Angela Jackson has a busy week ahead and she’s embracing her packed schedule with her trademark good cheer and gusto. “I'm so thrilled that I have been invited again to attend the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Championships,” Angela says. “I want to say a big thank you to the incredible Markel Group who has been the perfect sponsor for this program. It gives my breeders, Rock Solid Warmbloods and Timbach Farm, a super platform to present the Born in USA horses. This shows that we don't have to go to Europe to find international quality young prospects. They are right here in the U.S. I have only competed U.S. born horses in this program.”
It speaks volumes when a solitary trainer working in a rural outpost qualifies five horses to showcase at the Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, IL, August 19-23. Following top placings at last year’s championships where she showed a mother-son combo, this year she brings a mother-daughter duo.
Angela operates her own Rhine River Farm, a small training barn in Henderson, KY, where she has consistently produced a string of successful young horses for owners and breeders, for sale and for the show ring. As she points out, it’s not an easy feat to qualify over a window of only four shows in her area, without driving 500 miles in the summer heat, which she prefers not to do for the horses’ sake.
“For those of us who know Angela, we are extremely pleased with the success she is now enjoying by qualifying several horses for the Markel/USEF YH/DH National Championships but not surprised. She’s a hard worker, very diligent and dedicated to bringing young horses along systematically and correctly,” remarked George Williams, who has worked with Angela primarily on Allure S, a mare he calls talented but sensitive. “Angela has done an excellent job developing her. She has a terrific sense of how and when to push, bringing out the expression while building her confidence.”
Angela takes great pride in her partnership with Timbach Farm’s Allure S, a KWPN (Rousseau x Farrington). “This year is special for me to return once again on Allure S who has competed in the Six-Year-Old Division, a year later in the Developing Prix St. George, and at nine, taking the Developing Prix St. George Reserve Champion.” In 2014, Allure S competed successfully in the CDI small tour at the Adequan/Global Festival in Wellington to earn an invitation and compete at Festival of Champions in Gladstone, NJ, where she finished fifth in the Intermediare-1 at U.S. Nationals, with Champion at Intermediare-1 Freestyle and the Prix St. George at U.S. Nationals.
“The Markel Young Horse Program is a big part of Allure’s success,” says Angela. Allure made the step into the big tour this year and will compete in the Developing Grand Prix at the 2015 Markel/USEF Championships.
Angela also rides Allure's six-year-old daughter, Elzarma TF (UB40 x Allure S/Rosseau). The bright chestnut daughter, called El at home, took a little time to develop. “She competed last year in the test but was not strong enough to be expressive and mentally not ready to be pushed for more but she finally found her own balance and has gotten strong enough to compete well at this level.” Angela sees in her quality and super laid back temperament a possible future NAJYRC and Brentina Cup path.
Dr. KC Dunn, owner of Timbach Farm is super excited to see both mother and daughter compete at the same championships. Timbach Farm breeds Dutch warmbloods and she has many of the same bloodline combinations available as in Europe in her breeding operation.
For breeder Theresa Schnell, owner of Rock Solid Warmbloods, it’s a thrill to see two more of her offspring get the chance to shine at Lamplight. Angela's Angel RSW (Rosenthal x St.Pr.St. Alsonara (Archipel/Weltmeyer), owned by Stacia Hammond, TX is a four-year-old Oldenburg/Verband Premium and a half sister to the stallion Hemmingway OLD (Hofrat x SPS Alsonara). “This is the fourth year in a row Alsonara has had one of her offspring at the Young Horse Nationals!” notes Theresa. Angel attained her Verband Premium status at her Mare Performance Test last fall and has been trained and ridden by Angela since she was backed by Schnell’s young horse starter. Angel has a sweetheart temperament true to her name, and has won many classes this past season.
My Way RSW, bred and owed by Rock Solid Warmblood’s Theresa Schnell, is a five-year-old Oldenburg (Sinatra Song x St.Pr.St. Monique/Matcho AA/Ludendorff) and a second generation States/Special Premium mare who earned her title last fall at her Mare Performance Test from the German Oldenburg Verband (GOV).
“Mia, as we call her at the barn, is a very elegant and petite black mare who is so light and free. She also was not ready last year. She needed to fill out and find her body and confidence,” Angela says. “My Way is incredibly elastic and gives you that feeling like you are riding a smooth wave but at the same time very sensitive. She might be small but she does not know that and has a big heart.”
“Mia was a beautiful premium foal that we could have sold 10 times over but decided to retain her for our breeding program,” notes Theresa. “She has a super hind leg and has been very easy to train thus far. Her amateur owner has even qualified her for Regionals this fall. We believe Mia has a bright future.”
Angela also brings her own Figaro H, a five-year-old Zweibrucker (Fantasmic x Romina H/River H). On his dam's side, she has ridden horses back five generations. “I’m very proud of that,” Angela says. “I don't consider myself a breeder but I like a foal here and there. Figaro is still a little boy but he tries and can be quit energetic. He will be a real horse when he is seven, so I take this as a bonus.”
