Camille Carier Bergeron thought she might have made a mistake in buying Sound Of Silence 4 in 2015.
Found at an auction, “SOS” was a stallion who needed to be castrated, and when he had a complication with that procedure, he ended up staying in Europe for two years. He continued his training there while Bergeron continued her junior career at home in Canada.
In 2017, she traveled to Europe to train with Albrecht Heidemann and started riding SOS, but he wasn’t the horse she’d hoped he would become.
“The more I started riding him, he was just very shut down and didn’t have emotions,” she said. “He was not wanting to work for anyone and looked like a sad horse that didn’t want to work and didn’t want to please somebody. He’s always been very talented but not always motivated.”
Once the 14-year-old Westphalian (San Amour I—Dunkelbraun, Limes) came home to Montreal though, he started to blossom with Bergeron and her former trainer Pia Fortmüller.
“He’s the horse I’ve created the biggest bond with over the years because he’s not at all the horse he was in 2017,” said Bergeron. “He’s really trying his heart out for me and trying hard. When I started riding him I almost didn’t keep him because so many people were telling me … he wasn’t worth anything because he didn’t want to work for me.
“Pia was a huge part of it,” she added. “She thought he was worth something and worth believing in. She really thought he could do something and that we’d become really bonded. We just kept working hard with a lot of praising and positive reinforcement. He started working for me more and more, and giving me more, and offering me more. He started to enjoy his work. For me, it was a huge challenge but also a huge achievement, because I never thought he could make it to Grand Prix, and he did.”
Bergeron and SOS moved from the junior level to the Under-25 Grand Prix division, and their 2022 season at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, has been a winning one. Over the weekend they won the CDI U25 Intermediaire II (71.00%) and finished second in the CDI U25 Grand Prix (66.82%).
Always into sports, Bergeron did gymnastics seriously until her parents decided she should try a less physically taxing and intense sport. She learned to ride at summer camp and took lessons at a riding school before moving to FEI ponies. Now 21, she’s competed at four FEI North American Youth Championships.
This weekend was SOS’s first CDI with Bergeron. They’ve been working with fellow Canadian Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu since 2019.
“He’s a one-person horse,” she said. “He needs his person, and that’s what we’ve created together. … For staying so long in Europe, he just didn’t have that bond with anyone, and he became sad.”
Bergeron also has earned U25 wins at AGDF this year on Acoeur, a 15-year-old Baden-Württemburg gelding (Acordelli—Roxette, Ricardo) who came to her barn in 2018 as an Intermediaire II horse.
“When I tried him it was love at first sight,” she said. “I rode him twice, and I knew. I fell in love with his work ethic. He just shows up every day and does his job. He’s so consistent and so hardworking. It’s always the same horse that comes out of the barn every day. He’s super funny in the barn too. He has a huge character in that sense.”
While she would like to go to university to study business, Bergeron currently is riding full time and is hoping to get some more experience in the U25 ring this year and possibly compete in Europe.
Her current focus on riding is paying off: In February, she rose to the No. 1 spot on the FEI world U25 Grand Prix rankings.
“It feels pretty unreal,” she said. “When it came out, I almost didn’t believe it. Is this real? Is this impossible? It’s a dream come true. We worked so hard to get there, and we did it. Europeans are usually ahead, and to be first in the world—I’m thrilled. I don’t even have the words because it feels crazy. I don’t think there’s ever been a Canadian on top of world rankings, and that makes me feel very proud.”