the Advanced level.
Hoffman was happy to hear him suggest it since she had spent the last several years at the Intermediate level, trying to improve her scores and performance. She had also already signed up for Advanced at the next event, so it was a boost to have Carter agree with her. Hoffman says she had a good feeling of the competition from the first day and is noted as having told family she would jump clear.
After graduating high school in 2021, Mikayla has been busy traveling, training and competing. She was in Florida as a working student at the facility Kyle Carter and his wife run from September until April.
During that time, she also competed at some events in South Carolina. From May to September, she was back in Alberta working and training. Hoffman did some travel to Washington and Montana for competitions as well, before returning to Florida.
Carter compliments Mikayla’s attitude. He says she takes a loss in stride and thinks on what needs to be done to fix it. He also credits her for developing the warm-up plan to help keep Eli loose in competition. Eli had a tendency to tighten up; this would cause him to knock rails, hampering the score. Now Hoffman says she sees Eli getting better and better.
“He is an amazing athlete and the best teammate I could ask for,” Hoffman says.
Because the rider asks so much of their teammate, it is important the two have a strong connection.
Mikayla says she hopes to keep working with horses and to make a career and a life out of it. Her immediate plans include traveling to England to work with horses for a few months over the summer. She also hopes to qualify for the Canadian team and would like to compete in the Olympics as well as the PanAm Games, or even the World Equestrian Games.