A Canadian Family Affair At The 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico

Jaimey Irwin holds Gavin, the couple’s six-month-old son, as he wears his mother’s Team Silver medal at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo: Dieter Busse)
Jaimey Irwin holds Gavin, the couple’s six-month-old son, as he wears his mother’s Team Silver medal at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo: Dieter Busse)

Stouffville, Ontario – Dynamic young dressage couple Tina and Jaimey Irwin of Stouffville, ON, have enjoyed an incredible year, welcoming their first child six months before Tina made her international debut and Jaimey coached one-half of the Canadian Dressage Team to a Silver Medal at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. While Tina made her major games debut at the 2011 Pan American Games, her husband, Jaimey, was responsible for coaching one-half of the Canadian Dressage Team members that claimed the Silver Medal on October 20 in Guadalajara, Mexico.  Canada’s four-member dressage team included Tina and Roberta Byng-Morris, both coached by Jaimey.

The Silver Medal represented teamwork on several different levels, not only between Tina and her horse, Winston, but also between Tina and Jaimey, her husband and coach.  Both Tina and Jaimey compete at the Olympic level of grand prix as well as coach students and train horses at their Stoney Lake Equestrian business based in Stouffville, ON.
Last fall, Mary Ellen Horgan approached Tina and Jaimey about riding her horse, Winston.  A student of the Irwin’s, Horgan had imported Winston from Holland on Tina and Jaimey’s advice, but hip replacement surgery was forcing her out of the saddle.  As Horgan’s main trainer, Tina was the most familiar with Winston, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding.  In addition, Tina was selling Amicelli, a horse she had developed from a four-year-old up to the grand prix level, leaving her without a top mount.  Having Tina take over the reins seemed like the natural choice, and soon Tina and Jaimey were revising their 2011 competition strategy to include the Pan American Games.
As fate would have it, Tina had just learned that she was pregnant, with a due date of April 2011.  With two grand prix riders in the family, the pair quickly formulated a plan that would allow October’s Pan American Games to remain their goal for the 2011 season.  Jaimey would continue to train Winston over the winter and begin competing in the spring to qualify for the Pan Am selection trials.  When Tina was able, she would return to the saddle and attempt to get her qualifying scores for the Pan Am selection trials.  There was no doubt that Winston was the horse, it was just a question of whether the rider would be Tina or Jaimey!
“The stars had to align properly,” laughed Tina, who gave birth to a boy, Gavin, on April 19.  “Before I got pregnant, I had helped Mary Ellen with her training and had competed Winston a few times.  Jaimey took over and trained Winston all winter and started competing in May, and then I took him back and got my scores.  That was always the plan, that I would take him if I could.  I had had the baby after all, so it was kind of a trade-off!”

Tina Irwin riding Winston won a Team Silver medal and placed fifth individually riding Winston in her Pan American Games debut in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo: Dieter Busse)
Tina Irwin riding Winston won a Team Silver medal and placed fifth individually riding Winston in her Pan American Games debut in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo: Dieter Busse)

