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Jhett Jenkins

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Success in Its Different Forms

Jhett and Finnleigh at Training level at The Event at Skyline.

Today is October 25, 2019. The last public update I made came in July 2017, after Street’s debut event. The season that followed was filled with the highs and lows that come in the sport. Street and I completed two more Beginner Novices, one with a great finish and one with our first elimination. The last event we competed at that season was our first Novice, where we got a completion finishing on a score of 102.7, and that was decidedly the best weekend I had yet to experience. I think every event rider has felt that kind of success, one where the score board shows something quite dreadful, but the smiles could not be better. We left the season feeling confident and excited about his future.

The winter that followed was as normal as any we had experienced, that was until April of 2018. Following a week of training over our spring break, Street had a significant attitude change. The only way I can really describe it is nearly unrideable. Every other stride or step was a buck or kick out and overall unhappy. We cracked it up to soreness after a hard weeks worth of work and decided to reevaluate after a day or two off. As you might expect, there were no improvements.

After weeks and vet visits and tears and discouragement, we started street on Omeprozole/Rantinide to treat Ulcers. A week after his treatment began, we went to Ogden, Utah for our first cross country school. It was, as you may expect, rough. And for the first time in our relationship, I was scared of him. He was unhappy doing his job, bucking harder than I had ever felt and had ultimately scared me into submission. We got through the weekend, we schooled the majority of the novice course and we decided I was going to have to out my big girl pants on and face the coming weekend for our first show of the season.

The following weekend we traveled to Mt. Pleasant, Utah for the Spring Event at Skyline. Our flat school on Thursday night was obedient, with only minimal protests. Friday morning Street did what he does best and laid down a beautiful dressage test. He felt relaxed and happy in the ring and just like my boy.

I was nervous for cross country the next day, but I thought our dressage ride would help us out. Saturday we left the box and, to be blunt, it was a train wreck. We ran sideways at the first two fences and parted ways before we even made it to third. That day remains in my head as one of the darkest in my life. My confidence was shot, my heart broken, and my relationship with my best friend was in shambles. A few conversations with my trainer and trusted friends, and possibly a million tears, later it was decided that Street was going to have some time off. The amount of time not certain but it needed to be a considerable amount. So it was decided that we would spend our summer apart.

This decision terrified me. I was not ready to have a summer off and I was devastated at the idea of not riding my beloved street for months. Thankfully, I am blessed with gracious, amazing people in my life such as Allison Merritt who shared her sweet Harley aka Perdenales Cat with me for the summer of 2018. Harley gave me an immense amount of confidence I had never experienced in my riding and even lead me to my first win at a horse trials.

I am forever grateful for what he did for my riding, and so lucky that I got to share 5 months of loving him. October showed up and there was a massive change in Street. The ulcer medication and our work with our friend and mentor Bill Turner through the summer had given me a completely different horse in the fall. He was up nearly 200 pounds, he was relaxed, he was happy. His feet looked good, he felt good, and it was time for us to get back to work. We had been hacking here and there through the summer, but nothing serious. Street came back into work better than ever. He has always been lovely on the flat and now he was even better.

We spent the next seven months becoming the closest thing to dressage queens as we could. As I do believe that I was made to be an event rider, I have absolutely loved getting to dance with my boy lately. He has taught me so much and made me so much better on the flat. And it is quite fun as well.

Jhett and Street after a schooling dressage show.

December 9, 2018 was the first time I jumped Street again and GUESS WHAT? It freaking rocked. I think I smiled the biggest I ever had that day. We did a few more jump lessons through the winter and enjoyed each other, but we mainly focused on the flat work. The spring showed up and the event season was picking back up again for me, this time with Finnleigh, a 10 year old Connemara cross who I started riding in September of 2018 as a sales pony.

My adoration for Finn grew as our time together did and in May of 2019 he became mine with the help of Betsey Gieck and Barb Trompeter. As my confidence and love grew for Finn so did my appreciation for Street. Before I rode Street, and Harley consequently. I would have been overly intimidated by Finn. But because of how much I have been taught by them Finn and I were able to form a beautiful relationship and had a dream worthy summer of 8 top five finishes and both of our first (FINALLY!) training level event. Though I was overly thrilled and so grateful to finally cross training level off my bucket list, it was a tad bitter sweet.

