One To Watch: Rodeos Or Running Cross-Country, Elana Von Doeler’s Up For Any Challenge

Mar 6, 2015 - 5:06 AM
Elana Von Doeler is competing at her first Red Hills in the CIC** division in between her barrel-racing schedule. Photo by Anthony Trollope for Shannon Brinkman

Most days, you’d be just as likely to find Elana Von Doeler jumping huge fences on cross-country as you would watching her don a cowboy hat and race around barrels at a rodeo, and she relishes the challenge.

The 22-year-old Canadian rider splits her time between eventing at the two-star level on High Star 3E and competing on the Women’s Professional Rodeo Circuit with Mercedes.

This weekend, she’ll be putting on her cross-country vest and tall boots to compete at the Red Hills International Horse Trials (Fla.) in the CIC**.

“I just love them both,” she said. “I think both have the same aspect of the adrenaline—they’ve kind of got that speed aspect. I think the eventing has that nice laidback attitude and atmosphere and rodeo is the same way. And you never stop learning in either of them really. It’s funny how much training a horse for both ends up being the same. A lot of it is the dressage and how they use their bodies.”

Von Doeler got her start in both disciplines during high school in Rutherglen, Ontario. She grew up on Von Doeler’s Ranch, a 180-acre farm that’s been in her family for more than 100 years. But until she came along, the ranch only had plow horses.

As a child, Elana was horse crazy and convinced her parents to buy her a Bashkir Curly, who she evented at the lower levels. The hypoallergenic breed was a good choice considering her father was allergic to horses.

What started as one horse has turned into more than 30, which the family uses for trail rides at the ranch. Elana considers them tough and hardy, but also quiet and gentle.

Four years ago, she found High Star 3E, a 12-year-old Canadian Sport Horse mare (Jamestown—Alley Cat), when she was looking for her next eventing partner.

“I got her when she was coming 7,” she said. “She did a little bit of show jumping before. I found her in Florida and the horse I had at the time was getting old when I stumbled across her. I took her up the levels, starting at entry level [equivalent to novice in the U.S.]. I’ve had a lot of fun with her. We did our first intermediate together and we’ve kind of grown together.

“She’s got such a great jump on her,” she added. “We took a lot of time at the lower levels to make sure she was solid—at least a year or two at each one. In the barn, everyone loves her—she’s friendly, no bad habits, like a big teddy bear,” she added. “She’s just a blast to have around. She’s not high maintenance at all.”

See Elana and High Star 3E jump around the Fresno County Horse Park cross-country…

At the same time, Elana has been competing Mercedes, an 8-year-old Quarter Horse mare (Frenchmans Guy—Clabber Jet) that she’s had for four years, on the Women’s Professional Rodeo circuit in barrel racing and roping.

She came to Florida this winter because of the lure of the WPRA’s southeastern circuit, which holds many rodeos near Ocala, Fla., a center of eventing.

Elana keeps Mercedes and another young western horse at a roping barn and sleeps in her stock trailer on the property. She keeps High Star nearby at a private facility and trains with Diana Burnett.

Although she’s ridden geldings, Elana has found herself with three mares for the moment. “They have so much heart and they’re smart,” she said. “[High Star] won’t get in to trouble. She’ll do what she’s got to do. Anything I point her at, she just wants to eat it up, and that’s what you want!”

While many weekends involve competing at a one-day event, then trailering a few hours to a rodeo that night to compete the next day, Elana wouldn’t have it any other way. Her rodeo winnings help offset her eventing costs and she enjoys dabbling in both worlds.


Elana barrel racing with Mercedes. Photo courtesy of Elana Von Doeler

“I’m so used to doing both that it never really seems like a big challenge—it’s always been a part of my life,” she said. “The travel is one of the hardest things, [but] I love being able to take my dressage that I use in eventing and use it on my barrel horse. It helps so much getting them really broke.”

When she’s not riding in Florida, Elana is working on ranch business, from doing scheduling and hiring help to keeping the books. She earned a business and equine studies degree online from the University of Guelph (Ontario) and runs the ranch’s trail rides, camps and lesson program most of the year when she’s not traveling across the U.S. and Canada to compete.

Her big goal with High Star this year is to complete her first CCI** at Ocala in April and be in contention for Canada’s Pan American Games (Toronto) team.

She’s never been to Red Hills and is hoping for a personal best in dressage, the phase that’s the hardest for her, and a confident go on cross-country.

“She can get a little sticky in dressage,” she said. “It’s one of those things we’ve been working on day in and day out to try to get her consistent in the bridle. It’s coming together, slowly but surely.

“I’m excited for it,” she continued. “I think it’s going to be really good. I think our dressage is coming together, our jumping is coming together and we’re going to go to a couple of training sessions with Clayton [Fredericks, the Canadian coach] this week, so it’s working out really well.”

Follow along all weekend as Lindsay Berreth brings you coverage from Red Hills and be sure to check out pre-recorded video highlights of the dressage and cross-country at 11:00 a.m. Sunday, March 8 on www.coth.com, which will be followed by live stream of the top 10 CIC*** entries show jumping to decide the title. 

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