Thursday, May. 23, 2024

Tarjan And Jane Were Good, But Orlob And Jane Are Writing A New Fairytale

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Marcus Orlob has known Jane since the mare was a newly imported 3-year-old. Back then, when he was riding her in quarantine for her owner Alice Tarjan, Orlob never would have guessed he’d be riding her down centerline in CDI Grand Prix classes one day, and he certainly wouldn’t have guessed he’d be in the running for the 2024 Paris Olympics dressage team.

But when the U.S. Dressage Team short list was announced on May 8, he and the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Desperado—Zandra, Metall) made the cut, and they arrived in Germany earlier this week to prepare for a handful of observation events and final team selection.

“I was not expecting this,” Orlob said. “Everybody should have goals, and I said, ‘Why not?’ For sure I will try my best and do everything I can to make it happen. I think it’s really fantastic now that I made it with her. For me, the pressure is off because I achieved my goal, and whatever happens now I would say is a bonus.”

Jane was started by Tarjan, who brought her along through the medium tour and her first national Grand Prix classes. The pair were undefeated in all of their CDI Intermediaire A and B and Intermediaire II classes from late 2022 until she handed the reins to Orlob earlier this year.

With owner Alice Tarjan in the pilot’s seat, Jane won the CDI3* Intermediaire A test at Dressage at Devon (Pa.) in 2022. Lindsay Berreth Photo

The mare had only started competing about two years ago, as Tarjan opted to keep her at home to train. Tarjan, an amateur rider, is known for her expertise with young horses and has piloted many to U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions (Illinois) wins. She starts her young horses and usually rides them for a couple of years before she starts working with Orlob, but Jane needed more time before her show ring debut.

“She was not the easiest horse to bring along,” said Tarjan, 44, Oldwick, New Jersey. “I did maybe two 4-year-old tests with her and then stopped trying to show her. She was spooky and hot and strong. She needed more training.”

While Jane was “super honest,” Tarjan found the mare had trouble retaining what she learned day to day. She would offer every answer to a question but the correct one. Counter-canter as a 5-year-old and then piaffe as she was older were particularly difficult and just took time.

Tarjan admits she often thought of selling the mare, but knew she needed to work through her training issues before she’d be marketable anyway, and with Jane’s nice personality around the barn and under saddle, she ended up keeping her.

“Every day you have a smile on your face riding her,” Tarjan said. “You could never be upset with her because she always tried. Once she figured something out, she would do it 100 percent and never question it and not be worried about it. It just took a long time to teach her anything new. At some point I threw my hands up and was like, I might as well have fun with her. I tried foxhunting her, but that didn’t work so well. She didn’t like that at all!”

By the time Jane turned 8, Tarjan knew it was time to start getting back in the ring. 

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“We just figured at some point we’ve got to go to the horse show and figure it out,” she said. “The good news was she was more trained, but the bad news was it was a lot more test to try to get through.”

Tarjan developed Jane through Grand Prix and showed her in national classes, but this winter she asked Orlob to take over for the CDIs at that level, and along the way they decided to try for Olympic selection. 

“Whenever she went into the show and put the movements together, she got to be too much horse for Alice. [Alice is] a peanut!” Orlob said. “She said, ‘You know what? Why don’t you try it. I know it’s a crazy thing right now, but maybe you can connect with her and go to Europe.’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding, this will never happen!’ And she said, ‘No, just try it.’ So, at this point I thought, ‘Well, I have nothing to lose.’ And here we are. It started working out surprisingly well.”

Orlob and Jane competed in their first CDI in late March at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (Florida), earning a 64.47%. But they’ve gotten stronger since, and after that debut have scored no lower than 69% and as high as 73% during subsequent outings at TerraNova (Florida) and the World Equestrian Center-Ocala (Florida).

Marcus Orlob and Jane made their CDI debut at the end of March during Week 12 of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (Fla.) SusanJStickle.com Photo

“Clearly this partnership is very green because I just started to learn her a little bit better at home,” said Orlob, 42. “Now I understand Alice: At the shows it’s still much more horse than at home, but in a good way. She always has energy and wants to please you, but at some point, it’s a little too much. Now I’m actually looking forward to the first time I can spend just a couple of weeks training because the last couple of weeks were just competing, home, competing, traveling from Ocala to Wellington and to TerraNova. I think if I can get to know her even a little bit better over the next couple of weeks, it will be great.”

