The FEI rider – who spends the winter months actively training and competing in Wellington, Florida, and the rest of the year training, showing, and coaching in Canada – earned consistently excellent results with the string of young horses she has been developing from Training level upwards.
Little’s most recent victories include multiple championships at Bromont Olympic Equestrian Park in Quebec with the KWPN mare, Demitra, and the Friesian mare Ebony, who, after numerous championships at Fourth Level, is becoming known as “the little mare that can” amongst her growing fan following. The final day of Devon, Little and Ebony won Fourth Level Test Three with a score of 70.333%.
Little is no stranger to winning blue ribbons at Devon. In 2016, she won the FEI Intermediare B CDI*3 at Devon with Sancerre, a stallion owned by KML Sarl whom Little scouted from Europe from Dana Hewitt. Yet this is the first time she has captured a victory at Devon with a Friesian.
“This mare continues to exceed our expectations,” explains Little. “Originally, she was purchased with the intention of being a lower level dressage horse for her owner, but as she’s gone up the levels she’s continued to rise to all challenges asked of her, scoring into the 70s regularly with FEI judges. Ebony is a great ambassador for the Friesian breed in dressage.” Ebony’s owner, Shawneen Jacobs, a long-time supporter of Little, is equally thrilled.
“We'll take Ebony as far as she is willing to go,” Little furthers. “She shows fantastic aptitude for the upper level movements, especially piaffe and pirouettes. I'm hopeful that she can take on the CDI ring in 2018. If she's capable, I say why not? It’s great to see diversity in the international ring.” Although Little’s primary string of horses are Warmbloods, she has had numerous successes and High Score awards with diverse breeds, achieving wins at major shows with Friesians, Andalusians, and Lusitanos over the years.
Demitra, a KWPN mare owned by Joanna Cockerline, also has Little – and top judges – very excited. Demitra made her initial debut at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival with a score of over 78% at First Level. This year, Little and Demitra won the Third Level Championship at Bromont before going on to achieve promising results at the mare’s first time at Devon.
“We’re extremely excited about Demitra’s potential for the upper levels,” Little agrees, acknowledging that the mare has the “fire in her belly” to give it her all. Demitra’s dam, Zarcita, owned by Leslie Waterman, started competing Grand Prix this year with Debbie Hill. Demitra’s sire, Wup (Welt Hit II), was a Grand Prix stallion who won numerous championships in Europe with Dutch rider Joyce Heuitink, and then junior rider Romee van Passen, but tragically passed away from colic this year. Little, Cockerline, and a growing team of supporters are continually impressed with the mare’s progress and talent for the FEI Levels. “Demitra is demonstrating the abilities it takes to truly excel.”
Billionaire, a 6 year-old Bellisimo x Sir Donnerhall gelding, scored into the 70s multiple times in Florida and is currently schooling all of the advanced work. Little anticipates he will be headed for the FEI ring in the near future.
“Coming from a background where I had to work my way up the ranks, I've always had to train my own horses up the levels,” Little says. “I believe that developing your own horses is rewarding for multiple reasons. You have to figure things out and be innovative, as each horse is different. It certainly sharpens your horsemanship skills. Training a horse from basics to advanced is a patience game – yet the partnership you develop is like no other.”
Janine Little was named to Dressage Canada’s Rider Development Squad for 2017 and was a declared rider for both the 2012 Olympics, the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games. She was listed to the Canadian Team in 2010 and 2011.
A trainer who always believes in continuous learning, Little has trained with some of the top names in the sport, including Charlotte Dujardin, Juan Matute Sr., Robert Dover, Steffen Peters, and Anky van Grunsven.
In addition to developing horses, Little has coached numerous riders to success to some of North America’s most competitive championships, including three Gold Medals at the NAJYRC in 2007, 2010, and 2015.
“I’m very passionate about coaching,” she explains. “It’s so rewarding to help people achieve their goals, no matter what their level. It can be anything from mastering a 20-meter circle to riding your first line of one tempis.” This year, in addition to teaching regular clinics, she has been coaching Shannon Sluser and Solaris, a partnership hoping to take on the FEI ring in 2018 together. Solaris was purchased from Agata Reckuka with Little’s assistance; Reckuka also sold the Little Dressage team Hendrix, an up-and- coming young talent. “Whether training or coaching, I really enjoy the process and being part of the progress.”
This year Little is excited to see the culmination of both training and teaching in a special partnership that has been in the works: Ebony’s owner, adult amateur rider Shawneen Jacobs, will be taking over the reins of her Fidertanz gelding, Finley, whom Little trained to Small Tour level and competed to Fourth Level with scores to 76% in Florida. Having trained Finley up the levels in her program, Little knows the horse well – positioning the new partnership for success.
“Shawneen’s approach to the process ensures a real consistency that will make for an ideal transition. These insights will be a real advantage,” Little agrees. “It will be great to see their partnership develop.”
Soon, Little looks forward to returning to Florida to the lovely Lady Jean Ranch, where she and the horses in her program have wintered for the past seven years, December through April. While she trains and coaches in the Ottawa/Montreal area for the rest of the year, the Florida season is always exciting – especially this year, now that horses she has brought along from Training Level are poised to embark upon their CDI careers.
“It’s been a journey bringing them this far,” Janine Little muses, “and I’m tremendously excited to see what 2018 – and beyond – brings.”