A new face on the grand prix dressage scene last year was not astride an imported warmblood sourced in Europe. Janet Konyer came down centreline on a horse who was born and raised on her Lookout Farm in Belwood, Ontario.
Centaur LF (the LF for Lookout Farm) is the definition of all-Canadian. His dam, Cover Girl, is a Canadian-bred Dutch/Hanoverian cross by the Canadian Warmblood stallion Eastern Ruler, and his sire is the thoroughbred racing stallion Northern Strike, owned by Tim Drake of Silver Duck Racing Stable. Even if his pedigree seems more suited to a speed sport like eventing, this 12-year-old bay gelding is proving himself as a solid dressage partner.
Centaur was backed and trained at Lookout Farm. “He is a big part of the family,” says Janet. “His barn name is ‘Sunny,’ given to him by my daughter, Eve. She says he needs that name, as he is always happy! The kids have even taught this horse to hug. He will now pull anyone in close enough range to his chest and give them a squeeze with his neck.”
Janet rides and trains with Nancy MacLachlan, a veteran of two World Equestrian Games (1998 and 2002) and the 2001 World Cup Final, where she placed 12th with Davis Cup. “It is through her expertise that Centaur has developed to grand prix,” Janet explained. “Nancy helps me from the ground, and I have ridden Centaur up through the levels. He has developed his grand prix skills through training and strength – and this job did not come naturally to him. We competed at our first grand prix this summer at Palgrave, and our first CDI grand prix in Bromont, Quebec, in September, where he was second.”
Like most avid horsepeople, Janet rode as a kid, getting her start at 12 in eventing and progressing to prelim level. “I was training horses very young, so I always kept a training horse through university – that’s how I paid to keep my own event horse. I have a Masters in immunology and was a research associate for several years at Guelph and Waterloo, and also worked in genetics, so I was cloning cells before I left – a little bit different from mucking stalls!”
Once she had her first child she stayed at home and dove full-time into the horses. Now the family numbers three: a son who prefers his horsepower to have wheels in the form of motorcycles and tractors, and two daughters who both ride and compete and have been provincial champions at the junior training level.
Janet calls Lookout Farm a “small, family-run operation,” although some might not agree with the term ‘small.’ “We have been here eighteen years,” says Janet. “My husband and three children help with the farm work, as well as working students. Our main focus now is training and producing young horses and retraining others with problems or for a new discipline. We currently have twenty-five horses, including broodmares and young stock, training and sales horses, as well as a few retirees.
“I train and back young horses for myself and for clients,” she continues. “We produce two to three foals a year, most of which we sell. Currently we are breeding AI to European stallions. We breed for temperament and have an excellent training program that has produced confident, well-rounded horses. All of our young horses jump, hack, and sometimes fox hunt, in addition to the establishment of a solid dressage foundation.”
Centaur is not their only star in the dressage ring. “We have another youngster I bred, Dionysus LF; he’s coming up through the ranks and is at third level. We have high hopes for him.” The farm has also had several international sales, including Riverdance LF who has gone to a Guatemalan eventer.
Looking ahead as the 2019 show season approaches, Janet outlines her game plan. “We’re going to do all the CDIs in Canada this year and see where the marks are. If they’re high enough, we will go to Florida and see how that goes. This horse [Centaur] is continuing to improve in all his grand prix work. It’s going to be a really exciting year.”