Thermal, California. The Mecca of hunter/jumper competition in the west.
While this highly contested carnival carries on for weeks, Winsome Farms is joining in the 2nd half.
And for one new hunter/equitation competitor, who already dared to fly on Friday the 13th, a whole new world has opened.
Jessica Brendlinger is a junior in high school and while no stranger to western equine competition, is new to the whole hunter/jumper world. New, but clearly a natural.
Micca Henry, trainer at Winsome Farms: “She never was a school barn candidate, she was already too good. I had her jumping courses her first lesson.”
Yes. Let’s take a moment to review that sentence… “jumping courses her first lesson.”
Right. And how was that, Jessica?
“It was so much more than I expected. It all clicked and it was so much fun. I just knew this was it. This was my place. This was my home.”
But even when you’re born to do this, there’s still one key element needed.
A horse. With talent. Willingness. And just enough of a challenge to teach you how to learn. Namely one Benevento, barn name Aiden. He and Jess first connected last summer. While he and his owner Deb Ettinger had started out the spring in fine style, winning the tri-color for Pre-Adult Hunters in Colorado Springs, an accident intervened.
“Deb couldn’t ride so she offered him up to me. We started the last week of Summer in the Rockies doing the smaller hunter classes. Learning new patterns was challenging–and fun.”
“I’m only competitive with horses. I live to show; I love it so much. It gives me a purpose.”
But one that could so easily have been curtailed…
We like to think there’s something a little special about Winsome Farms. A supportiveness that goes far beyond the norm. Like when a rider finally gets back to ride her beloved horse…
And still offers him up for a few weeks at Thermal.
“She’s really generous and knows my goals and dreams. It’s so sweet, Deb’s like family to me.”
And so complete with horses and homework, Jessica and her fellow riders will camp out in their own house with rotating parents–and high hopes.
“What I want to happen is to throw good courses and be consistent.”
Excellent sentiment. Wait, what, “throw”? Turns out that’s a term from her western days–which just goes to show how new this young talent is.
So what classes is she going to ride at this show? Dreams? Ambitions?
“I ride whatever Micca tells me to.”
And that, friends, is how it’s done. With willingness, hard work–and the people of a barn that takes care of you like family.