Small Tour Results Hold Big Promise for Tina Irwin and Laurencio Heading Toward 2019 Pan American Games

2011 Guadalajara Pan American Games (PAG) team silver medalist, Tina Irwin of Stouffville, ON, is aiming for the 2019 Lima PAG with a new mount, Laurencio.
Photo Credit: Sara Hellner

No stranger to the Pan Am Games, at the 2011 edition in Guadalajara, MEX, Tina piloted a 1996 Dutch Warmblood gelding named Winston (Whinny Jackson x Onyx), then owned by Mary Ellen Horgan, to a top-10 finish, helping the Canadian Dressage Team capture the silver medal.

It’s been eight years since Tina’s Pan Am podium appearance, and also eight years since she found Laurencio (Laurentio x Donnerhall) as a four-year-old dressage prospect at a jumping facility in Germany. Now 12 years old, the gentle bay Oldenburg gelding that she co-owns with her husband and fellow Grand Prix athlete, Jaimey Irwin, seemed to match his predecessor, Winston, in major games potential, and his kind, people-loving personality struck Tina from the start.

Back in Canada, Tina expertly brought Laurencio up the levels, as demonstrated by an impressive performance record since the duo’s international debut in 2016. Tina and Laurencio set a high bar from the start, amassing nine consecutive wins in the small tour, including a personal best score in the Cedar Valley CDI 1* Intermediate I Freestyle with an incredible 79.208% just four months into their FEI career. Next, they were awarded the world’s highest small tour score on record for 2017 when they posted a remarkable 78.708% in the CDI 1* Intermediate I Freestyle during the seventh week of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) in Wellington, FL. After years of hard work, the pair is now positioned to qualify for the 2019 Pan Am Games.

“Due to our outstanding results at the small tour level, I made the decision to declare Laurencio for the 2019 Pan American Games,” said Tina. “It feels extremely rewarding to be aiming for the Pan Ams with a horse that I have had and trained since he was four. I have a very strong partnership with him and we can anticipate each other, which makes our bond and performance stronger.”

In 2018, the talented combination made a successful jump up to big tour competition. However, Tina brought Laurencio back down to the small tour for 2019. Explaining the strategy behind her decision, she said, “Canada needs to medal at the Pan Ams to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, and we need a strong, solid team to do that. Laurencio and I were one of the strongest pairs in the small tour, achieving a world record, so I made the choice to bring him to the small tour level, where we have the ability to achieve high scores.”

Small Tour Results Hold Big Promise for Tina Irwin and Laurencio Heading Toward 2019 Pan American Games

A true team player, Tina dropped Laurencio back down to the small tour in 2019 to optimize their chances of selection for the 2019 Pan Am Games, and ultimately help the Canadian Dressage Team qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Photo Credit: Susan J. Stickle

The strategy paid off in spades, as Tina and Laurencio earned top-three finishes in five of their six tests together at the 2019 AGDF. The pair’s consistency in producing winning results is due in part to a training plan that Tina carefully follows to keep both Laurencio’s body and mind in peak condition.

“Our training schedule has some variety to it,” explained Tina. “Since Laurencio is very well-versed with the small tour movements, I focus most of my time on suppleness, fitness, and strength building. I ride him two days consecutively and then lunge him one day. When we are in Florida, he goes to the aqua treadmill once per week and has one day off. He enjoys hacking, so when weather permits I try to be outdoors as much as possible to keep him fresh and interested in his work.”

Tina continued, “As the season goes on, I feel that we are getting better and better. Laurencio has many strengths and is very well rounded. He has received 10s for his halts, extended walk and extended trot.”

Unfortunately, Tina and Laurencio’s upward trajectory recently suffered a setback during an unlucky trailer accident, where Tina was kicked in the hand and hip by a horse’s hind legs.

“The rest of my competition schedule is dependent on my recovery,” said Tina. “I received very good news that nothing is broken, and the cast from my hand has come off. I am feeling more mobile each day and am positive that I will be back in the saddle very soon!”

To keep the momentum going during Tina’s recovery, Jaimey has picked up the reins on Laurencio. At AGDF 7, the new partnership nabbed wins in the CDI 3* Prix St. Georges (71.324%) and Intermediate I (73.706%). With Jaimey’s assistance, Tina’s dreams of returning to the podium at the 2019 Pan Am Games with Laurencio remain alive and well. 

Small Tour Results Hold Big Promise for Tina Irwin and Laurencio Heading Toward 2019 Pan American Games

Photo Credit: Susan J. Stickle