Although Jaimey had qualified for the Pan Am Games selection trials, he lived up to his part of the bargain and relinquished Winston’s reins back to his wife.  A total of 61 riders from across Canada had declared their intention to qualify for the Pan American Games, with the top 15 ranked riders in the country being invited to contest the selection trials.  Heading into the selection trials, Jaimey was ranked number one in the qualifying standings while Tina was ranked number four, which was in itself an incredible accomplishment.
As only one athlete can compete in the trials, Tina rode Winston while Jaimey resumed the role of coach.  Tina and Winston excelled in the selection trials, even winning one of the four, to earn a place on the four-member Canadian Dressage Team for the Pan American Games.  In addition, Jaimey had begun coaching Roberta Byng-Morris earlier in the year, and she also booked her ticket for Guadalajara with a top finish in the selection trials riding Reiki Tyme.  At both the training camp and at the Pan American Games themselves, Jaimey worked alongside Canadian Dressage Team Technical Leader Markus Gribbe of Germany to coach one half of Canadian Team.
“I went to the training camp in New York to coach Tina and Roberta,” said Jaimey of the two-week training camp held in New York State.  “Markus and I work very well together, which allowed us to get the horses to peak at the right time for the Games.  There was an excellent team environment in Guadalajara.  Markus did an excellent job at the Technical Leader for Canada, and is a definite asset to the Team.”
In the team competition at the Pan American Games, Tina earned a score of 70.737% while Byng-Morris earned 65.158% from the panel of seven international judges.  Combined with the scores posted by their teammates, Tom Dvorak and Crystal Kroetch, Canada claimed the Silver Medal.
Moving into the individual competition, Tina earned a score of 70.842% in the first phase, the Intermediaire I.  Following a day of rest, Tina and Winston executed a flawless and expressive Intermediaire Freestyle performance, highlighted by strong canter work and high quality pirouettes, to a medley of popular 80s songs produced by Lewis Manné and Wendy Watson of Zap Productions.  The resulting score of 77.225% represented a career best for Tina, and placed her fifth individually in her Pan American Games debut.
“It was a dream come true,” said Tina of the year that culminated in a Silver Medal.  “It was an amazing journey with everything that happened over the past 12 months, from selling my Grand Prix horse to having a baby to making the team.  The Silver Medal was just the icing on the cake!  And having Jaimey there as not only my husband and personal support system but also as my trainer was an unbelievable experience.”
Jaimey’s other student, Bing-Morris, placed 16th individually out of the 47 entries representing 14 nations in dressage at this year’s Pan American Games.
“It was also Roberta’s first time representing Canada at a major games, and it was amazing to see the improvement over just a few months,” said Jaimey.  “She was a very good student, and very dedicated.  It was very rewarding to have two of my students on the silver medal winning team.  Everyone involved with the Canadian Team at the Pan American Games really worked well together to produce a fantastic result.”
Despite their relatively young ages, both Tina, 30, and Jaimey, 33, have enjoyed tremendous success as coaches.  Former competitors at the North American Young Riders’ Championships themselves, Jaimey and Tina have coached Maura O’Sullivan to Junior Team Gold and Young Riders’ Team Silver medals while Megan Lane won Junior Team Gold and Junior Individual Silver medals under their tutelage.  Jaimey also coaches Tina’s sister, Sarah Turner, and her mother, Ute Busse, at the Grand Prix level.
In the competition arena, Jaimey competed with both Dover and Lindor’s Finest at the Grand Prix level throughout the 2011 season.  Tina and Jaimey also have several quality young horses that they are developing up to the international level with the ultimate goal of representing Canada at the Olympic Games.
Jaimey and Tina operate their training business, Stoney Lake Equestrian, out of Strathfield Farm in Stouffville, ON.  The well-designed, world-class facility is extremely horse friendly with new state-of-the-art footing.  Spectators have also been kept in mind, and are able to watch the horses training in the 25 x 65 meter indoor arena from the comfort of a large viewing lounge, which features contemporary design and furnishings.
“We have been based here since the spring of 2009, and we feel very proud to operate our business at such a fantastic facility,” said Tina of Strathfield Farm, which is owned by Sheryl Kerr.  “We are very grateful for Sheryl’s support and appreciate the efforts she makes to maintain the facility at the highest standards.”
Between their own horses and those belonging to clients, the couple has approximately 20 horses in training at any given time.  Tina and Jaimey spent time training in Germany in the early days of their careers and while Tina once trained with Klaus Martin Rath, they both found an ideal match in Holger Munstermann.  The renowned German coach now travels to Canada to help the couple, as well as their students, with their training.
For Tina and Jaimey Irwin, success in the dressage arena is truly a family affair.  Tina sums it up simply by saying, “We are a dynamic couple and we work together really well professionally.  We click very well.”

For more information on Tina and Jaimey Irwin and Stoney Lake Equestrian, please call (905) 888-0099 or visit www.stoneylakeequestrian.ca.