Jaimey Irwin and Jacqueline Brooks, both Canadians, will represent North America at the upcoming Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final , April 25-28 in Gothenburg, Sweden. We checked in with Irwin about his season so far with Lindor’s Finest and about his preparations for his first trip to compete in Europe.
Lindor’s Finest is owned in partnership with my mother-in-law, Ute Busse, and Sally Carlton. Ute was actually his rider for the most part since the horse was 6, and I’d been helping her with him on the ground and coaching her at the shows for the last couple of years. She saw that “Lindor” and I got along very well, so she asked me last year if I would take him over and compete him for her, and of course I said sure. That’s how it came to be.
It was a pretty easy adjustment to go from her riding him to me riding him. I went about doing what I needed to do for the competitions—getting him stronger and fitter. I thought he just needed to be a lot stronger in the Grand Prix, and it’s taken a long time to get him to that point. Now I feel he’s really become quite strong and quite fit to handle the movements with more ease and expression.
Last year was a little bit more effort, but then we took him to Dressage At Devon (Pa.) where he did very, very well, especially in the freestyle. [Lindor’s Finest and Irwin finished seventh in the Grand Prix and fourth in the freestyle.] That was kind of when the thought came into my mind to go to Florida this winter and try and qualify for the [FEI Reem Acra] World Cup Dressage Final.
I set aside six weeks for Florida, as I can only be away from our business at home [in Stouffville, Ontario] for about that long. But in that time I was able to get in three CDI-Ws, so that was our plan. If it worked, great, but if it didn’t work, it would just be building up more experience in the show ring and getting more competition experience.
The CDIs went fairly well. The first one, [the Wellington Dressage CDI-W at the Global Dressage Festival, Jan. 31-Feb. 3], the horse felt super going in. He’d never really felt as good as he did before going into the freestyle. But in the beginning of our freestyle there was a big commotion in the crowd, which sent him sideways, and we unfortunately had mistakes in the next three movements, but he came back to me and we finished very well.
Then I wanted to get him in the ring again, so I was able to put him in another CDI***, [the Spring Challenge CDI, Feb. 8-10], at the Jim Brandon Center, and that one was good. We won that one. Then we returned to a CDI-W, [Feb. 13-15], at the Global facility again, where he was feeling really quite good as well. We had a very hot and humid time to ride, when there was a storm coming through. There was kind of no air, and he didn’t handle that heat very well and didn’t have enough energy in that test.
The last one was the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI-W in Loxahatchee, Fla., [March 1-3], and there he felt really quite good. We improved in all the things I wanted. Then we had to come home around the first of March, but he’s been even better and better every week. The fitness level is really helping the training level, and the idea of him being in more self-carriage is really coming through.
I wanted to try and get to Europe early to get a show in over there, but with trying to find flights I wasn’t able to do so. We left on April 13, out of Toronto, and then we’ll have at least a week to get settled. We’ll be staying in Zale, Germany, at my trainer Holger Münstermann’s farm. Then we’ll head to Sweden on April 22.
I’ll be getting Lindor settled in and into the new schedule, sort of building him up and taking it light at the beginning and then making sure he’s as good as he can be going into the World Cup. He’s never flown before, so this will be a new thing for him. He’s actually Canadian-bred, so it’s cool to have a horse bred here in Canada to be competing at that level. [Lindor is a 16-year-old Canadian Warmblood (Eastern Ruler—Viola)].
I’m excited and anxious. I’ve never had a chance to compete at this level before, and I’ve never competed in Europe, especially at a final like that. It’s going to be a big competition for my first time over, but I want to do that at some point. It’s good to get in there and get your feet wet and learn what it’s all about. To be up against the best in the world will be a cool experience.
I’d like to have a super accurate and mistake-free ride. My goal is for the horse to be really at his top energy level. That’s what I’d really like. I’m really looking forward to going over and doing as good a job as I can do.
Check in with www.chronofhorse.com  from April 26-29 for all the action from not only the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final, but also the Rolex FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final and the Rolex Kentucky CCI****.