When Doug and Jess Payne aren’t busy prepping young horses for sale, they’re competing them in both the event world and the show jumping world. They’re also in the process of building a brand new facility in North Carolina and have clients in training with them regularly.
So when does a busy couple like this have time to step away and enjoy each other’s company? What would they be doing if they weren’t running a successful equine business? We found out in this month’s C4 rider Q&A!
EN: How do you balance your time working together as well as outside of the barn?
Jess: We’re together 24/7, so sometimes it is hard to step away, but we are best friends so it’s kind of easy to work together. (Head groom Michelle Novak) is basically the mediator. Whoever Michelle sides with, the other person usually ends up agreeing and it solves the problem.
Doug: Basically Michelle is our relationship counselor.
Jess: We don’t really have too many days off. We split so much time between events and hunter/jumper shows, but we do try to take two sequential days off per month and do non horse things. We went to the lake with friends last month. It’s good to get off the farm for a little bit when we can.
EN: How did you meet each other?
Jess: My mother! We used to go bowling on Monday nights with some friends, including some eventers, and my mom is awesome and so much fun so she would come with us. I was on a team with my friends, and my mom went off and joined another team. Next thing I knew, she came back and said ‘I met this really great guy, and I’ve invited him to dinner.’
It wasn’t even that she was setting us up, she just comes from a big family and likes having people around. But then Doug and I started talking and he asked me out on a date—
Doug: I don’t think I actually asked you out on a date!
Jess: Well, we ended up going out and talking and now here we are.
EN: If you could be a professional in any other equine sport besides eventing, what would it be?
Jess: Hunters or jumpers. I came from that world, I didn’t start eventing until I was 18, so I am more used to it.
Doug: Probably jumpers.
EN: What event is on your competition bucket list?
Jess: Can I pick one I’ve already been to? Because I’d love to go back to Blenheim. I went with High Society and I’d love to go on another horse. Either that or Aachen.
Doug: Anything with an international championship feel, so probably Aachen.
EN: If you could take a spin on any horse, past or present, who would it be?
Jess: I would honestly go back on High Society. He was such an amazing cross country horse. But I would also pick Reed Kessler’s Cylana.
Doug: I would pick Valegro or Kent Farrington’s horse, Uceko. They’re two totally different rides, but I would love to do that.
EN: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Jess: Always take a deep breath. It’s something I use for everything in life, not just the horses.
Doug: Don’t do anything well that you don’t want to do for the rest of your life.
EN: What is your career highlight to date?
Jess: When we both finished Kentucky in the top 20 in 2012. I think Doug and I finished 18th and 19th, that was a really neat feeling.
Doug: I don’t know that I’d pick a certain event — for me, (Crown Talisman) is what I am most proud of. He had a lot of issues at first and ended up having some pretty competitive results, and I’m really proud of that.
EN: You both spend a lot of time in both the event world as well as the hunter/jumper world. What are some of the biggest differences you see?
Jess: I actually love that there are no ride times. If you go in with an open mind knowing the ring may be running late, it actually can be quite relaxing. Not to mention, there are times when Doug and I are showing in different rings, and I can put myself last in my ring so I can go and help Doug. We like to help each other.
I can coach all of my clients, and not have to rush back to get a horse ready or anything like that. I love the flexibility, and it’s nice to just be able to hang out and relax.
Doug: It’s a very different mindset. For those who grew up eventing, it seems foreign at first but it begins to make sense as you get more into it. One thing that I appreciate is that in terms of versatility and developing your horse, there is a lot of opportunity.
If I take a horse in the 1.10m class and it doesn’t do as well as I’d like, then I can go right back in at a lower height and work on some other things. It’s nice to have that option.
EN: What are your favorite things about C4 Belts?
Jess: I think I have about five of them, and I bring at least three everywhere I go. I love that I can match them to all of my outfits!
Doug: They are definitely the most versatile and comfortable belts I’ve used.
If Doug and Jess have you hankering for a new belt now, you’re in luck! This month, we’ve partnered with C4 to offer 10% off and FREE shipping on your purchase. Just use the code PayneC4 at checkout to receive your EN exclusive discount. Click the banner below to go shopping!