Though there is no other horse I would want to be sitting on at an event than Finnleigh, I have always believed that street would be the horse to take me around my first training level. But, that is not that path that was in store for us. It is hard to be flexible with your goals and what feels like a victory, but being able to roll with the punches is what makes this sport so rewarding.

In the past month Street and I have had a handful of oh so rewarding jump schools that seriously make me giddy with excitement. I do not know what our future holds. I have no idea what our next chapter will be or what sport he wants to do. I do not know if we will ever get on another cross country but what I do know is that I am thankful for everyday I get to throw my leg over him, and every horse for that matter. These small victories with him feel as powerful as the big ones I was able to experience with my sweet Finn this summer and that is what makes this sport so amazing!

In conclusion, I am grateful for all the struggles that have been thrown in our path. They make us a little tougher and more appreciative for when it all comes together. I have been hesitant in sharing our journey since it has seemed so rocky recently, but I think it is important in order to show how small victories can fill your heart.

Success comes in all shaped and sizes in this world and especially in this sport, so it is important to cheer your friends, or strangers, on daily. I cannot thank my team of supporters behind me enough for the encouragement and believe in me and everyone who has trusted me with their sweet horses in the past two years THANK YOU! You have given me more knowledge and confidence than you know. And to everyone who reads this and the ones that came before it, kick on and be brave! There is a reason for every bump in the road. Go Eventing!

A Trilogy Comes Full Circle at Golden Spike H.T.

Photo courtesy of Jhett Jenkins.

Eventers near and far, I have news. The struggle will forever be worth it, as the victories to follow will for sure out weight the failures. I have written you twice before about the struggles of my horse Street and I, and I am going to end our story on a happy note. This past weekend has been possibly the greatest time of my life.

This weekend myself and my team traveled to Golden Spike Horse Trials in Ogden, Utah. Golden Spike has always felt like home to me because we have ridden there for as long as I can remember. Though the facility held a few demons for me, if you read our last story you would know that our previous outing did not go as planned, I was feeling hopeful about the weekend. The new cross country design was being debuted in honor of the 30 year anniversary of the event and everyone had good feelings about the tracks.

The Friday before the event my mother and I got on site early enough to do a schooling show jump round. Street got a little over faced in the warm up area, we both forgot how hectic Beginner Novice warm-up can be, but was a total pro once in the ring and jumped everything confidently and happily. That night I had the usual pre-competition nerves, but had a good feeling about how the weekend would go.

Saturday I had a painfully late dressage ride time, 1:52 p.m. to be exact, so I had to myself busy in the morning so I could give him a relaxed ride. I took pictures and watched my fellow eventers throw down some beautiful dressage tests — go Area IX, am I right? — I walked my stadium course for later in the day three times, and helped my mom braid Street. Finally once that glorious hour arrived, I was able to start warming up.

Street was distracted and nervous in the beginning of the warm up, but by the end was reaching over and being really fantastic. The change of scenery into the ring was a source of stress, but he settled in nicely for half of our test, the other half showing his greenness, but was a real trooper and tried very hard for me every step of the way. He ultimately scored a new personal best with a 35 and our test included a lot of encouraging comments from our judge about his future.

Photo courtesy of Jhett Jenkins.

At 4 p.m. we got to show jump, and he continued his streak from the day before in being foot perfect the entire time and adding no penalties to his score for the first day. Monkey received many carrots for his efforts that day and was sent to bed with dreams of double clears. When cross country day finally arrived, I had another painfully late ride time so I knew I had to bide my time.

My body apparently had no regard for this as I was wide awake at 5:30 that morning. I spent the quiet hours before the madness began sitting at Streets stall and walking him. And I was blown away by all the changes that he was showing me. Besides his obvious physical changes since I have had him, his entire personality has changed. He has become friendly and playful and now nickers at every human that walks by his stall in hopes of getting a carrot. He genuinely is just happy now. And I realized that that was the most important thing to me.

Sure, the weekend had been icing on the cake with him, but for him to just actually love his job and his life has been my ultimate goal. A happy horse means a happy girl. The rest of my day included two course walks, cheering on riders, and so many hugs and happy tears as I watched my friends have successful rides.

