Featured Rider - Jan Byyny
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The first time I went to Kentucky, in 1983, I groomed for Nancy Winter. They also had a one-star at the time and I helped Clark Davis, too, who was coached by Nancy. Nancy’s coach was Bruce Davidson, so I got to watch and be inspired by the best. I also got to know Bruce a bit, and that weekend resolved to be the best event rider I could ever be and to ride at Rolex.
I went to work for Bruce in 1984 and rode at Kentucky at the one-star level in 1985. I fell off and broke my arm but I finished. I came back the next year and did the two-star and had two stops, but again I completed the event. From 1990 to 1995 I groomed there for others and I thought for a while I would only get to be a groom! But in 1996 I did the Advanced horse trials, and after a terrible dressage test I jumped around, so a third time I finished.
Luckily, in 2003 I got to go to the four-star at the ripe old age of 36 on Shared Dreams and finished tenth. I feel that’s when things really started for me, even though I had been eventing for over 20 years. The Rolex Kentucky four-star was the catalyst for my international career, and because of that result, Shared Dreams and I were selected to represent the United States at the Pan-Ams at Fair Hill, where we finished with individual bronze and team gold medals. In 2004 I competed at Kentucky on two horses in the short format, with Shared Dreams ending up 14th and Task Force 6th. Again, that got me listed, this time for the Athens Olympics with Task Force. I didn’t end up going to the Olympics, but was third alternate.
This year brings me back to Kentucky. Hopefully, I will be competing two horses, Syd Kent and Inmidair (JR). Syd ran there in 2009 with 20 on cross-country but has had a couple years off; JR is on the long list for Olympics this year. Since my last Rolex, I have gone through some personal challenges as most of you know, suffering a stroke as an after-effect of a fall two years ago. I broke my wrist and lost all ability to speak and have had to slowly get myself back to the top level of riding. A lot of times over last two years I wasn’t sure if I could return to the level I had competed, but I never lost my desire and drive to try. All my preparation this spring is focused on my goal to be in the top ten at Rolex and hopefully have both horses selected to go compete in the Olympics. I have my work cut out for me but am up to the challenge.
JR is really smart, pretty cocky, and doesn’t think twice about anything I ask him to do. He’s such an over-achiever that one of the hardest things with him is to make sure he doesn’t do too much. Everything is extreme with him—if I ask for a bigger trot, he gives me an over-the-top trot. Because his foot’s been a little sore, I’ve been working on his shoulder-in, half-pass and halt at the walk—everything in moderation, if not always under control! Anyone who knows me will tell you my horses are spoiled, but JR is my true cookie monster. He’s not a horse’s horse; he loves people, and the more people around him the happier he is.
The pinnacle of eventing in this country is Rolex Kentucky. For me, it is such as honor to be a part of this sport, and to compete there and experience the enthusiasm that surrounds the event for the riders and spectators—easily equal to Burghley and Badminton. Just getting ready for Kentucky in the spring one of the most exciting goals you can have as an event rider at the top level. I’ll keep you posted on our progress and look forward to having you all be part of my road to Kentucky!
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