Giving Back to the Community in Tough Times: Little Dressage’s Pay It Forward Contest

Tuesday, May 19, 2020
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Janine Little Dressage-2.jpg

In these unprecedented times of Covid-19 and all the social distancing, closures, and cancellations, it is important to see optimism where we can – and that’s what FEI rider and trainer Janine Little was determined to do when she established the Pay It Forward Contest.

Photo - Janine Little, shown here with Demitra, one of the horses in her training and competition program, created the Pay It Forward Contest to brighten these times of Covid-19.

Janine Little envisioned Little Dressage’s Pay It Forward Contest as a way to brighten these bleak times and to encourage an equestrian community that supports one another. Little – who has risen up the dressage ranks by making up for what she lacked in money with dedication, perseverance, and grit – wanted to give back to the community and provide opportunities for those who were also striving for their goals in challenging situations. Currently listed for Dressage Canada’s Rider Development Squad, Little created a contest especially for those who did not have the financial resources to pursue their dreams to the fullest, and who were active contributors making a difference in the equestrian community.

“I know what it’s like to be working away at a dream and trying to make every bit count,” Little explains. “I wanted to give opportunities to others who are in that position.”

The Pay It Forward Contest prize is two weeks of free training at the facility near Ottawa, Canada, where Little trains the string of horses in her program when not competing in Florida. Publicized on various social media platforms, the contest inspired so many deserving entries that Little ended up sharing the anonymous entry letters with a panel of judges. The quality of the entries was so high that ultimately Little expanded the prizes. In addition to the grand prize, two runner ups will now each receive a week of free training.

Grand Prize winner Maria Porter is an Emergency First Responder and amateur dressage rider who had initially been so excited about the contest, but then chose not to enter due to the heavy work demands of the Covid-19 crisis. Her husband, also a First Responder, did not want his wife’s dreams to be deterred by the pandemic, so wrote the entry letter on her behalf.

“What an amazing opportunity this is! We had long chats about how much I wanted this but didn’t think I could do it,” Porter explains, noting that Janine Little is flexible about the dates for the training prize. “I was working at the Emergency Health Services on a night shift when I got a very excited call from [my husband] saying he hadn’t listened to me (surprise, surprise) and that I had won. My riding has always been my passion and one of the biggest things that keeps me motivated during these scary times. Riding is one of the few times I can just be in the moment. This opportunity is once-in-a-lifetime and I can’t wait to make the most of it.” In particular, Porter has “always been a huge fan of Janine’s freestyles, so much so that it inspired me to do my own freestyle last year”, and she looks forward to taking her riding to the next level.

The two runner ups are also highly deserving – and excited. Fourteen year-old Marlies King is an up-and-coming young rider, and Carolyn Louws mentors young riders and works with a charitable therapeutic riding program.

“It will be wonderful to work with people who are so excited, so committed, and so generous with their endeavors,” Little says. “It’s a win-win situation all around.”

For more on Little Dressage, we welcome you to visit www.littledressage.com.