It’s All About Timing For Charlie Jayne On His Road To The World Games

Jun 3, 2014 - 4:03 PM
For Charlie Jayne, preparing for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games involves lots of long-range planning and goals for Chill R Z to get him to peak at the right times. Photo by Molly Sorge

I feel like for any athlete, there has to be a down time. In basketball or football or any sport, there’s always an off-season.

In show jumping, because there are five-star shows all over the world every weekend of the year now, it’s very easy to just keep going and going. But after I showed Chill R Z at the Alltech National Horse Show [(Ky.) in November], I really shut him down and gave him two weeks where he just turned out in the paddock.

Then for two weeks he only got ridden every other day. In December, he went back to normal flatwork, and, by January, he was jumping again. He didn’t show until February, so he had three months off from competing.

After the [Rolex FEI] World Cup Final in 2013, I had two big goals this year—the [Longines FEI] World Cup Final and then the [Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games]. I started planning for both at the end of April last year.

So, in November, I did a kind of summary report that I sent to [U.S. Show Kumping Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland]. It had Chill R Z’s results over the previous months—kind of a debriefing of how the year went. Then I sent him a list of the road I’d want to take to the World Cup Final and the WEG. I put together a schedule of what I was thinking I’d do if I were on the list for the WEG and what I was going to do to get there. I sent it to Robert, and we had two nice phone conversations about it.

I told Robert that my two big goals for the winter were the two HITS million-dollar classes [in Thermal, Calif., and Ocala, Fla., in March] and the Longines World Cup Final. I just wanted him to hold me accountable for how I did in those competitions.

Fortunately, I was ninth in the [AIG $1 Million Grand Prix in Thermal] and 11th in the [Great American $1 Million Grand Prix in Ocala] and then 10th overall in the World Cup Final.

Those were my immediate big things I was planning for the first half of the year. So now, I’m going to give my horse a little bit of a rest, maybe do one small national show in the States and then gear him up again for Spruce Meadows [(Alberta) in June].

I feel like Spruce Meadows is a good venue where you can show in multiple big prize-money classes in a week and get your horse’s fitness up. Obviously, if you do get to the championships, it’s four or five days of jumping in one week, and that’s a lot. It’s not something we’re used to here, so Spruce is on my schedule for that reason. Then, after that, I’ll go over and do the Nations Cup at Dublin the first week of August.

If we’re chosen, Dublin will be our last show before the WEG.

Studying The Sport

I was happy with our performance at the World Cup Final [on April 18-21 in Lyon, France]. We jumped five rounds, and he jumped three rounds without a rail, which I think was a big improvement from 2013.

Last year, in the last round, I ran out of gas a little bit, and this year, we ended better and stronger. The last round he jumped in Lyon was maybe his best round of the week, and he had just 1 time fault. He came out just as strong as he came in, which I was really happy about.


Home Base: Elgin, Ill., and Wellington, Fla.

Age: 28

World Games Contender: Chill R Z, an
11-year-old Belgian-bred Zangersheide
stallion (Chellano Z—Nina R, A Lucky One),
owned by Alex R. Jayne and Maura Thatcher.

“At home, he gets very excited. He’s a stallion,
and he acts like a stallion. But in general, when
he gets to a show, he means business, and he’s
very focused,” Charlie said.

“He has a big, lofty stride, and it’s almost like
cantering an equitation horse around the ring,”
he added. “You just have to make sure you don’t
mess up and that you try to shave a couple of turns,
because his jump is so big and slow that he’s a
little slower than the other horses. I always have
to be aware of the time allowed. As long as I can
focus on those two things, he always tries to jump
the jump clear, which makes life a lot easier!”

Notable Results

• 2012 – traveling reserve for U.S.
show jumping team at London Olympic Games

• 17th – 2013 Rolex FEI World Cup Final (Sweden)

• 2nd – 2013 $125,000 New Albany Invitational
Grand Prix (Ohio)

• 4th – 2013 $200,000 American Gold Cup
CSI-W (N.Y.)

• 5th – 2013 $125,000 President’s Cup CSI-W (D.C.)

• 4th – 2014 $370,000 WEF 5 World Cup Qualifier (Fla.)

• 9th – 2014 AIG $1 Million HITS Thermal
Grand Prix (Calif.)

• 11th – 2014 Great American $1 Million
HITS Ocala Grand Prix (Fla.)

• 10th – Longines FEI World Cup Final (France)

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The courses at this year’s World Cup Final were different than the last three years I’ve been to. The first day, for the speed round, there weren’t inside turns that some people would do and some wouldn’t. It wasn’t a course that played to our strengths—Chill has a big, slow stride, and there were no places in the turns to make up time. The first day, in that big ring with that course, was hard for me. I think I took away that I need to learn how to make up time outside of the turns, which I think I’ll improve on.