Last year, he started the season strong and then grew so fast, she ended up turning him back out for three months. “Literally, he didn’t know where his legs were. He was in three pieces: a skinny neck, something in the middle and those huge hips that just opened up. He looked like one of those cars with huge back wheels and little front wheels. I said, when is the rest of his body catching up with those hips?”
Angela looks forward to great gathering of horses and friends from far away for a fabulous weekend at Lamplight. Knowing the trials and patience of bringing horses up through training, she shares this sentiment, “I want to congratulate all the qualified competitors, owners and breeders on the huge accomplishment. I feel by just getting an invitation we are all winners.”
Partnernships Take Trust
Not only does the partnership between horse and rider require trust, knowledge and the right chemistry to work but building the relationships on the business side benefits from the same ingredients.
“It takes time to earn your way, to deserve to ride nice horses,” says Angela. But she was already an accomplished Grand Prix jumper rider in Germany before she arrived in the U.S. with literally two suitcases. “I met my husband on a visit and I knew right then he was it,” she says. “It was not an easy decision to give it all up in Germany for a man I could barely communicate with. I did not speak much English. He felt the same way. We said 'I do' in the court house and never looked back.”
Happily married for 23 years, her husband works construction. He had to go straight to work after his mother died and lived with his two brothers in an old trailer. Angela moved in after they married and worked any job that would pay. “Stall cleaning, I rode a Morgan stallion for a breeder as well as Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, $10 - a ride and $5 - an hour for stall cleaner. I am a very good stall cleaner!” she laughs. Looking back, she says it was kind of crazy to give up five Grand Prix jumpers that she rode for a sales barn and her rising reputation in Germany. She won a silver medal at the German Championships, won the National Equitation over Fences with a 9.5 and placed 2nd at the CSI in Aachen, Germany in the Puissance over 2m (6'6") on a TB bought from the track under the guidance of Olympic rider Fritz Ligges.
She credits Sharon and Michael Poulin for helping her transition into dressage with her stand out stallion Rolex H. “I approached Michael and asked him to help me come up with a plan for this 17.3 hand gentle giant when he was coming five.” Michael helped her get Rolex to the Six-Year- Old Markel Championship where he won the 'Born in USA' Award and again, in the Developing Prix St. George two years later. “I learned so much from the whole Poulin Family. They have a wealth of knowledge.”
Rolex was a truly a special horse for Angela because as she competed him up to Internediare-1, she also jumped him in classes up to 4'6" just for fun on the side. Although very hard to let Rolex go, Angela knows he has a great home and acknowledges it’s a necessary part of the business as his sale built her indoor arena that she so desperately needed. Currently, she works with George Williams with Allure. “He understands Allure and she likes him. He often jokes that for Allure, he would come out of retirement. I’m well aware that she is a special horse and feel so thankful to have her in my barn.”
All in the Family
For U.S. breeders, it can be challenging to find trainers proficient in starting young horses. Theresa Schnell met Angela 10 years ago, after moving from PA, as Angela was one of the few dressage trainers in the area. She took some lessons and enjoyed watching her ride and train. At the time, her future flagship stallion, Rock Solid, was home recovering from an injury as a youngster. “Angela didn't take many outside horses but when Rock Solid was sound, she prepared him for the 70 day test.” She also took over the ride on Theresa’s younger stallion Hemmingway who took Reserve Champion in the 2014 Six-Year-Old Young Horse Championships with Rock Solid placing fourth in the 2014 Developing Prix St. George.
Angela now rides all of Schnell’s young horses as they start their dressage careers and preps the mares for their Mare Performance Test. Angela will get the first sons from from each stallion early next year. “For me to have her train their fathers and soon their sons, it is going to be pretty exciting!” Theresa says.
Goals are set for each horse every year but both women underscore that they let the horses decide on the timelines in which they advance or not and adjust accordingly. “Angela strictly follows the training scale and will never compromise a horse’s well being for a ribbon, so our philosophies on horses are in sync,” says Theresa. “I trust Angela completely with my horses, not something I give easily to anyone.”
It goes both ways, as Angela feels blessed to have owners who are not alway close by trust her with all the decisions of care and training. “My owners are truly great,” confirms Angela. “They understand that if even I’m riding their horses in the same class, I ride each one to the very best of my ability.”
It’s no surprise that she has attracted loyal clients, she is humble but a straight shooter with a quick smile. The ongoing work of developing young horses, while also promoting and coaching her young riders to success would not be possible without Angela’s talent, drive and intense work ethic.
Finally, this year, she was able to add the luxury of a small patio by the front of her barn. Surrounded by flower pots, two rescued beagles and assorted cats, Angela sounds both excited and content, “This is still a country where you can build your dreams.”