About Liz

About Liz

Breakaway is owned and operated by Liz Bates. A Toronto, Ontario native, Liz took school very seriously and was only able to focus on horses full time until after graduating from the University of Toronto in 2013 with an Honors Bachelor of Science, double major in Psychology and Political Science.

“Time management was crucial, I don’t know how I did it when I look back!  I was studying for a double major full time at the university of Toronto, bar tending, and riding 6 days a week. I don’t know when I slept! I am grateful that I studied, I apply those skills every day – not the material I learned, but the art of being under so much pressure and being required to perform to a high standard anyway. It’s not always about what you learn, but that you learn.

Upon graduation, I wanted to get out of the circuit I was used to, so I went to the United States for one year to be in Leslie Howard’s barn. It was hugely rewarding because of how challenging it was, an approach I had never seen. The year went by fast, it was like a crash course!”

From 2014 to 2015, the focus was on young horses that were coming of age that through Breakaway’s breeding program and that needed to increase their training.

“One of them was a stallion that my sister found at an auction as a colt, called Wildfire or “Wifi”. I jumped his first double and he took me to my first grand prix win. That was pretty special for me, incredible to really feel the reward of such a process.

Of course breeding in general can be hit or miss, and I learned a lot in the early years the hard way, like most do. In the end, I had two fantastic sport mares, Gianina 0009 “Josie” and Marvelous 6 “Em”, who retired back then and who have gone on to produce some really special horses. The best ones I bred were the ones I knew the best in person, and I don’t think that is a coincidence."

Wildfire’s record was impressive. He was top three in many young horse finals while he was up and coming. In 2015, when wildfire was only 8, he placed in every grand prix he jumped that year, including a 2nd place finish in the Open Welcome at Ottawa Horse show and a win in the Grand Prix that same week.

“Wildfire was really special. What a record. At that time I had also sold all of the horses I had that were of age in North America, and I reinvested in one young horse with a partner that we left in Europe as she was only 6, and a mare one year older than Wifi called Carla Columna, to support him going to the better shows.”

So, in 2016, it was time to make a decision about how Liz would spend what she thought would just be the summer, and ended up being a full-time life move.

“I decided to take a big leap and go to Europe with my two older horses. I wanted the challenge and to see something new. Yann Candele was training me on Wifi and Carla, and he saw no better idea. So, I left by myself a few weeks later: just me with my two horses and my dog!"

Liz started in Germany at Dietmar Gugler’s stable.

“I had already been there as a working student for one month a few summers before during university, so I was a bit familiar with the town and the barn, and Dietmar really is very welcoming, and has since then become a close family friend. My summer there was challenging and eye-opening, as expected, but I really felt that Europe was for me.”

At the end of the summer, Liz moved to Belgium in order to establish the Breakaway Equestrian and independence she wanted to have, now in Europe.

“I really wanted to be on my own. I do think things take longer to happen when no one knows you, and you’re not part of a particular person’s team, but somehow things started happening. I am extremely proud of the horses that have come through my barn. Making a list for this website brings back a ton of memories, from finding them, to training them, to showing them. The challenges that come with horses are vast: as a rider and as a manager and simply as a horse person. However, I have no regrets, only a list of lessons learned – albeit some harder than others!”

What are the current goals?

“The goal has not changed, to be honest, and I cant fathom that they ever will: it has and will always remain team events. I am so proud to be Canadian. I will never forget my first time representing Canada at NAYJRC in 2010, with Marvelous 6. It is special and a privilege to ride for your country.”

Since then, Liz has been selected for 3 senior teams and was reserve at CSIO 5* La Baule.

Now, the current challenges posted are shared by most riders running a business anywhere.

“I have a great team of people around me and we keep improving, from investors and partners, to the staff and the horses themselves. Finding the balance between when to let the horses go and when to keep them for your own sport is hard. I am lucky that now I truly am in a position to say no to some offers in order to prioritize my sport, but it has taken me almost a decade to get to this point.”