An Interview with Jill Gaffney By Kathryn Lily Spokes Model Gianna Milo & Edited by Elise Rizzi.
Jill Gaffney and Carlton Cafe, AIG Million Dollar Grand Prix at HITS Coachella 2017, Photo Credit: Jana Kay Carter.
I wanted to interview Jill because I watched the $40,000 Equine Insurance Grand Prix at Sonoma Horse Park and Carlton Cafe is the closest thing that I have ever seen to a real life unicorn - she can really fly! Jill rode her beautifully and they seemed to be a very trusting team. ~ Gianna
Special thanks to Jill for allowing us to interview her for the blog.
Gianna- Tell me about the day that you found Carlton Cafe, did you know right away that he was the one?
Jill- My husband, Trevor Gaffney, found "Misty" in Ireland and recognized her bloodlines. She is by Carlton Clover, an Irish Sport Horse stallion from Sligo, Ireland. The Irish horses are known for their good minds and big hearts. Trevor purchased her and believed in her ability to jump the Grand Prix level from the beginning. It took me a little longer to believe in her ability, because Misty and I didn't always see eye to eye in training at the start. But once I learned to trust her, everything changed and the two of us finally clicked together.
Gianna- What is your most memorable win on Carlton Cafe, and why was it so special?
Jill- My most memorable win with Misty was actually not a win at all, but when we jumped the World Cup pre-Qualifier at Las Vegas National Horse Show in 2016 for a clear round over the fences and just one time fault. It was the biggest course of our career in an indoor arena and she was amazing. I realized I can trust her to jump anything we face together. But if I had to pick a win, it would be the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix at SHP in 2016 because my mother and grandmother were there to watch it.
Gianna- How do you and Carlton Cafe work both as individual athletes, as well as a team to prepare for Grand Prix classes?
Jill- As an individual athlete, Misty is on a very specific regimen of physical exercise, fitness and stamina work, diet, as well as body work and care. It is a program that involves myself, our grooms, her trainer Trevor, and our veterinarians. My regimen as an individual athlete involves physical exercise (I ride 8-10 other horses a day) as well as body work like chiropractic and massage. Together, we do not jump a lot in between Grand Prix classes, but instead work on flatwork, gymnastics, poles, and cavaletti to keep up our fitness as a team.
Gianna- Do you have a specific regime to prepare yourself the day of the Grand Prix? Any lucky items or apparel?
Jill- I am a little superstitious about Grand Prix day! I have a "lucky" coat and belt that I wear every Saturday. The coat was a gift from my friend Lauren Morlock, of Sarm Hippique riding apparel, that is dark blue with a light blue collar, like the colors of our farm, Freestyling Farms. I also wear a needlepoint belt I made about 15 years ago that is black with a colorful dragon all the way around it. On Grand Prix day, I am usually very busy with other clients and horses but I try to give myself a little quiet time before the class. If I can take a quick nap, that's my favorite! When I walk the course, I like to walk by myself and I tend to walk the course twice - once to get an initial feel for the course, and a second time to finalize in my mind what the strides are and where the turns are going to be. In the warm up ring I don't talk much, except to say good luck to or ask a question of other riders.
Gianna- You seemed very relaxed when I watched you ride, do you get nervous? Can you share some tricks with how to handle nerves?
Jill- A lot of people tell me I look so relaxed when I ride, but to be honest I'm always nervous! I am a perfectionist and I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. But I have some things that work for me if the nerves start to get to me. I always tell myself to trust Misty no matter what. She has always been there for me, even at my worst, and I can trust her absolutely. When a rider can trust their horse completely and a horse can trust their rider, that is the greatest gift of this sport. I also tell myself that my most important job every time I step into the ring, even more important than winning, is to give my horse the most confident, encouraging ride that I can so she will always want to try her hardest for me, especially on days where I am not at my best. When I tell myself these two things and really believe them, I ride my best rounds.
Gianna- Tell me something that most people don't know about Carlton Cafe.
Jill- She is very grumpy about getting her blankets on or adjusted. She makes a really mean face and pins her ears. She also falls asleep when getting body clipped.