Young rider competes at national level

By Shawn Hardy
Emma Jacobs and her horse, Brumby, are shown at Welsh Run Stables after returning from the FEI Children's Dressage National Final near Chicago.

When most of her Greencastle-Antrim High School classmates were attending their first day of school last Tuesday, Emma Jacobs was at Welsh Run Stables packing up for International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FIE) competition near Chicago.

The ninth-grader was one of 11 riders age 12 to 14 competing in the FEI Children's Dressage National Final at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois, Friday to Sunday, Aug. 25 to 27. She earned an invitation as reserve champion at last year’s regional final in North Carolina.

After two days of competition, Emma scored fifth place overall, but her horse, Brumbalina, aka Brumby, came up lame on the final day.

“I was a bit upset not to find out how I was in the nation, but I wanted her to be OK,” Emma said.

Brumby suffered a bruised foot and was put on stall rest to let it heal.

In the saddle

Emma, the daughter of Joe and Kerry Jacobs of Greencastle, doesn’t know what drew her to horses, but she remembers liking horse toys when she was young. She started riding at 6.

“I rode when I was little so when she showed an interest I asked if she wanted lessons and got her involved in the Shenandoah Valley Pony Club,” her mother said.

At 10, she became interested in dressage and currently trains with Abraham Pugh of Cedar Creek Stables in Greencastle. He is a United States Dressage Federation Grand Prix gold medalist.

“Dressage is a French term meaning ‘training’ and its purpose is to develop the horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to work making him calm, supple and attentive to his rider,” according to the United States Dressage Federation website.

Emma and Brumby were both 9 when the family bought the mustang cross-breed. She could walk, trot and canter and didn’t like to jump, but showed a talent for dressage.

Dressage started with mounted calvary work when a horse was asked to perform certain movements. It involves obedience, flexibility, balance and strength, Emma explained.

Through patience and repetitive training, she has helped Brumby build muscle, learn rhythm and increase lateral flexibility.

“We learned as we went along,” said Emma, who rides three or four times a week. Sometimes the sessions are hard workouts and sometimes they just involve stretching. Last winter, she spent six weeks training and competing in Florida.

The next step will be to sell Brumby and get a horse more bred for dressage. Emma expects to spend a year teaching a new horse, and wants to be ready to compete at the national level again by 16. She would love to eventually do international competitions.

“I want to be someone in the world, I want people to know my name,” Emma said. “This sport gives you a next goal and I want goals in my life.”

“It’s a very expensive hobby, but it’s her dream and her goal. She wants to compete at the upper levels,” Kerry Jacobs said. She explained that Emma does get some help from her sponsor, Hastilow Competition Saddles of Warfordsburg.

Emma wants to be a trainer, but realizes she has to teach lessons first to gain experience and earn money.

“I enjoy training and when the horse has a break-through moment,” Emma said.

She will be able to graduate by the end of her junior year at G-AHS and plans to spend her senior year as a working student for someone in the upper level of the field.