My wonderful trainer and I had made a game plan for the course, and I knew that if I rode it right Street would perform. He warmed up wonderfully and, with some encouraging words, we marched down to the startbox ready to fight. The next four minutes were so incredible that I can’t put words to it. It was as if a new horse burst out of the shell of my old one and knew his job, and did it all so well. I can tell you that I crossed those finish flags in tears, happy tears.

I can say that eventers  and especially my area are so supportive it is unbelievable. I send a thousand thank you’s to all that cheered us on this weekend and have believed in this grey horse because we both need it most days. Street ended the weekend on his dressage score and got to take home a pretty red ribbon.

Photo courtesy of Jhett Jenkins.

So, the point of all of this is that no horse is a lost cause. No rider is a lost cause. No dream is too big and no defeat can hold you down. This sport is tough, but eventers are tougher.

I want to say thank you, to my trainer Heather for putting up with all of our ideas, to my team, MB, Molly, Julie, Ella for not (openly) doubting all my decisions, to my encouragers from other states, I’m looking at you Grace, to the friends that don’t understand the sport but let me vent to them anyways, to anyone who has read these articles and thought of us,  and especially to my mom for making all of this happen.

This seemingly small victory to most is the most important thing to me, and this is why it’s the perfect happy ending to our Eventing Nation trilogy. I am positive I could write a thousand more of these, but I don’t need to. I want to leave everyone with some inspiration I received from Lainey Ashker’s Instagram, the comeback is always bigger than the setback.

Never stop fighting friends, because the rewards are bigger than we can imagine. Happy trails fellow eventers, kick on!

Keep Fighting the Fight

Jhett Jenkins is a 16-year-old Area IX eventer who rides with the Flying W Stables out of Wilson, Wyoming. We met Jhett and her horse Street last year. Street had a rough past and was an unwanted horse until Jhett came along and gave him the time, patience and love he deserved.

Jhett and Street at a Tom Ordway clinic. Photo courtesy of Jhett Jenkins.

Jhett and Street at a Tom Ordway clinic. Photo courtesy of Jhett Jenkins.

Well my fellow EN friends, I come to you with a lessened hope in my heart, for this sport has gotten the best of me once again. August 20th both of my boys made their debut and in great style. Street ended on his dressage score and my other greenie added only one baby stop on cross county to his score which could have been avoided if his pilot was a little more direct. Street came third and Mowgli was fourth. So, I went into the next weekend with some confidence and high hopes of a stellar weekend. Boy was I wrong.

Street put in a decent test early Saturday morning with only a small amount of tension in his walk, and that can be resolved with time. His stadium was calm and happy with a piloting error that resulted in one rail. Again, could have been avoided. That afternoon we left the startbox, had a stop at the first then went over it quite well. The second jump he was nervous but was a good boy and gave it his best. Unfortunately an awkward jump and a miscommunication on the back side resulted in my falling off. Another rider error.

Now I don’t remember much after that due to the fact that I was not allowed to ride for a week due to a concussion. But, I have been filled in on how I was feeling, and it’s most easily summed up by my concussed, confused, defeated self in one sentence: “This wasn’t how it was supposed to go”.

A few weeks later when I was cleared to ride, Street and I started to prepare for one more go round at an event before winter hit at the fall Skyline horse trials. The first ride back was an early morning one before school, and every time we cantered Street would buck and buck which is very uncommon for him. I assumed it had something to do with the cool morning and the time off. I tried to not think too much of it, but something felt off.

Getting ready for cross country at Pumpkin Event. Photo courtesy of Jhett Jenkins.

Getting ready for cross country at Pumpkin Event. Photo courtesy of Jhett Jenkins.

The next day I rode him and he started to buck in the trot. This is not Street like. Long story short, several chiropractors, vet visits, and tears later, we decided that Street had strained some muscles and would need a month off with no work. Which meant no Skyline. Though I was happy nothing too serious was wrong with him, I was incredibly disappointed to have to sit through winter with our last outing ending so poorly. I wanted to give him confidence. I needed confidence that in the spring we would be okay to try to go out and do what we have been working towards the past year-and-a-half.

It is now February. The winter is long and seemingly endless. Street and I have been in work at our local indoor just doing flatwork and rebuilding his muscles. I have jumped once since August in a Tom Ordway clinic which was incredible. Street is still learning how to use his body and really just building and strengthening muscles again. It’s a give and take. Some days are good, some not so. I hate that we were not able to get back out and fix what happened in August, but the season is coming and sooner than we know it will be time to learn and grow.

