Jessica Jo (“JJ”) Tate and Team Tate Dressage have created a platform for national and international success. After years of study, JJ is known for her emphasis on the principles of classical dressage. On a daily basis, she shares her knowledge with countless students from juniors and young riders to aspiring amateurs and other professionals. Through her dedication and hard-work, she is now a sought after trainer, teacher, coach, clinician and mentor. JJ said, “My passion for horses makes me love life. I live to ride. I have been obsessed with horses my whole life. When I was seven, I started riding lessons. Since then, this passion has given me experiences I never thought I would have, sorrows I thought I could never bear, and joys of which I never dreamed.” At age 11, Tate began attending clinics with Charles de Kunffy, well-known author, clinician and retired USEF “S” dressage judge. As her mentor, he taught JJ the principles of classical equitation and developed the “feeling” of softness, harmony and partnership with her horses.
De Kunffy has this to say about her, “Jessica Jo Tate is one of those rare riders who excel in competition while scrupulously maintaining a training protocol according to the classical riding traditions. One of the most talented riders of the thousands I have ever taught, JJ is also one who understands the science or riding and training and approaches the horse and his training in the correct frame of mind. To the understanding from the horse’s point of view, to evaluating any and all actions by keeping the welfare of the horse in mind, JJ represents the rare bounty of body, mind and soul all serving correctly the horse’s well-being and evolution to top athletic performance.”
Tate received her USDF bronze medal at the age of 14, her silver at 16 and went on to earn her gold at 21 years of age. She is a graduate of the USEF Young Riders program, competing on three different horses and eventually leading Region 2 team to a silver medal in 1999. JJ has trained and competed 19 horses at the FEI level, four of which were at the Grand Prix. In 2005, on her Swedish gelding, Cambay, she was reserve rider for the FEI World Cup as well as long listed for the WEG. Also that year, Robert Dover selected JJ from hundreds of applications to participate in his “Dressage Idol” program, which she finished as first runner up. In addition, Tate has competed internationally and represented the USA in Verden, Germany at the World Young Horse Championships with her horse, Donnermuth in 2007, where she was the top placing American rider.
At the age of 18, JJ moved to Europe with two horses to train for almost 3 years with Gyula Dallos, World Cup and Olympic rider for Hungary. She also spent a summer training at Hubertus Schmidt’s barn in Germany. Among her other trainers have been Oded Shimoni, Conrad Schumacher, Gerhard Politz and Walter Zettl. Currently, she works with Scott Hassler and Steffen Peters whenever she can, along with Charles de Kunffy, her mentor. Since she is on the US Developing Rider list, she has the opportunity to train with Debbie McDonald.
Based at Riveredge West in Chesapeake City, Maryland in the summer, students can participate in individual training and stay for several days. The winters are spent at Yellowbird Farm in Wellington, Florida where clients can come for four to five months and escape the snow. During these times, JJ strives to make her students thinking riders so they can go home and know how to problem solve. Tate says, “I like for them to “feel” what is happening or not happening and have some ideas about what to do and what exercises to use to make it better. I always send them home with homework. And they know they can call me anytime with questions or concerns.”
JJ continues, “I believe in using true horsemanship to teach a horse to perform because he wants to, not because we make him. I believe in the horse’s spirit and in my life aim to emulate that quality. In my training, I do my best to never dampen their incredible spirit, but to nurture it. I believe in gymnastically strengthening the horse into becoming greater than what nature intended.”
Tate believes in varying her daily training by riding in the fields and over cavalettis, she said, “I never want to forget why I do this because I love horses. I am a custodian of their well-being and their potential.” With a wealth of experience training and teaching horses and riders at all levels, JJ is a rare combination of a gifted rider and a positive inspiring teacher.