Jaimey and Tina Irwin Take a Victorious Approach with Donegal V and Laurencio

Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage - Sunday, April 16, 2017

There is truly something special about the husband and wife team of Jaimey and Tina Irwin. The impressively successful training process they developed led both to top wins, as seen at the 2017 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival 12-week series. The pair of riders accomplished consistent top placings in the Prix St George and Intermediare I throughout the 2017 Adequan Global Dressage Festival 12 week winter series guiding their two horses Donegal V owned by Team Irwin Supporters Group, a 9 year old KWPN Gelding (Johnston x Remy) and 10 year old Laurencio (Laurentio x Pasedena) owned by Jaimey and Tina. In the small tour CDI ring, Tina and Laurencio attained the highest scoring small tour horse and rider pair of the entire 2017 AGDF series, scoring a 78.708% in the Intermediare I Freestyle beating Steffen Peters and Bailarino who scored a 77.00%. On April 10th, 2017 Equestrian Canada awarded Laurencio the 2016 Dressage Horse of the Year at the Equestrian Canada Awards reception.

Aware that horses take at least one entire season, if not two, to adjust to the electric atmosphere of the AGDF series varying windy, rainy, warm or perfect weather days, buzzing catering teams wheeling large trays of food over cobblestones on the outside of the VIP tent, clinking silverware and the bustle and noise of other horses, riders, spectators and announcers in the CDI competition ring, Jaimey and Tina put together an impressive, if not difficult Pas de Deux and presented it in Toronto at the Canadian Royal Winter Fair in November.  “We wanted something to get the crowd excited,” Jaimey said.

Tina shared, “The horses know each other really well. They are really good buddies. We were asked to do it to promote dressage. So we decided to do something really fun.” She confirmed, “We did do a lot of work practicing for that Pas de Deux because we wanted it to be really good and of high quality. It was a great way to get them used to a large atmosphere before we had to compete under the lights in Florida. It was a really good experience for them.” By allowing the horses to be together under those lights in front of thousands of spectators with some strong music, there would be no reason for each of the horses to be frightened when alone in the competition ring.

Their plan worked. Tina continued, “And now they seem to be peeking for this level at the same time. All our hard work is paying off. Developing any horse takes many years of time and work. So now, we are seeing some of our results.” Jaimey said, “We had the opportunity to do it again here at Global and that was amazing. It was a really good experience for them.”

Their steady road to success began in 2010 on a buying trip to Europe looking for young horses to bring up the levels. There they found 3-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Donegal V (Johnston x Remy x Gribaldi) for Jaimey, owned by Team Irwin Supporters Group, and also found 4-year-old Oldenburg gelding Laurencio (Laurentio x Pasadena x Donerhall) who would become Tina’s winning horse. Shipping both horses to their Stoney Lake Equestrian facility at Strathfield Farm in Stouffville, Ontario, Canada, Jaimey and Tina have since been raising and training them to enjoy infinite confidence while competing in any atmosphere.

Jaimey shared, “When they were young, we took them along on the pony rides so they would be relaxed and see everything as young horses, all for their confidence and handling any atmosphere." He recapped, "And last year in Florida, even though Donegal and Laurencio were a bit green it was the first time we competed them at PSG/Intermediaire I in the national classes. We were really trying to fix some mistakes from each competition. This year, though, both horses have been very consistent. They’re feeling stronger and more confident in their work. They are where they need to be for this level.”

Tina is clear about her pride in Laurencio, “He has amazing rideability and a wonderful temperament to go with it. It’s quite easy to ride him, I’d have to say. He’s an incredible horse and does a great job. I’m very lucky and I’m pleased with our season. I knew he was a special horse right from the beginning. I’ve been so very happy showcasing our hard work together over the last year-and-a half.”

Pleased with his own horse’s improvements, Jaimey said, “Donegal’s been doing really well this year and I’m very happy with his progress.” On Donegal V and Laurencio, their intention is to make it to Grand Prix and onto championship teams with the correct time and confidence for each horse. Acknowledging that horses can take some time to step up the levels, the husband and wife duo will continue with their intelligent strategy. 

The Irwins’ training system has reaped high honors on other horses they have trained. Tina was a member of the Canadian Team for the PanAmerican Games in 2011 in Guadelajara, Mexico where she brought home a Silver Medal and Jaimey competed at the 2013 World Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden representing Canada.

With their 25-stall dressage training and sales business called Stoney Lake Equestrian at at Strathfield Farm owned by Sheryl and David Kerr, a mere 20 minutes from downtown Toronto, everything requires keen juggling as they also raise their preschool children, Gavin is 6 years old and Marlies is 3.

"And help,” Jamie declared “It’s not just us, but our whole team. Everybody pitches in and helps groom, helps us with the kids, the farm, everything. They’re all a huge help,” Tina quickly agreed, “It takes a lot of organizing, but it’s really fun, too. We have a super team and we need that. They’re supportive in every way possible.” She continued, “The kids are in preschool this year. We organized it so that our parents were here when we were competing. Last year, we had a nanny, but this year we didn’t do that and it worked out great.”

"We are so grateful to our loyal sponsors and all of their continued support. They are all an important part of Team Irwin and include: Schleese, Brooks Feed, Kentucky Performance Products, Zap Productions, Equinety, GhpSport, Knixwear, Theraplate and to all of our horse owners."

A fitting quote by the legendary 16th century French riding master Antoine de Pluvinel sums up Jaimey and Tina Irwin’s training of Donegal V and Laurencio, “You can never rely on a horse that is educated by fear. There will always be something that he fears more than you. But, when he trusts you, he will ask you what to do when he is afraid.”