Amidst the annual Kentucky Dressage Association’s Annual Dressage Show at Kentucky Horse Park, Angela Hecker-Jackson is having a good time.
With both her and her students scoring well into the sixties and seventies, her homebred stallion, Rolex H. (River H.) has taken the FEI Six Year Old classes with scores approaching a near eight and Twilight (Olympic Ferro), who graduated from FEI Young Horse last year, is doing extremely well at third level.
But with Jackson, it isn’t about the ribbons; it’s always been about the horse.
Strictly adhering to the classical training scale, the German ex patriot Grand Prix jumper rider turned dressage rider cites inspirations and an educational resume that reads like a who’s who of classical horsemanship, with names coming from both dressage and jumping.
“Two people have influenced me the most, Karl Mikolka and Mike Poulin, who I train with currently,” Jackson said. “When I first met Karl, he was incredibly skeptical because I was a German Show Jumper and wanted to learn dressage. He called me the Germany Spy and made me come to several clinics before he would even let me ride with him. He really opened me to the idea of dressage.”
Jackson also rode with George Morris in a clinic earlier this year.“I was warned about George Morris before I rode with him,” Jackson added. “According to people he didn’t like women and he didn’t like warmbloods and I was both those things. But when I got there, he was honest, upfront and didn’t take anything less that great. That man proves that good horsemanship is universal, and the training scale could be applied anywhere.”
Developing Horses for the Young Horse Program Develops Her Business
Despite being a smaller operation that’s funded by sales, clients and horses in training, Jackson is making a big impact on the shape of the sport for the future.
Based out of Henderson, Ky, Jackson has become a go-to person for young horses for the Kentucky region. “Out of necessity I became a young horse trainer.” Jackson said. “We couldn’t afford trained horses and so we got the babies. From them I learned how to adjust my training approach and assess each individual. It’s only now that I appreciate that start.” From there, Jackson has become a major proponent for the Markel Young Horse Championships.
“I appreciate the opportunities that I’ve had with this (Young Horse) program. We are on the right path with this idea, and over the next years it will become even better, and more expanded” Jackson commented
Education, to Jackson, is both a horse and rider priority. “It’s easy for a trainer to put on all the tricks and send the rider down the center line, but I like to create an independent thinker and rider. I want the students need to learn to ride and develop tools and skills that they can use for the rest of their life.”
The Need for More Young Horse Rider/Trainers in the USA
But according to Jackson, we still have a long way to go. “We have so many good horses in this country. But we need more young horse riders that will give horses a solid foundation that will carry through for the rest of their careers, despite the discipline. Young horses are like children, they need to go to school and learn, because there is only so much time before it becomes difficult. This is where most riders run into problems because they have nice horses, but when they start having problems they don’t know how to fix them, and meanwhile the horse is becoming worse. Too many nice horses go this way, and it is a shame.
“It takes more than good riders and horses,” she adds. “Sponsors like Markel Insurance allows for this program to exist and grow. It not only gives the program national attention, but promotes the idea of U.S. born horses competing at the international level and gives owners a bigger picture, and bigger goals for their ‘journey’. We have the ability to produce these types of horses, and with the continuation, support and promotion of this program for young horses in about 10 years or so, ‘homebred’ international horses will be a reality.”