A local equestrian is heading to the United States to train with an Olympian to prepare her horses to perform at the Grand Prix level.
At the beginning of the year, Jane Lloyd-Smith travelled to California with her two home-bred horses, Pavel and Sergei, where she is spending the next three months training to compete at the Grand Prix with Leslie Reid, an accomplished rider, certified dressage coach and Olympian.
“It was pretty exciting, they’re home-bred horses, I bred them myself and did all the training and we come from a small town in northern British Columbia, which is quite neat,” said Lloyd-Smith.
The Smithers resident has raised and trained her two Swedish warmblood horses since they were born in 2004 and 2005.
“They’re like my kids,” she said, adding that she usually rides them six days a week.
“When you’re riding, you’re doing a silent conversation with them all the time.”
So far, nine-year-old Sergei (named after Russian hockey player Sergei Fedorov) and 10-year-old Pavel (named after hockey legend Pavel Bure) have mastered the basics in walk, trot and canter, along with roughly 17 other movements in the dressage test.
The trio perform at the international level (one level beneath the Grand Prix) roughly two to three times a year against riders from B.C. and Alberta and earned reserved champion and champion status at the various levels they competed in this year.
Lloyd-Smith has been a horse lover since she could say the word.
“It’s a very serious addiction. I’ve wanted to be around them always. They’re in your blood. I like adding valuing to anything I do. I like improving the quality and ability of horses,” she said.
“It gives you an incredible feeling of accomplishment when you’re able to do these amazing things.”
She runs an equestrian facility in town with eight other horses as well.
Lloyd-Smith has dedicated her life to raising and training horses like they’re her own and now she’s trying to raise the bar.
In order to perform at the Grand Prix level, Pavel and Sergei must learn three more movements.
“These moves are similar. You have to be able to do piaffe which is trotting on the spot; passage, a very elevated trot, and blind changes. When a horse is cantering, their foot sequence has to be correct for them to maintain their balance,” said Lloyd-Smith. “It’s quite a difficult movement for any horse to do . . . it will make a horse look like it’s skipping.”
Enter Leslie Reid.
Lloyd-Smith met the Langley coach at a competition recently, where her horses posted scores that qualified them to declare for the Pan Am Games.
“It was down at that show where I met Leslie and she invited me to come down and work with her in California,” said Lloyd-Smith.
The art of dressage is to develop expression, something Lloyd-Smith hopes to improve during her visit down south.
“Our focus in dressage is to develop expression and get the horses to look like they’re dancing — they step sideways and they have a lot of suspension in their trot and jump in their canter,” she said. “We’re ultimately trying to get them to take weight off their front and carry more from behind. . . and be very very expressive.”
Though Lloyd-Smith has trained several other horses to the international level, these will be the first she trains at the Grand Prix level.
“I’m not doing this to try and go to the Olympics. I want to be able to do the whole spectrum of training on my horses,” she said. “If I could go to the Grand Prix and get over 65 I’ll be thrilled.”