The Cana­di­ans Who Could

An in­ter­na­tional dres­sage duo cre­ates a team at­mos­phere through pas­sion, de­ter­mi­na­tion and ded­i­ca­tion.

Dressage Today - - Content - By Shawn Hamil­ton

Jaimey and Tina Ir­win cre­ate a team at­mos­phere through pas­sion, de­ter­mi­na­tion and ded­i­ca­tion.

Jaimey and Tina Ir­win, a young Cana­dian cou­ple, have carved them­selves a won­der­ful niche in the dres­sage world. What has been the se­cret of their con­tin­ued suc­cess? Pas­sion, de­ter­mi­na­tion and ded­i­ca­tion are just a few of the ba­sics, but learn­ing to jug­gle fam­ily life with busi­ness at the barn, hav­ing an hon­est heart and treat­ing your clients like they are a part of some­thing big­ger just might be the ticket.

The Ir­wins have man­aged not only to at­tract clients from all over North Amer­ica but earn their hearts as well. Team Ir­win en­com­passes a won­der­ful group of en­thu­si­as­tic rid­ers and non­rid­ers alike, form­ing a large sup­port­ive fam­ily that is ready to take on the dres­sage world and have fun do­ing it.

Stoney Lake Eques­trian be­gan as a nine-stall barn on the Ir­win Inn prop­erty in Lake­field, On­tario, with Tina and Jaimey run­ning the re­sort’s trail-rid­ing pro­gram, teach­ing les­sons and tak­ing in clients’ horses for train­ing. As their client base grew and the cou­ple be­gan

turn­ing heads at the up­per lev­els in the show ring, Mary Ellen Hor­gan, a client of the Ir­wins, in­tro­duced them to a friend, Sh­eryl Kerr, who was look­ing for some­one to take over her fully equipped eques­trian fa­cil­ity in Stouf­fville, On­tario. In 2009, the Ir­wins moved to Strath­field Farm, a 25-stall eques­trian fa­cil­ity in the heart of On­tario’s horse coun­try.

Cur­rently, Team Ir­win has a full barn and a client base that fol­lows them to south­ern Florida ev­ery win­ter to train and com­pete. This year they have 18 horses com­pet­ing and train­ing in the Florida cir­cuit. Dres­sage To­day had the op­por­tu­nity to talk with a few mem­bers of Team Ir­win to dis­cover what drew them to and keeps them with this dy­namic duo.

A Team Ap­proach

Kim­berly Wynd, an anes­the­si­ol­o­gist based in Peter­bor­ough, On­tario, was a child­hood friend of Jaimey and is now a cur­rent client. Im­pressed with Team Ir­win’s cal­iber of rid­ing and the hap­pi­ness of their horses, Wynd re­con­nected with the Ir­wins while search­ing for a horse. She ended up pur­chas­ing Win­ston, Tina’s for­mer Pan Am mount, and has now been a part of the team for close to five years.

“Jaimey and Tina bring such in­tegrity to the sport,” said Wynd. “They make us work dur­ing our les­sons and are quick to cor­rect in a very con­struc­tive and pos­i­tive man­ner. They have an un­be­liev­able abil­ity to as­sess the mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tions between horse and rider and can break down the les­son to fix those is­sues, mak­ing the worst day of rid­ing end on a pos­i­tive note. Through all of the ups and downs, Jaimey and Tina keep a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and re­ally only want what is best for the horse and rider. I am so for­tu­nate to have such in­cred­i­ble guides.”

Wynd be­lieves in their method­ol­ogy so much that she has gra­ciously spon­sored Jaimey with a 6-year-old Olden­burg mare, Rosche Flor, as a devel­op­ment horse. Known in the barn as Tessa, the mare is cur­rently com­pet­ing at Third Level. “They are ex­tremely loyal and hon­est to their clients,” said Wynd. “I am im­pressed with how sup­port­ive all of the clients are of each other. It is a rare thing to have such a tight-knit

group of peo­ple in such a com­pet­i­tive sport. I would love to com­pete in the Adult Ama­teur divi­sion in the CDI cir­cuit. I know that this is pos­si­ble with the Ir­wins and I’ll have lots of fun along the way.” Wynd fin­ished at In­ter­me­di­aire I with Win­ston be­fore re­tir­ing him and is head­ing to Ger­many with the Ir­wins this spring to find her next mount.

Su­san Jones, CEO and founder of a growth-ac­cel­er­a­tion firm, Seed Strat­egy, based in north­ern Ken­tucky, was first at­tracted to Jaimey’s rid­ing when she watched him ride Lin­dor’s Finest, a Dutch Warm­blood geld­ing, at Dres­sage at

Devon in the fall of 2012. Lin­dor, owned by Tina’s par­ents, Ute and Di­eter Busse, and Sally Carl­ton, had won many cham­pi­onships with Tina’s mom, Ute, un­til she handed over the reins to Jaimey.

