Source: Equestrian Canada
Austin Seelhof of Cochrane, AB is a well-known and respected figure in the Alberta reining community. With seeming ease, he balances a full family life with success as a trainer, competitor, and volunteer. But now, the father of three is poised to make his presence known on a larger scale and qualify for his first major games appearance this September at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Mill Spring, NC.
Seelhof grew up surrounded by horses on a cattle ranch, where he was quickly drawn to the sport of reining. He began participating in 4-H at the age of eight, and started competing shortly after.
“I fell in love with reining because of the discipline the horses possess,” said Seelhof, now 28 years old. “I love that reining combines speed as well as finesse. You have to trust your horses and ride fast, but also have complete control over them and make it look good, too!”
Seelhof and Lipstick Jungle earned first- and second-place finishes in their FEI debut at the Seelhof Performance Horses CRI 3* in Cochrane, AB on July 29-30, 2017. Photo Credit: Navillusom Images
Seelhof has a proven knack for making it look good. His long record of success includes wins at the 2014 High Roller Reining Classic, 2015 Big Sky Reining Classic Open Futurity Championship, and 2017 Reining Alberta Summer Classic. Now, Seelhof has his sights set on qualifying for WEG with Lipstick Jungle (Big Chex to Cash x Lenas Wright On), Marie Whitmarsh’s 10-year-old American Quarter Horse. Whitmarsh offered the use of the sorrel mare, who is affectionately known as Harley, in the summer of 2017 to help Seelhof get one step closer to his goal of representing Canada at WEG.
Seelhof and Harley made their FEI debut competing on home turf at the 2017 Seelhof Performance Horses CRI 3*. The new partnership placed second on July 29 with a score of 71.50, just a scant 0.5 points away from the first-place finisher, Gaylene Sawchuck and Chics Loaded Gun (72). Seelhof returned the next day to ride to victory with a score of 73.00.
“Harley is a work horse,” said Seelhof of his FEI mount. “She loves to be busy and is always trying her hardest. She is super athletic and a little quirky, so she keeps things fresh. We have one more qualifier to compete at in June. After that, I plan on showing and schooling Harley throughout the summer until the Games so we can work any kinks out.”
Seelhof takes a measured approach to high performance competition, as informed by his knowledge and experience as a trainer. He has earned a sterling reputation due to the dedicated care and personalized training that is standard at Seelhof Performance Horses.
Seelhof was recently elected as President of Reining Alberta, offering his insight and experience as a trainer and high performance athlete to help promote reining in the province. Photo Credit: HD2Sports
“I want my horses to use themselves properly, never cutting corners,” explained Seelhof. “I think proper fitness and collection helps prevent injury and creates longevity in the horses.”
Seelhof also offers his expertise as a long-time board member of Reining Alberta, of which he was recently elected President.
“I want to be a part of shaping the future of the sport in my province,” said Seelhof. “I think it is important to have a trainer on the board to have input on our needs, as well.”
And with WEG fast approaching, Seelhof will shortly be able to add his insight as a major games competitor.
“I think reining in Canada is very healthy,” said Seelhof in conclusion. “We have a lot of good shows and our athletes hold their own when they head south to compete against the top riders in our industry. Over the last couple decades, the number of competitors in Canada has grown immensely and I don’t see that decreasing any time soon.”
For more information on the Canadian Reining Team, visit www.equestrian.ca/sport/reining.
Main photo: Seelhof and Lipstick Jungle earned first- and second-place finishes in their FEI debut at the Seelhof Performance Horses CRI 3* in Cochrane, AB on July 29-30, 2017. Photo Credit: Navillusom Images