Jodie Kelly Dressage - USDF Gold Medalist Combines Knowledge, Experience and Good Times

 

Jodie and Manhattan Photo: PhelpsPhotos
Jodie and Manhattan Photo: PhelpsPhotos

The South Florida season ends, Jodie Kelly and her team at Jodie Kelly Dressage, from Destin Florida in the Florida Panhandle, took 15 horses to the Blue Angel Dressage Show April 12 - 13, 2014. Jodie’s Facebook status update from Sunday night, not only sums up the show weekend, but her group’s character as a whole, Jodie said “What an amazing weekend. I’m so incredibly blessed to have such an amazing group to call the JKD team. Before I mention how much everyone KICKED BUTT, I am more pleased and continuously amazed at the friendship, comradery and overall fun this group has. Saturday night, Sheila Zepernick hosted everyone for a yummy Mexican dinner at our barn area. It was there, that we had a champagne toast for Kimmie Taylor on earning her final score for her Bronze Medal."{C}{C}

She continued, "The success continued with EVERYONE getting the qualifying scores that they needed for regionals. The day finished up with a clean sweep of the overall championships for JKD. Emma Count was training and first level champ, Beth Godwin was second level champ, Paige Kinney was third level champ, Cindy Carpenter was fourth level champ, and I was FEI champ on Wendy Smith-Boone’s Sanidin. Then, the cherry on top was Emma earning the overall high score of the show, on Nelson, with her 75%!! The “rodeo award” definitely went to Mattie Zepernick when her inexperienced mare was caught off guard by the flags whipping and snapping in the wind. With tactful, patient riding, she restored her mare’s confidence and finished the weekend with a 73% ride. That’s what its all about. All horses are home safe and sound. Phewwwww, what a weekend.”

 

 

JKD Group photo at Region 3 Championships
JKD Group photo at Region 3 Championships

Jodie spends a majority of the winter show circuit based down in Wellington with a group of clients that consists of riders and owners who travel with her from North Florida, and as far as Louisiana and Virginia. While Jodie is down south, her barn in Destin stays in full operation with the lion share of her group remaining there. With the guidance of JKD assistant trainer, Amy Jones, everyone continues to work hard staying fit and fine tuning their tests, so they are ready to roll when the South Florida season is done and things crank up upon Jodie’s return. “It is really a challenge, and a staffing nightmare, to have two barns, at opposite ends of the state, (an 11 hour drive apart) going in full swing at the same time. But, we make it happen and usually manage to keep everyone happy while doing so.” Amy, along with “the greatest group of guys ever” as Jodie describes them, as well as a working student, had a firm grip on things in Destin. Jodie has Elizabeth Zecca, who she describes as her “right arm”, down in Wellington, along with a couple of working students working hard. Then, there are Jodie’s parents, Laurie and Brant Kelly, who are certainly the glue that keep the whole operation together. “Whether it is saving the day at the barn in Destin, or driving to Wellington with hay, or to haul horses home, or just little everyday things, I absolutely could not do this without the unwavering love and support of my parents.” Jodie claims.

 

 

JKD Group photo at Region 3 Championships
JKD Group photo at Region 3 Championships

Jodie Kelly Dressage is a family operation. While it has grown exponentially over the years, the Kelly’s still make a point of keeping the family “feel”.  And your last name doesn’t have to be Kelly to be a part of this family. Whether a client or an employee, if you are in town on a Sunday night, there is a place for you at the Kelly dinner table. “We jokingly call it FFF (Forced Family Fun) but, there is certainly no force required. For our family of 3, it is rare that there is ever less than 10 people for FFF.” This same feel is carried out in the everyday operations of JKD and with the care of the horses. “I realize that while this is my business, this is what all of my clients do for fun. This sport is where their extra time, money and energy goes, so I try to make it as welcoming and fun  as possible.  HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean I take it easy on them when they are on their horses,” Jodie says with a laugh, “tough love!” 

 

And the tough love seems to be working. Jodie’s students are regularly among top contenders at the local, regional and national level. This past fall, for the inaugural National Championships, Jodie travelled to Lexington with two of her Adult Amateur students. She is also Junior rider, Mattie Zepernick’s, coach, who has been on the NAJYRC team, in top placings, two of her two eligible years. “I love to see everyone’s progression. I have been teaching long enough now to have long term students that I have helped come up the levels.  I remember when everyone I taught was doing Training Level.” Jodie now has students competing in the FEI divisions that began with her as training level riders.  