I can’t say I’d changed my training leading up to the World Cup. I’d maybe competed a little less and peaked him a little more. More than that, I think it was just him being in my system for two years now. When I had him when I was alternate for the 2012 Olympic Games, I had just had him for less than a year. So, he really wasn’t fully in my program yet. But this year, he really came out, and his body is totally different. His muscles are developing, and he’s really come together. And we’re really becoming a lot more of a partnership.

He’s not a horse who wins every grand prix, but that’s OK.

Honestly, what I like to do is look up peoples’ past results. I like to follow them and see what mistakes they may have made—if they showed too much or showed at the wrong venues or whatever. I also like to focus on positive results—what they did right to win a medal.

For me, the career I respect the most was McLain Ward and Sapphire. I admire how he was able to peak that horse at the right time for every championship he did.

That being said, I think if you also look at Sapphire’s career, the later in her career, the more competitive she got, as in winning grand prix classes. If you look at her results, every year McLain got faster and faster with her.

So, I don’t go in and try to win every class. There are types of horses that probably can go out every week and win and still be ready and peaked for a championship, but I don’t think that’s Chill. But I think every year we can work on it and slowly do fewer and fewer strides and get faster and faster to be more competitive. I think you’ll start to see that in results; I’ve already seen it from last year to this year.

It’s very hard to say, ‘I’m going to aim for six or eight big events for the year, and the rest of the time I’m just going to try to jump a lot of clear rounds.’ I believe to try and plan for a championship, that’s a bigger picture, and it takes a lot of planning and focusing on which events you need to peak for.

Now, with technology, it’s so easy to follow the sport. You can find anyone’s round and go watch and learn from it. You can track a horse’s results for the last few years. You can look up how many shows they did, how many classes and what classes they did to prepare.

You can look up Authentic’s record in 2006 and see exactly how many classes Beezie [Madden] did to lead up to the WEG [in Aachen, Germany], where she brought home two medals for the United States. You can look at what classes they were and how she did in them. You can see what her preparation was for that performance. I think it’s good to follow riders’ positive results and learn from them.

Doing It Easy

After the World Cup, Chill had a week off just to relax. We’re back at the farm in Elgin, Ill., and he came back to work just raring to go, so now we’ll just keep him fit and happy.

He’s the type of horse that likes to work. He gets turned out in the morning for an hour, and then I’ll ride him. When he works, I do 20 minutes of flatwork and 10 minutes of loosening and stretching and walking. I don’t like to go more than 30 minutes.

Sometimes he’ll go on the treadmill in the afternoon—when we get closer to a championship event, and I feel like he needs to be very fit, I’ll start to ride him twice a day. But even before the World Cup Final, I felt like he was in top condition, so I didn’t do twice a day. But probably as Normandy gets closer, I will start to do two-a-days, if we’re going.

It’s just about keeping him as healthy and happy as possible. When I’m in Florida, I like to take him on a lot of trails and gallop a bit and let him be a horse. That keeps him pretty fit. And when he’s working more, he has to eat more. He eats almost twice what the other horses in the barn eat; I think he just metabolizes it faster.

After he had three months off this winter, I did him in one 1.40-meter class the first week he showed [at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.)], then the five-star World Cup qualifier. He was clear in the [first round of the $125,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 5] and double clear in the World Cup qualifier, which is very hard. To shut your horse down for three months and then have your first real competition back be a five-star show isn’t easy.

That being said, it’s a good test of how you can let your horse have a rest and then bring him back. Athletes have to have time to let their bodies rest. It’s always a question of: “How much is too much or enough to be ready for the big game or the big show?”

I think something that makes him a good horse for a championship is that he does it so easily—1.60 meters feels the same on him as 1.30 meters. He doesn’t exert a lot of energy to jump a big jump.

That’s important because for competitions with multiple rounds, like Nations Cups or World Cup Finals, he can jump a couple of rounds, and it doesn’t take a lot out of him. Some horses, even if they’re great horses, they jump a 1.60-meter round, and it takes a lot out of them.

He stays so focused the whole time in the ring that I think his mental capacity is also a huge part of it. Some horses are always worried and working in their brain, and that makes them tired, too. Chill is very focused and calm, and he has always been like that. That’s something that’s very hard to train, but he just has it.

I think as far as peaking, I did well at the two million-dollar classes. At the World Cup Final. Now I just have to focus on what worked well and bringing him back up at Spruce Meadows and Dublin and hopefully the WEG. I’m just working the calendar back to try and do that.

This Road To The World Games article is one in a series the Chronicle is publishing in the print magazine. We’re following two riders each from dressage, eventing and show jumping as they aim for a team spot in Normandy later this year. 

Charlie’s next installment will be published in the July 14 issue of the Chronicle, where he’ll share how the Spruce Meadows Nations Cup went for him and Chill R Z. Don’t miss it!


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