Jaimey Irwin is one of the Canadian Dressage riders who is riding and competing with the goal of making the Canadian Dressage team for the Tokyo Olympics. I spoke with him about this qualification period.
You have declared for the Tokyo Olympics! Is this something that has been a long term goal for you?
Of course it has always been a goal to strive towards and something I always wanted to to. As long as the stars align of course. When you add the horse into the equation, right horse, right timing, then you hope the stars align and it will all work out.
Tell me about your horse Donegal.
Donegal is 12 years old now. I’ve had him since he was 3. We put together a group to buy him and maintain him through those years. The plan was to develop him and see what he could do. Every horse does not make it to Grand Prix. But now Donegal is a Grand Prix horse so it has worked out well for the Team Irwin syndicate and it has been a fun adventure. To get a horse to GP the horse has to be able to withstand the advanced work and the stress of that work and the stress of competing. They need to be hot enough (in their temperament) but not too hot. And they must be healthy otherwise. You see lots of young horses, who look like they have talent, but they do not make it to Grand Prix. Donegal has quite the personality. He likes people but he has to get to know them. He is a very sensitive horse, a great horse, but he is the one who makes the decision to let you in. He’s very reactive but also sensible and smart.
What are your plans for shows this season in Florida?
We want to pace ourselves through the season. We will look at each show as an independent competition. We will look and see and decide from there. We’ll see how it’s going.We only did one CDI last year with Donegal and now one this year. So he was a bit fresh and feisty for the beginning of the year.There is lots of room for improvement which is exciting. But the scores have been good even with the improvement needed. He has a very good passage, good trot half pass, good walk. Good everything! He’s a really cool horse.
Do you find a qualification competition season like this stressful?
Stress? Sure, it adds it for sure. The Olympics only comes around once every 4 years. If you have the right horse you want to try for it. You have to strategize what shows you do. You have to balance , enough shows but not too many. That all adds stress in a year like this .
Who is on your support team?
My wife Tina of course! Everybody who is part of the team especially our clients. Without Team Irwin we would not able to be down here in Florida.We could not do it independently so our clients (Team Irwin) are a big part. Very supportive. I have also been working with Olympian Robert Dover who has been very helpful. The vets, the farrier, the sponsors are all part of the support team.
Best wishes to Jaimey and Donegal. May the stars line up and give you a path to Tokyo.
*Thank you to Susan Stickle, the official photographer of Adequan Global Dressage Festival for allowing me to use two of her photos of Jaimey and Donegal.*
I’d love to hear from you!