I am extremely excited to have been given the opportunity to blog for Eventing Nation, so I thought my first post should be an introduction of sorts.
I am Jessica, but I am better known online as AlbertaEventer. I am 31 years old, and grew up in a very small town in northern Alberta. I am probably best know for my helmet cam videos:
I definitely didn’t have the conventional upbringing with horses, mostly due to my family’s isolated location and a great lack of organized riding or lesson programs in the area. While other children my age probably attended pony club and took weekly lessons, the majority of my early equine education was learned through trial and error and the school of hard knocks.
No helmets, no saddles, just me on my pony, galloping through the brush and jumping anything I could find. I rode everything I could get my hands on. Big, little, broke, unbroke, I couldn’t get enough. I am sure I gave my mother many gray hairs with all of my crazy antics growing up!
Aside from a very short stint of jumping lessons when I was 12, and a handful of informal lessons while volunteering at a therapeutic riding center after I graduated high school, I didn’t receive any formal riding instruction until I attended Olds College in 2003.
A riding test was part of the selection process, and I was chosen as one of the 10 they invited into the program, so I guess I must have been doing alright for myself all those years yahooing around our farm!
Once I started learning, I couldn’t stop. I graduated college and headed out into the real world. Over the years I have floated in and out of the horse world job-wise, but I always rode and had horses in my life.
Growing up, I had read about eventing in books, and after waiting for so many years, I finally got the chance to try eventing after college. I was instantly hooked. My horse at the time tried hard for me but his heart was just not in it, and once I came to terms with it, I started horse shopping. That’s when Sunny entered my life and turned everything upside down in a tornado of tiny red OTTB mare, Fury.
She wasn’t at all what I had pictured myself ending up with. She was tiny, just 15.1, red, track broke, and had never jumped. And a MARE. During the test ride she ran away with me and tried to buck me off, but I went home and couldn’t stop thinking about her.
Against my better judgement, I brought her home. I had worked with lots of problem horses and trained several from the ground up, but everything I thought I knew about horses and training went right out the window. Sunny was writing her own book on the subject, and I was just along for the ride.
Everything was a fight. Sunny had opinions on absolutely everything and was not afraid to express them! Bucking and bolting were her specialties. Dressage, in her opinion, was a waste of time, although she was very cute when she felt like playing. Stadium was a game to her of how fast she could make it over each fence, rails be damned. Cross country is where she shone. All of a sudden she was like a different horse, relaxed, focused, eating everything up.
I struggled for so many years. It felt like it was always one step forward and two steps back, making no progress, going nowhere. Negativity from those around me started to get to me. We got eliminated for dangerous riding at one event.
There were many days I left the barn in tears and wondered if things were ever going to turn around. For some reason I kept pressing on though. There was something about this horse. I desperately hoped that I wasn’t making a huge mistake, being that person who doesn’t know when to throw in the towel. Then somewhere along the line, things slowly started to click.
Fast forward to today, where things have finally started to pay off for all those years of hell, and Sunny and I have become an unstoppable team. Dressage is still our weak link, and probably will always be, but we work hard anyways and focus on the small victories.
Sunny has turned into an amazing jumping machine. She is all heart and never says no. She skips over preliminary questions with ease and looks for more. Every time I think I that I may be reaching the end of her talent and scope, she kicks it up a notch and tries harder, goes faster and jumps higher. The bigger and more technical the question, the better she jumps, and she makes it all feel so easy. Ever the opinionated redhead though, a day rarely goes by where she doesn’t keep me on my toes!
We are currently competing at preliminary which is the highest level currently offered in Alberta. A friend and I took a three week trip down to California to event this spring and actually seeing what else is out there has opened up a whole world of possibility for Sunny and I. I have a full time job, and I work evenings and weekends at my barn, riding everything I can get my hands on. I want to keep learning, I want to keep getting better. I want this so badly.
My plans for the next year include going back to California and being a working student, doing a one-star, and moving up to Intermediate. I’m not sure how I’m going to swing it all with a house, a boyfriend, dogs, and a full time job, but I am determined to somehow find a way. I don’t know how other riders have done it all by themselves, but I am sure willing to work hard and give it my all. I was never the one to take the easy road anyways.
And for the future, who knows? All I know is that I have an amazing partner that came in the most unexpected package, she has taught me so much and makes me feel like we can conquer absolutely anything when I am on her back.
The sky is the limit for us, and I am very excited to be able to share our adventures with Eventing Nation!