Joni Lynn Peters & Travolta. photo: Cheryl Bender

They said the Global Dressage Festival show grounds would draw dressage horses and riders from all over the world to Florida.  And I guess they were right – because now Florida has 11 CDI competitions in just 4 months!

So in an Olympic year, many riders are looking for qualifying scores to make one of the three spots on their “team”.  One of these riders is Canadian Joni Lynn Peters and her horse Travolta.

For many, the trip to Florida is just a few days, but from the Southern Interior of BC, it was a two week trip!  Keep in mind BC – in the Pacific North West is pretty much as far as you can get from Florida across North America!

The Southern Interior of BC was snow covered in November 2011, so with chains on her tires, Joni Lynn took Travolta to a vet clinic 6 hrs from home to get health papers and documents sorted for crossing the border.

Travolta then went to the Lower Mainland of BC while Joni Lynn went back to pack.  He layed over a few days before crossing the border and then onto California.  From Southern California, Travolta caught a flight (one of the few) to Florida.  It seems that getting horses to and from Europe is an easier task!

Travolta on the flight to Florida. photo: Joni Lynn

Joni Lynn went to Florida with Travolta with Olympic aspirations because Florida offered the best dollar for dollar experience and exposure to the most CDIs (11).  Joni Lynn is no stranger to the Canadian Team.  She has a long history of accomplishments starting in Eventing.  She won Individual Silver and Team Gold at the NAYRC in 1984, acknowledged as the “Leading Female Rider of Ontario Horse Trials Association” 6 times between 1984 and 1994.

She rode at the Rolex Three Day Event and won the Fair Hill Advanced Horse Trials, in addition to being long and short listed for the Canadian Eventing Team  many times.  After 10 yrs in Ontario, she returned to BC and in 1995 turned to dressage with her two event horses Snap Decision and The Equalizer.   The Equalizer was a great horse who took to dressage easily and was short listed for Canada’s Eventing Team in 1995, and then long listed for Dressage in 1998 and short listed for dressage in 1999.

When Joni Lynn saw Travolta, it was love at first sight.   He was 3 yrs-old and just one month under saddle.  He had an impressive show career being virtually undefeated as a 5 and 6 yr old.  Joni Lynn describes Travolta as “honest, smart, willing and exceptionally talented, (he) is very sweet and people oriented.”   Then, he was successful at small tour and big tour, and now off to the big CDIs in Florida.

Joni Lynn Peters Travolta competing in Florida. Photo: Cheryl Bender

But it is not all dressage! With her eventing background, she has done cross-training with Travolta including rides through the forest, streams over ditches, encountering all sorts of wildlife including deer, cougars, bears, hikers and bikers.  But he is always happiest inside the safety of the little white fences!

What is amazing, is that over the years, Joni Lynn has worked predominately on her own.  With input from many top clinicians from around the world, Joni Lynn has brought Travolta along to Grand Prix mostly by herself and is now hoping to be in Olympic team contention.

Now in Wellington Florida, she is immersed in dressage from all around the world, soaking it all in by riding in and watching clinics, demonstrations, lectures as well as watching the top riders train.  There is much to see and absorb in Florida and it is action packed and busy.  The climate is wonderful for training, clean, green, open with quality facilities and great footing.

Operating on a shoestring budget while in Florida, she has had support from fundraising, along with Horse Council BC funding and an AAP grant.  Now a D carded athlete, she receives a small monthly stipend.  As long as she can afford to keep competing and Travolta feels fresh and strong, she will continue to live out her dream of London.  She has much support from her husband, John Knol, as well as her parents, Jacquie and Bob Peters, who all give her courage and strength to continue to follow her dream.

We wish Joni Lynn and Travolta all the best in her Olympic quest.