10 Questions with Jessica Bortner-Harris Presented by Omega Alpha

Jessica Bortner-Harris and Win the War. Photo by ED/Hoofclix.com Jessica Bortner-Harris and Win the War. Photo by ED/Hoofclix.com

1. How did Bug get his name, Win the War?

I went to Charles Town Racetrack to pick him up with shipping boots, travel helmet, and tail wrap. I was getting him all suited up and this big, fat racetrack trainer guy comes up and he says, “You sure do have a lot of armor for that horse!” I say, “Yeah, well, it’s the most money I’ve spent on a horse, and he’s young, and I don’t want him to get hurt in the trailer.” He sort of huffs and walks off.

Later, it’s dusk, and we are walking him to the trailer down the shedrow outside, and the big dude comes running out behind us and throws his fist in the air and says, “Win the war, Buddy, win the war!” Bug’s Jocky Club name is “Little Jitterbug” and I had every intention of showing him as that, as it was as cute as he was. However, after that, my best friend said, you HAVE to show him as “Win the War.” That’s too awesome.

2. What is your best eventing memory with Bug?

It’s tough to nail down just one memory that I love. I think my best memory is finally getting our CCI3* cross country done. We have had a lot of road blocks and silly little things getting in our way in the past, and we just couldn’t seem to get it done. That was pretty tough for me mentally, because I knew that he had what it took to get it done and get it done well. When we crossed the finish line at Jersey Fresh last spring, I just leaned down and hugged my boy and told him, “I finally rode the way you deserved. We finally did it!”

3. Tell us about your other up-and-coming horse, Bishop.

The second horse in the Win the War Syndicate, Bishop de Selah, is a 7-year-old Zweibrucker gelding. He is pretty fabulous and makes me grin like an idiot just as Bug does. He was born and raised in West Virginia at Selahway Farm owned by Jane Hartleroad. One of my best friends, Autumn Grogan, got him going and did his basic work. The day I met him, I fell in love. He’s a quirky dude, but he and I have always just clicked.

I acquired him from her last May, and he has just blossomed as the months have passed. He has now done two Training level events, and he’s just amazing. Funny enough, his attitude about this sport really reminds me of Bug at that age. Bold but careful. If it’s scary, just jump higher. He is an amazing mover and jumper and just finds it all so much fun. (Jessica is still selling shares for the syndicate. Email her for more info.)

4. You’ve recently moved your business to a new farm in North Carolina. Talk about that change and what it means for you.

My personal farm has been located on my husband’s family’s land in a beautiful but extremely rural area. I love it there, but it has made running the business pretty difficult. I was driving over an hour to teach each of my students, so I was spending five or six hours in the car every day. It meant my days were extremely long, and I was running myself very thin. This new venture with John and Kim Sigmon is going to be amazing. I do have to drive over an hour to get to Sigmon Farm Park in Newton, N.C., but it’s one drive a day, rather than multiple. The farm is beautiful and located in a much more populated area. The horses love it there and the care is unmatched.

Kim and I make an excellent team, and I’m really excited about where things will lead. This new venture has also pushed me to make some major changes. I am no longer breeding, and I am downsizing my herd by a lot. When you own your own farm, sometimes it’s easy to just take on too many. My goal is to get down to just my string and two select young horses from my breeding program that I believe will be lovely eventers. We will then take on 2-3 resale horses at a time. Kim is an avid fox hunter but has done pretty much everything you can think of on a horse. Between the two of us, we should have some pretty fabulous horses to sell.

Jessica riding Bishop in a lesson with Clayton Fredericks. Photo by Mia Hughes.

Jessica riding Bishop in a lesson with Clayton Fredericks. Photo by Mia Hughes.

5. If you could try any other riding discipline, what would be and why?

I think straight show jumping would be a blast on the right horse. People have told me for years that I should take Bug over to the jumper ring and win some money. I think he would love it!

6. If you could ride any other eventing horse, past or present, who would be and why?

That’s a tough one! I think I would choose Cooley Cross Border. I remember the video that Kim took of him from Ireland, and I was enamored then! He is such a very cool horse. I love a horse with some cheek and he definitely has it. Kim has done an impeccable job with him.

7. An injury disrupted your season goal to reach Rolex. What kind of advice would you give to another rider who may have suffered a recent set back?

I have learned with horses, all things can go wrong. My best advice is to be able to write your plans in pencil and not be afraid to use an eraser…a lot. I am a planner, through and through, but I have gotten a lot better over the years to sit down and reassess. I’m hugely bummed about my plans being changed this year, but I already have a new plan, and if that goes awry, I’ll come up with another. This sport definitely teaches you to rise from the ashes over and over and over.

8. Now that you’re back in the saddle, what is your priority going to be moving forward this year?

Going forward this year, my goal is to go to Rebecca Farm for the CCI3* with Bug. I have always wanted to go, and this set back has made the timeline make more sense. At this point he knows his job, so I don’t plan to run him off his feet. I will be super selective about where he goes leading up to it, and he will have a pretty quiet fall. I hope to save him for the big things I want to do and keep him happy and sound for as long as possible. In light of Bug having a lighter year, I am hoping that Bishop gets to have more mileage and maybe shoot for a CCI* late in the fall.

9. Who is your equestrian idol?

This is a tough one. I’m not sure that I can pick just one! I try to take traits from all riders that I really love and aspire to be like that. There is so much to learn from every rider that you watch. I love the way Clayton Fredericks can sit patiently and wait for the distance he wants. I love the way Phillip Dutton can see a distance from 100 miles away every time. I love that Kim Severson is accurate and always on point in the dressage. I love that Bonnie Mosser is a genius at both horse and rider fitness. I love that William Fox-Pitt can keep his super tall body so quiet on every horse that he rides. The list goes on and on. I am also a huge fan of every rider that appreciates their horses and thanks them for the hard work they put in for them every day.

10. What is your favorite Omega Alpha product?

My favorite Omega Alpha product is definitely AntiFlam, though it’s hard to choose just one. My horses work hard and deserve to feel their best. I can see a huge difference in them when they’re on AntiFlam. They have less soreness and recover well after work.

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