Orlob never really rode Jane at home when Alice was her primary rider, other than when she was in quarantine, and now that he’s showing her, he has a new appreciation for the mare’s qualities, including the strength and keenness Tarjan struggled with. 

“[Alice] had problems when she was riding her with medium trot and medium canter on the diagonal, and I said, ‘Oh, just don’t go too crazy, just keep her more on the hind leg and keep her with you,’ ” he recalled. “Now I’m laughing. I say, ‘OK, Alice,’ because Jane sees a diagonal, and she knows what’s coming and wants to take over. It looks much easier on the ground, but when you’re on her, you have your hands full!”

While in Germany, Orlob is staying with his family in Düsseldorf, where he grew up riding with his childhood mentors Johan Zagers and Hubertus Schmidt. He’s working with Zagers, with whom he trained for his German Bereiter test as a young person. 

Jane brought her traveling companion, “Peppa Wutz,” or Peppa Pig, to Germany with her. Photo Courtesy Of Marcus Orlob

Orlob started riding dressage when he was 12 and wanted to be a professional rider but had plans to join the family business with his father, Bernd Orlob, at a funeral home. He helped out on nights and weekends, but Bernd encouraged him to try other things and get some more life experience before committing to the business.

Marcus trained with Schmidt as often as he could on school breaks, and both Schmidt and Zagers encouraged him to become a professional and try to make some connections in the United States. They told him he should become comfortable speaking English so he could give clinics in the U.S. and understand the horse sales market here. In his youth, he wasn’t as interested in that sort of long-term career planning advice and instead was focused on completing his Bereiter exam.

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That all changed when he met U.S. rider Shannon Stevens at the German Riding School in Warendorf where they were both riding and studying.

They became a couple, and when Marcus visited the Stevens in U.S., he decided to stay in 2008. They got married, started a business, and now operate Elite Expression Dressage in Annandale, New Jersey, and Wellington, Florida.

Marcus has ridden several young horses to Festival of Champions and U.S. Dressage Finals (Kentucky) titles for Tarjan, including JJ Glory Day, an 8-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion (Grand Galaxy Win—JJ Dolche Gabbanna, Deemster), who’s now preparing for his Grand Prix debut. He enjoys working with young horses but also aspires to ride at international Grand Prix. Before Jane, he’d only spent a short season in 2019 at CDI Grand Prix with Christine Spillane’s Westphalian Royal Touch.

“I take every opportunity I can,” he said. “You can’t really be that picky. I got those young horses [JJ Glory Day and Tarjan’s 7-year-old Hanoverian stallion Maximus], and they are fantastic horses, and now one is 8 and the other is 7, and they’re both playing with the Grand Prix stuff. I hope next year at least Glory Day will be ready for the Grand Prix. I’m excited to ride young horses, but it’s also exciting to do something like a European tour or international Grand Prix. It’s a different challenge. 

“I always had dreams and goals,” he added. “I would say it’s more of a dream to ride once for the U.S. in the Olympic Games and push myself as far as I can get.”

Marcus switched nationalities to ride for the U.S. in 2014. Today, he and Stevens have a busy business with client horses, sales horses, and some investors who help fund horses, including sponsor Jeanette Pinard.

Marcus can hardly believe he’s on the short list for the Olympics, but he’s realistic that it’s only Jane’s first year at Grand Prix. He hopes the upcoming months in Europe will be an opportunity to grow their partnership should they not be selected.

“It’s a long-term dream [to ride on the team],” he said. “It would be absolutely amazing; I work my whole life for that. It’s a really difficult business because you never know what you have tomorrow with your horse—they can go lame, they can have a colic, they die, the owner sells it, the owner leaves the barn. … It’s quite a journey to get there. It would be huge. Even if nothing happens now, I’m excited for next year to develop the relationship and get to know [Jane].”

And Tarjan, who hopes to take the ride back in the future, plans to enjoy their European tour from the ground. 

“I’ll go over and play groom,” she said, adding with a laugh, “I love playing groom because it’s no stress!”

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