In the Pan Am Games winning the gold medal as a team was a big deal, but the medal is just a thing.Jill Irving
Jill Irving has ridden for Canada at the 2018 World Equestrian Games and last year was on the Gold Medal winning Pan American Games Dressage Team. In my interview I asked her my usual questions and then I asked her if she had anything else she would like to tell me.
She said yes!
My last two experiences WEG and the Pan Am Games showed me how amazing we are as teammates. The Canadian riders are so cohesive and on the same page. I am so proud to say I am a part of that. For major Games we have to be a team and riding is not a sport that teaches us to be on a team. I am so proud of how the Canadians come together and work as a team. We should be really proud of that. You are always riding for yourself as it is an individual sport. But this year we wish the best for each other even though we are competing with each other to get on the team for the Olympics. At WEG and the PAGS we got along amazingly well and it was so much fun. I look forward to that. In the Pan Am Games winning the gold medal as a team was a big deal, but the medal is just a thing. Maybe being the older athlete on the team you appreciate that more. It makes my heart sing. We all missed each other after the Pan Am Games. We were a great group. I think sometimes people wonder what it is like on a team but I know that we had each other’s back . What an experience! What great ladies! You have these relationships for the rest of your life.
I was so glad I had asked her if she had anything she wanted to say because her answer was a marvelous one. Here are the answers to my usual questions.
1.You have declared for the Olympics. Is this a goal or a dream you have had for a long time?
Every child involved with sport wants to get to the Olympics so yes, for me it has been a long term dream.
2. Tell me about your horse (s). Degas 12 and Arthur. Are they both candidates ?
Yes they are both declared. Degas is 18 years old now and more experienced. I have had him since he was 6. He’s not a ‘regular’ guy. He thinks he is a companion, or a dog. He is very attached to people more than other horses although he does love other horses. He is a big personality. In the barn he sticks his head out and greets everybody when they come in. Arthur is less experienced and I will be showing him more. He is also declared for the OG.
3.What are your plans for the Florida show season?
March is open for Degas. Arthur I will be showing. I will be showing him in the 3* this weekend. At the end of the season here I will be going to a show in Tryon and later a show in Ottawa. Degas will tell me what he wants to do and if he wants to show in March then we will show.
4. Do you find the qualification season for the OG stressful?
I was on the Canadian team for WEG, and last year for the Pan Ams. Now I am competing for Tokyo 2020 Olympics. That is 3 Games 3 years in a row. But for me this is not a job, it is not work. I love it. I have to be very focused on it and I am away for a long time from my family. The Games have dictated my schedule. This is what is difficult for everybody, not just for me. It is the people around us that sacrifice. The people who count on us make the sacrifice. We, the athletes, are living our dream; it is the others who make the sacrifice. For me it is not stressful just time consuming. That is one of the bigger challenges. All the rest is me living my dream. I am lucky to have a supportive family. I think every elite athlete has to have a supportive family . You have to make it (the Games qualification) your priority. For people who are making a living, coaching and training riders and horses, their clients must understand that the Games come first. That can be hard.
5. You have daughters who are riders. Are they still riding?
I have three girls and a boy. I would say the girls are now amateur hunter riders. When you are a kid the horses can be number one but as an adult the job has to come first and there may also be a husband, children and then maybe the horse. Kids learn priorities in sport. That is what my kids learned in riding.
Thank you Jill for taking the time to speak with me. Best of luck this competition season. I would like to close with one of my favorite photos from the World Equestrian Games in 2018. This is Jill’s horse Degas with a Canadian flag on his fly bonnet. Since he is a ‘people’ horse I think he would be happy to know he was flying the flag for Canada and being on the Team!