Written by: Jessica Lefroy

Olivia Irving has managed to strike a balance between work and play as a successful amateur rider and Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA).

Thumbnail for Olivia Irving: Work/Play/Ride

Cealy Tetley Photo

The 23-year-old was introduced to horses before she could walk, as her mother, Jill, grew up at the barn, herself an accomplished rider and competitor.

Despite many successes in the pony and junior hunter rings, Olivia chose not to undertake a career with horses, opting instead to focus on school and a life outside of the ring. “Once I was in high school I knew I was not going to pursue horses professionally,” she explains. “I had a desire to experience university and develop a career in a way that I knew I would not be able to do if I became a professional. I love my horses and I love riding, but I am a self-proclaimed ‘nerd’ and I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the business world.”

Olivia credits the support of her trainer, Wayne McLellan, and the staff at the stables with helping her juggle barn and office time. “They take great care of the horses when I am unable to be at the barn, and they are all supportive of what I have worked towards outside the ring,” explains Olivia, “but even with an accommodating coach and amazing barn staff, there is a bit of personal guilt that I am not always with my horses.”

Olivia’s love of her horses is immediately evident, especially when speaking of Andora, the 16-year-old Belgian Warmblood who carried her to an incredible four championships at the Royal Winter Fair during their nine-year partnership. “I love my horses so much that they are all I need. If I could have it my way Andora would stay eight years old forever and I could always have her – we have become so attached.

“I love that with each horse I have a different relationship. I think it is special to have the chance to learn new things on each horse, and that’s part of what I love about the sport – it never gets boring.”

Her current partners include Davenport, a 10-year-old Mecklenburg gelding, and Nelson, a 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood. With the former she excelled at the 2016 Royal Winter Fair, winning three major championships. “I still remember being champion at the Royal for the first time on my medium pony, King Cole. With each championship that feeling remains the exact same, which is what makes the Royal so special. It never gets old, and I always look forward to competing there.”

Horses are a family affair for the Irvings: Olivia’s sisters, Megan and Meredith, ride competitively on the ‘A’ circuit and her mother campaigns her grand prix mount, Degas 12. “Part of the reason I enjoy riding so much is the fact that I am able to do it with my sisters. My sisters and I are very close, but the riding allows us to continue to spend time together even when our lives have become much busier as adults. Luckily, the competition has always been friendly between us!

“I just want to keep having fun and enjoying my horses. Being an amateur has been a lot of fun, as I don’t put as much pressure on myself as I did when I was a junior. I am able to enjoy the time at the barn with my sisters, and appreciate my horses as companions and teammates.”

“I love that with each horse I have a different relationship. I think it is special to have the chance to learn new things on each horse, and that’s part of what I love about the sport – it never gets boring.”

FAST FACTS

Age: 23

Hometown: Moncton, NB, currently living in Toronto

Favourite Netflix show: Stranger Things

Last book you read: Does the CPA Canada Handbook count? I have been busy studying for the past few months so I have not read a lot outside of work!

Favourite food: Italian

Coffee or tea: Both!

Mentors: I would say in life my two main mentors have always been my parents. My mom gave up riding in competitive dressage when I was younger in order to be home with my siblings and me. She was there for us at horse shows, ski races, and hockey games and rarely ever missed any of our events. My dad is the hardest-working person I know and I hope one day I can be as supportive to my children as he has been to me.