In 2013, af­ter rep­re­sent­ing Canada at the World Cup in Gothen­burg, Swe­den, Jaimey was sell­ing Lin­dor as a school- mas­ter. Jones flew to Canada to take a look at the geld­ing and meet the Ir­wins for the first time. She was taken with their hos­pi­tal­ity, warmth and hon­esty and within a few months a new friend­ship formed. “Pur­chas­ing Lin­dor’s Finest and train­ing with Jaimey and Tina turned out to be a good de­ci­sion,” said Jones. “Ev­ery­one on Team Ir­win wel­comed me, and it is a big fam­ily. It is the nicest group of di­verse peo­ple and the per­fect place to learn. Tina and Jaimey are never too busy to give you a warm greet­ing. What they are do­ing is never more se­ri­ous than notic­ing you.”

Jones says that while Jaimey pushes her be­yond what she thinks is pos­si­ble, it’s al­ways fun. “Jaimey ex­pects the best at all times so you push your­self to re­ally be­come a se­ri­ous in­ter­na­tional ath­lete in all that you do,” said Jones. “My rid­ing has con­tin­ued to progress. Be­yond the su­per train­ing, a good eye for high-cal­iber horses, ex­cel­lent care of their mounts and in­cred­i­ble knowl­edge about the show ring, I like them as friends and part­ners. I feel they sup­port and care for me.”

Jones is also co-owner with the Ir­wins of Fancy That, an 11-year-old Olden­burg mare who Tina plans to com­pete in the Grand Prix divi­sion.

A Jour­ney for Ev­ery­one

Tina and Jaimey be­lieve the suc­cess of their busi­ness comes from their en­thu­si­asm and hon­esty. They also be­lieve that it’s im­por­tant to be eth­i­cal and cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple want to be ev­ery­day and en­joy ful­fill­ing their goals.

David Son­shine, 77, cred­its the Ir­wins for help­ing him dis­cover his new­found love for the sport of dres­sage. A con­tender for the 1968 Cana­dian Olympic Event­ing team, Son­shine grew frus­trated by the pol­i­tics that go along with the Olympic tri­als and walked away from rid­ing all to­gether. But years later, he de­cided to try again, which un­for­tu­nately re­sulted in an ac­ci­dent that left him with a bro­ken pelvis. Full of pins and bolts, he did not want to let horses get the best of him. So at the age of 61, Son­shine was in­tro­duced to dres­sage by a friend and he even­tu­ally pur­chased a lovely 5-year-old Brazil­ian Lusi­tano stal­lion named Quar­teto. While he swore to never com­pete again, Son­shine found his way to Tina and Jaimey and was once again bit by the com­pet­i­tive bug. In 2013, at the age of 73, he qual­i­fied for Devon on Quar­teto.

“I re­spect Tina and Jaimey as peo­ple as well as their work ethic, which I have never ex­pe­ri­enced in any other barn,” said Son­shine. “They have a great de­gree of em­pa­thy as we are go­ing through the learn­ing curve. They have a sense of hu­mor and the abil­ity to laugh at them­selves. When giv­ing a les­son, they give 100 per­cent and ex­pect the same in re­turn. Al­though they are com­mit­ted to a style, tech­nique and phi­los­o­phy, they have the abil­ity to tailor their teach­ing to the in­di­vid­ual

stu­dent and horse. At all times they are very hon­est, so if you ask a ques­tion, you bet­ter be pre­pared for the an­swer.”

Alexan­dra Meghji started rid­ing with the Ir­wins when she was 14 and has been win­ning cham­pi­onship medals in the Young Rid­ers divi­sion. Now a fresh­man study­ing clas­si­cal phi­los­o­phy at King’s Col­lege in Hal­i­fax, Nova Sco­tia, Meghji spends her school breaks com­pet­ing in Florida with the Ir­wins. “The past four years I spent train­ing with Tina and Jaimey have been a priv­i­lege,” Meghji said. “Their les­sons are chal­leng­ing and their ex­pec­ta­tions are high, but in ev­ery les­son, I feel both Tina and Jaimey give 100-per­cent ef­fort to help me im­prove. They ap­proach the task of coach­ing with fo­cus and in­tegrity.”

The Ir­wins have matched Meghji with two horses, Ili­ado and Rigo, with whom she has achieved her goal of win­ning medals at the North Amer­i­can Ju­nior and Young Rider Cham­pi­onships (NAJYRC). “They have fos­tered a sup­port­ive, fun and lively barn at­mos­phere. I’m grate­ful to be a mem­ber of Team Ir­win.”

Emily Fer­gu­son, a young rider who has been with the Ir­wins since 2015, be­lieves the cou­ple pro­vides a good bal­ance of re­lax­ation and in­ten­sity. “Tina and Jaimey know when and how to push the horse in a con­struc­tive way and al­ways end a les­son on a good note,” says Fer­gu­son. “They have an in­cred­i­ble depth of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence and are al­ways cool, col­lected and have good en­ergy. This cre­ates such a uniquely pos­i­tive and pro­duc­tive at­mos­phere in the barn, which fits my style very well and helps me do my best.”