 

Jodie with Jr rider Mattie Zepernick
Jodie with Jr rider Mattie Zepernick

From the training perspective, business seems to be booming for Jodie Kelly. With clients that love her and a show team always ready to go, that side of JKD could not be thriving more. But, Jodie is careful to not lose sight of her own, personal goals. “I feel like I have two very clear ‘compartments’, if you will, by which I gage my own personal success. My clients’ riding goals and successes,” Jodie says holding her hands to her left as if holding an imaginary box, “and my own personal riding goals and successes,” she said, holding that same imaginary box to her right. She explains, “In order for me to feel accomplished, both of those compartments need to be thriving. This one (her hands go back to the box on the left) is in a good place right now, not that I’m ever completely satisfied, but it’s rocking along nicely. This one, (her hands go back to the right) is where, I, as well as so many other riders, I know, feel like it needs work.” Jodie, as she states, like so many other riders, is still seeking that elusive “one”. As a young, emerging professional a few years back, Jodie came onto the scene with what seemed to be a solid “string”. But through unexpected health issues, one with a ruptured aorta while grazing in her paddock and one developing lymphoma, which was courageously fought for almost two years, Jodie finds herself with a “gap” in her string.  She prefers to buy or acquire her horses young, as that is all she has ever known.  

 

 

Jodie on Wendy Smith-Boone's Sanidin at the Global Dressage Festival
Jodie on Wendy Smith-Boone's Sanidin at the Global Dressage Festival

Jodie spent her summers as a kid, on up through her young rider years, living in Holland with Toine and Ingrid Hoefs. She was a working student at the barn of Olympic and World Cup champion, Anky Van Grunsven in the mornings and would ride young horses at Toine’s in the afternoon. It was during this time that she got both the hunger for the International competition and the taste for developing young horses. “I got bucked off A LOT during those years. From getting launched off of Anky’s Olympic mount, Bonfire, to eating dirt off the young ones on a regular basis. I really feel that it was those horses that taught me to truly ‘read’ a horse.” She claimed, “Being able to feel and predict their next reaction and if they are afraid or just full of themselves are invaluable tools to have in your tool box.”   

 

Among one of those young horses that caused her to “eat dirt,” the one that landed her there most often was a handsome, grey, coming 3 year old, named Manhattan. Jodie was 14 at the time and after 3 summers in Holland, it was only a matter of time before one would capture her heart.  “Of course it was the one that bucked me off the most!!”  This boy was the one and would later prove to be her first Grand Prix horse. “Manhattan and I have done it all! From chasing him down the road after he bucked me off and left me, to Grand Prix Freestyles under the lights at Global, to bare back rides through the water, to demo rides at shopping centers and football stadiums. To say this horse is the horse of a lifetime would be an understatement. He is my best friend.” While Manhattan is healthy, strong and still very fit (and naughty, according to Jodie) he did just celebrate his 20th birthday during season this year. His show career has wound down, but  his life as a demo horse and king of the barn still remains in full swing. 

 

Jodie and Manhattan at the Festival of Champions Photo: SusanJStickle
Jodie and Manhattan at the Festival of Champions Photo: SusanJStickle

With client horses and one promising one of her own, Jodie is certainly not sitting idle on the side lines.  During season she trains with Anne Gribbons, Scott Hassler and Debbie McDonald and maintains a regular travel schedule to Anne’s throughout the rest of the year.  “It is 7 hours, almost to the minute, from my drive way to hers. I always take 2 horses when I go. I leave here at 6, arrive in time for 2 lessons that afternoon, spend the night, have 2 lessons in the am, 2 lessons the next am, then back on the road. With the time change, I can usually be home by 7:00 that night.  I have it down to a science.” When Jodie started this regular trip, she was concerned about upsetting her client’s with the disruption in schedule, but they all actually had the opposite reaction. “They are unbelievably supportive in anything I do for myself and to improve my education.  Plus, what I learn, I bring back to them, so it is a win for everyone.”   

 

Jodie certainly does not let grass grow under her feet. She has horses to keep her busy at the moment, and in the show ring, and feels like she is sitting on ready when the next special horse comes her way. “I have put a lot of feelers out and seen a lot of great horses that I would LOVE to have in my barn, but as far as finding ‘that one’ I just have to go with my gut, that I will know it when I see it.” 

Jodie also loves to present her Grand Prix Freestyle at special events with Manhattan and a freestyle she created for bringing awareness to Breast Cancer.  

Dressage Training | Dressage Coaching | Special Events Freestyle Demonstrations

 

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION on Jodie Kelly 

 




GET THE LATEST NEWS DELIVERED TO YOUR MAILBOX