Janine Little, an Okanagan equestrian athlete specializing in the sport of dressage, has earned increasingly competitive provincial, national, and international honours – and capped off the 2017 season with multiple victories at North America’s top competitions.
Little’s victories include Grand Championships in each division in which she competed at Bromont Olympic Equestrian Park in Bromont, Quebec, this September. These wins were preceded by numerous victories on a number of horses in Ontario and Florida. She then went on to victory at Dressage at Devon, in Pennsylvania, against some of the top names in North American equestrian sport.
“These wins are exciting,” says Little, who was raised in Vernon. “I’ve been bringing along a number of young horses from the basics upwards. It’s thrilling to see them demonstrating so much potential towards the highest levels.”
Little, who was listed to the Canadian Equestrian team in 2010 and 2011, is no stranger to winning – as well as the hard work it takes to get there.
Raised in a “non-horsey” family, Little began riding in Pony Club. Like many teens, she earned her riding lessons by mucking stalls and performing barn chores. By age 16 she knew dressage was her passion. Partnered with an unconventional mount she trained herself – and driven by willpower and diligence – she was named Canadian National Junior Champion in 2000. That year she launched her own training and coaching business, Little Dressage. She went on to coach several Okanagan riders to major victories, including gold medals at the North American Junior/Young Riders Championships. Little was a declared rider for both the 2012 Olympics and the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games, and is named to Dressage Canada’s Rider Development Squad for the 2017 season.
“Coming from a background where I had to work my way up the ranks, I’ve always had to train my mounts from the ground up,” Little explains. Although some people mistakenly think of horse sport as the domain of the wealthy, this is far from the case for Little – who is an inspiration to riders from all backgrounds.
“You have to be patient and you have to make the most of every opportunity. It’s a lot of hard work, long hours, and acceptance that it’s never going to be easy. But if you want to reach your goals you have to do everything it takes.”
Whether instilling confidence in a young horse or tailoring the horses in her care across the continent to competitions, Little has always been completely hands on. “Bringing the horses along from the beginning enables me to really know each horse. It leads to a partnership like no other.”
And success is not just about the partnership between the horse and rider.
“To develop a top horse takes a village,” Little acknowledges. She praises the team that enables the horses to succeed, from the veterinarians to the saddle fitters to the owners who entrust her with their horses. Several of the horses with whom Little has achieved top results are those of Kelowna-based supporters.
Kelowna’s Shawneen Jacobs’ Friesian mare, Ebony, won the Fourth Level Championship at Bromont, ridden by Little. The pair went on to victory at Devon – an unusual and remarkable feat for Ebony’s breed. Their success earned Ebony a substantial fan following along with the nickname of “the little mare that can”. “This mare continues to exceed our expectations,” Little says. “It’s great to see diversity in the international ring.”
Up-and-coming talent Demitra also won her division’s championship at Bromont and achieved success at Devon with Little.
“We’re extremely excited about Demitra’s potential for the upper levels,” Little enthuses. “She’s got what it takes to be a top international horse.”
“It’s incredible to see how far Janine has brought Demitra,” the mare’s owner, Kelowna’s Joanna Cockerline, agrees. “Janine puts 200 per cent into everything she does. Her dedication is second to none – and is making for incredible results.”
Ever since she was a child, Janine Little has always had the goal of representing Canada at the highest international levels of the sport – and with results such as these, she is becoming ever closer. “I’m tremendously excited to see what 2018 – and beyond – brings.”
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