Fer­gu­son also noted the Ir­wins’ abil­ity to pre­cisely prepare a horse­and-rider com­bi­na­tion for FEI-level com­pe­ti­tion. “They have the high­est stan­dards and pay at­ten­tion to ev­ery last de­tail. Af­ter an in­jury to my own horse, Jaimey helped me look for a horse to lease for the sea­son that would help me ac­com­plish my goal of com­pet­ing at the NAJYRC. With his ex­per­tise, we were able to find a per­fect match, Wrazzmatazz, a 2003 KWPN geld­ing owned by Sara Hell­ner. Dur­ing our part­ner­ship, we won the Cana­dian Na­tional FEI Youth Cham­pi­onships and earned the Young Rider team sil­ver medal and Young Rider Freestyle bronze medal at the 2016 NAJYRC.”

Thank­ful for the Sup­port

Tina and Jaimey jug­gle fam­ily life by fin­ish­ing up at the barn by 5 or 6 o’clock

in or­der to spend evenings as a fam­ily. Tina does most of the chauf­feur­ing while Jaimey han­dles the busi­ness in the barn and trav­els for clin­ics. The cou­ple is very grate­ful for the sup­port they have re­ceived over the years.

Hor­gan and her hus­band, Michael, were their first big sup­port­ers and have been a huge in­flu­ence on their ca­reers. They also feel that the sup­port of their par­ents has been the foun­da­tion of their suc­cess—the Ir­wins for al­low­ing them to be­gin their dream at the re­sort and the Busses for many things, in­clud­ing giv­ing Jaimey the ride on Lin­dor’s Finest.

One of the Ir­wins’ long­est-stand­ing friends and spon­sors is the sad­dle maker, Sch­leese, owned by Jochen and Sabine Sch­leese. The Sch­leeses have known Tina’s par­ents since 1986, when Jochen was first asked to be the of­fi­cial sad­dler for the World Dres­sage Cham­pi­onships in Cedar Val­ley, On­tario. They have a close per­sonal and pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship with the Busse fam­ily and have watched Tina, her sis­ter Sarah and Jaimey grow up in the dres­sage world.

“Jaimey and Tina are true ad­vo­cates for the health of their horses,” says Sabine. “The horses they train com­pete well into their late teens and early 20s be­cause they have been rid­den prop­erly. Team Ir­win has al­ways made horse health and well-be­ing a num­berone pri­or­ity. We pride our­selves on do­ing busi­ness eth­i­cally and hon­estly and ap­pre­ci­ate work­ing with peo­ple who show the same level of in­tegrity in this in­dus­try.”

The Ir­wins con­tinue to pur­sue their goals col­lec­tively. This sea­son Jaimey is com­pet­ing Done­gal V, owned by the Team Ir­win Sup­port­ers Group, while Tina rides Lau­ren­cio and Fancy That, work­ing to­ward the 2018 World Eques­trian Games and even­tu­ally the Olympics. In ad­di­tion to their own com­pet­i­tive goals, the Ir­wins con­tinue to de­velop strong re­la­tion­ships with their stu­dents, own­ers, spon­sors and friends who are the heart of Team Ir­win.

ABOVE: In 2013, Su­san Jones pur­chased Jaimey’s World Cup mount, Lin­dor’s Finest, a Dutch Warm­blood geld­ing. To­day she trains with Team Ir­win and also co-owns Fancy That with Jaimey and Tina.

ABOVE: Tina and Jaimey, shown here with Gavin (5), Mar­lies (3) and their dog, Chase, fin­ish up at the barn by 5 or 6 o’clock in or­der to spend evenings as a fam­ily. LEFT: A con­tender for the 1968 Cana­dian Olympic Event­ing Team, David Son­shine, 77,...

RIGHT: For years, the Ir­wins have trained with Hol­ger Müen­ster­mann, a clas­si­cally trained Ger­man mas­ter. Jaimey, shown here on Done­gal V, feels that Müen­ster­mann has been the big­gest in­flu­ence in his rid­ing and train­ing ca­reer.

ABOVE: Tina was a piv­otal mem­ber of the Cana­dian Pan Am team that brought home the team sil­ver from Guadala­jara, Mex­ico, in 2011. Her mount there was Win­ston, owned by Mary Ellen and Michael Hor­gan. Here she rides Lau­ren­cio, her 10-year-old Olden­burg...

Canada’s Tina and Jaimey Ir­win have a full barn and a client base that fol­lows them to south­ern Florida ev­ery win­ter to train and com­pete. Here they are shown with Fancy That, an 11-year-old Olden­burg mare owned by Rocket One LLC and the Ir­wins (left)...

Team Ir­win op­er­ates Stoney Lake Eques­trian out of Strath­field Farm, a 25-stall eques­trian fa­cil­ity in the heart of On­tario, Canada’s horse coun­try.

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