Born into a family of horsemen in Calgary, AB, Jay Duke clearly inherited a passion for horses. With more than 30 years of experience as a professional rider, trainer, course designer and clinician, Jay has never strayed from his calling. He first threw his leg over a horse at the age of four and began his riding career under the direction of his mother, popular Alberta trainer Cheryl Anderson, and his father, Fred, who is a member of the Canadian Cutting Horse Hall of Fame.

A four-time Canadian Junior Champion in both the hunter and jumper rings, Jay also represented Canada on Nations’ Cup teams throughout North America, including the iconic National Horse Show, the Washington International Horse Show, and Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

Having hung up his competition spurs in 2014, Jay is now known as a clinician, senior Equestrian Canada course designer, and a rider with a knack for producing young horses. His success stories include the likes of Mister Brown, a horse that came straight off the track and went on to represent Canada internationally. He also developed and campaigned a young horse named Grappa, earning the Five-Year-Old Jumper Development Western Canadian Championship in 2009. That horse was renamed Mindful, and is now known as one of the most successful high-performance hunter and derby horses in North American under Kelley Farmer.

A horseman with undeniable drive, passion, and dedication to horse sport, we caught up with Jay to give him our Twenty Questions quiz.

1. At what exact moment did you fall in love with horses?

Riding my little gray pony named Trinket bareback all summer when I was six years old. It was freedom and pure fun.

2. For riding, do you prefer black boots or brown boots?

For me, as a man, the old school black with brown tops is classic.

3. If you could do any other equestrian discipline, what would it be and why?

I would ride reining and cutting horses. My father is a Hall of Fame cutter and it is a blast!

4. What is the most embarrassing thing to have ever happened to you while riding?

Falling off my pony in the old Rocky Mountain hunter ring at Spruce Meadows when I was eight years old. We were long to an oxer and she jumped me off. That was a huge ring and a very, very long walk with my pony back to the in-gate.

5. What is the most inspiring thing to have ever happened to you while riding?

Riding and traveling with the Canadian Equestrian Team during the Big Ben Retirement Tour. The fans, WOW!

6. What is your favorite #TwoHearts Moment of recent seasons?

Spending hours a day with my daughter as she takes care of her own horses at horse shows.

7. What was the hardest lesson you have had to learn in your riding?

To forgive myself for making a mistake.

8. Who is your mentor and why?

There are too many to name them all. I will go with Ian Millar for his work ethic, and Eric Navet for his attitude and brilliance on every horse he rides.

9. If you could ride a horse from the past, who would it be?

Jappeloup. That’s an easy answer.

(*Editor’s Note: Jappeloup carried Pierre Durand to an individual gold medal for France at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. The horse was the son of a French Trotter sire out of a Thoroughbred mare and measured under 15 hands.)

10. If you could ride a horse right now that is not your own, who would it be?

Not being very original here, but it would be HH Azur.

11. How do horses keep you grounded in the industry that you live/work in?

They are beautiful animals. Their energy and personalities are the reasons that I am involved with horses for a living.

12. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Live sporting events. Any of them, all of them. I love the atmosphere.

13. When were you most happy on a horse?

Probably when I was a junior and riding for the love of it.

14. If your type of horse were a famous person, who would they be?

Shakira—always feisty.

15. What is one piece of riding clothing or equipment you could never do without?

None of it really. Bareback with no tack on a horse is as good as it gets, for both horse and rider.

16. What is your helmet of choice and why?

My Samshield is the most comfortable, but a GPA helmet saved my life once and is the reason why I can walk today.

17. Which famous clothing brand do you wish would come out with an equestrian line?

Blundstone. It would be nice to have riding boots you could walk in all day.

18. What is your biggest splurge to date when it comes to your riding and/or horse(s)?

My daughter’s riding. The bills never stop.

19. What is the best piece of riding advice you have ever received?

“You only need to win by two seconds, not five.” Ian Millar gave me that advice.

20. What is your life motto?

Love what you do, appreciate every moment, and take nothing for granted.

-All photos courtesy of Jay Duke/Jump Media.