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May. 17, 2021 | Monday
Local News
Queenston youngster sets sights on riding for Canada
Ansale’wit Christmas with pony Pip. (Supplied)

Queenston is a village with a long history. It’s best known residents lived in the past. This, however, is a story about the future.

Last weekend, I was standing at my front door speaking to friends. A neighbour, Bernd Christmas, and his daughter were riding their bikes by us when the little girl leapt from her bike and ran across the road to greet two dogs who had their humans out for a walk. My friends commented on her athleticism.

That’s Ansale’wit Christmas. She’s four and lives with her parents and three-year-old brother.  An older half brother attends the University of Memphis on a soccer scholarship.

Ansale’wit (pronounced Ann sa LAY wit) is Mi’Kmaq on her father’s side and Cree on her mother’s. She is a member of the Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia.  

Her passion in life is horses. Her mother, Tracee Smith, says she has been enamoured with stories of unicorns and horses from the time she could pick up picture books. She has been riding since she was two.

The pony she uses today is named Pip and is stabled at Linden Ridge in Burlington. She learned to ride on Gizmo, a mini pony the size of a large dog.

Ansale’wit’s family and coaches recognized her courage and commitment to horses when Gizmo nipped at her in the arena during lead classes. She carried on. When she falls from Pip, she brushes herself off and remounts.

As it became clear that Ansale’wit was serious about riding, her parents contacted an old friend, Nancy Southern, whose family owns Spruce Meadows in Calgary. She advised them to help Ansale’wit move forward so her talent should be nurtured.

Show jumping is Ansale’wit’s activity of choice. She says she likes to go fast and jump high. She also enjoys the more domestic side of riding and is happy to help brush her horse and clean up his stall.

She shows great intuition with the animals and has never been afraid to walk into a barn.

Smith says her daughter recently stopped at a stall, where, she said, she wanted to check the horse’s front hoof. She lifted his leg and told the adults with her that the horse was hurt.

“She has  great horse intuition and has never been afraid to walk into a barn,” says Smith.  “Recently, she stopped at a stall, where, she said, she wanted to check the horse’s front hoof.  She lifted his leg and told the adults with her that the horse was hurt.” A veterinarian was called in the next day.

Kim Kirton, one of the most successful junior riders in Canadian history, has watched Ansale’wit. Kirton began winning competitions when she was 13 and after her riding career ended, she became a coach with an interest in junior riders.

Speaking about Ansale’wit, Kirston said, “She’s got everything it takes as far as attitude, and the willingness and natural talent.”  She sees a great future for the young rider.

Although horses are her major interest, Ansale’wit would like to be a ballerina as well. This, she inherits from her mother, who has a bachelor in fine arts in dance from York University.

Besides horses and dancing, Ansale’wit also skate boards and is learning to play tennis. When she joins other Queenston children in the local park for the inevitable racing, she makes it clear that she canters while the others run.

Occasionally, people who like to stroll around the village will find fences set up over the sidewalk in front of the Christmas family's home so that they, too, can practise their skills. Ansale’wit is more than happy to join them and to offer advice on technique.

Ansale’wit’s goal is to ride at the Royal Winter Fair and in the Olympics. Those who know her recognize her determination and grit. Look out Eric, Ian, Tiffany, Jill and Mac!

Queenstonians, needless to say, will be watching this future star with pride.