The fall was full of lows and an occasional high, so for now we will keep trying. This sport is rough and this horse is a challenging one, and will always be. But maybe that’s why I love him so much.

My eventing friends, we can keep our heads high. This sport tries to knock us down, but we always get back up. So take the winter to work and get ready for the season. Wherever you may be, stuck in snow or enjoying the sun in Ocala, there are horse people all around us who want to see us succeed. Keep fighting the fight. We truly are a community. Happy trails my friends, see you all in the spring!

Polishing My Diamond in the Rough

Jhett Jenkins and Monkey.  Photo by Carla Sullivan. Jhett Jenkins and Monkey. Photo by Carla Sullivan.

As I’m writing this it is Augusts of 2016. I have failed to compete in an event since June of last year where I made, or should I say attempted, my Training Level debut. Let’s put it lightly: I crashed and burned (literally right through an oxer). Thus bringing my eventing season to a screeching halt when I had to retire my sweet mare, and it hasn’t picked back up. Now it’s not that the right horse hasn’t come along, I have found two lovely greenies that keep me busy. It’s the battle of getting back into it.

A few months after the retirement of my super mare a 17-hand beast of a horse came walking, or should I say creeping, into my life. My sweet boy Street, affectionately called “Monkey,” had a rough past before I got him. Being trained on the track he was then sent to be a cutter/chariot racer. He had an accident in the start gates and was deemed dangerous and no one wanted him. Except for me. I was looking for a challenge, and let me tell you, I got one. The first month of his training was simply me trying to get him to trust me. I would spend afternoons just sitting in his pasture as he stood on the other side just staring at me. He was tall and scrawny and his head was two sizes too big for the rest of his body. I had people tell me he was the ugliest horse they had ever seen. But I didn’t care. I was not about to give up on this horse.

After the first time I sat on him I knew exactly why I loved him. The horse had a big, flowing stride. He also had enough anxiety about being asked to work that he just wanted to run. But that is all he had done in his five years of life. This began the epic love affair that has been going on for the past 11 months. We have had a series of ups and down that has included porcupine quills, cracked feet, getting severely jumped out of the tack (every time), killer dressage warm-ups, nervous dressage tests, many tears, and even more smiles.

Jhett Jenkins and Monkey. Photo by Ella Detwyler.

Jhett Jenkins and Monkey. Photo by Ella Detwyler.

Now I am no stranger to victory in the horse world. I had a wonderful mare who took me around several novice courses to top placings (and then sent me crashing through the above mentioned oxer last summer). But this year I have become very familiar with the small victories too. Like the Beginner Novice dressage test that scored a 49 at our first combined test, which I had to scratch from the jumping phase because Street got too nervous. Or the evening walks where he is relaxed and really seems to enjoy his life.

There are less than 10 days until Street and I make our eventing debut at a one day that is being held at our barn, Flying W Stables in Wilson, Wyoming. With this date approaching it has caused me to really think about how far we have come. There have been days I have hopelessly cried after rides, and then there have been days where I have seen FEI debuts in our future. There were dressage rides where I couldn’t get him to trot, and jump schools where it took me three minutes to stop him. I have had a handful of people tell me to give up on this horse in the short amount of time I have had him, but I will not. Street is most easily described as my ‘heart horse.’ Something about him just makes me feel whole. He has got me through some rough patches. He is no one’s definition of a ‘dream horse,’ but he is mine. He has had many people give up on him, but I will not be one of them.

So, my horsey friends, my advice to you is this. We can’t all be stars. Not all of us can be NAJYRC champions. Not all of us are in Rio right now making our game plan for cross country. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t all diamonds in the rough. Don’t ever give up on your dreams and surround yourself with the people, or horses, that will support you and help you get there. The classic saying all us eventers hear of ‘it takes a village’ is 100% accurate. Some days you need a few encouraging words to keep going because this sport is hard, but it is so worth it. With the idea of competition right at my fingertips after all these months I cannot contain my encouragement to just keep working. It might take two weeks, it might two months, it might take a year but it will be worth it. So, in closing, I will share some advice from the legendary Wanda Webb, “just sit up and kick!”

Jhett Jenkins is a 15-year-old Area IX eventer who rides with the Flying W Stables out of Wilson, Wyoming.