Story by Larissa Cox
When it comes to horses, Jill McIntosh is no rookie. After taking some riding lessons for her birthday at age 8, she was hooked! Now, Jill coaches and trains out of her own barn in Lebanon, Ohio, and competes a A circuit shows. Here is her story, as well as advice for new and experienced riders alike!
What has been your background with horses and riding?
Well, where do I start… I did not come from a horse family, in fact, except for a second cousin (whom was also a wonderful rider), I’m it. I guess I am a firm believer that some of us Horse People were blessed with a gene, a calling, a gift. From the time I knew what a horse was I always wanted to be around them. When I was 8yrs old my parents gave me a 10 week riding package for my birthday. They did this so when we went on vacation I could go trail riding…haha…Little did they know. Well to make a long story short, that was it. I was hooked and I bought my first horse with my own money that I had saved at age 10 for $700.00.
It is hard for me to remember what it was like learning to ride, it came so naturally. My parents bought 4 acres so we could have my horse at home and I began to train with Jimmy Woods and Red Fox Stables, the local A circuit show barn.
I think it is important to say, which leads into your other questions also, when it came to my passion, I had to work hard for it. As I said the riding came easy, but financially I had to work for it from the very beginning. Grooming at horse shows, cleaning stalls, braiding, hauling horses and eventually teaching young riders and training others horses. All while in school (high school and collage), working hard for the grades and other activities in school.
How did this lead into coaching?
I have been coaching and training horses since high school. I have always trained horses because we could not afford the nice horses, I had to get the $2000 track horses and make them into the show horses they were.
I did have a short “real career” as a Social Worker and Therapist. I receiving my Masters while being a single mom and then found my love, my husband. It was he that encouraged me to take the risk to run our own barn…Thanks Honey (I guess…hehe)
Seriously, I may not be rich, but I am so much happier working with my horses and my students. I truly feel blessed to be doing what I love and blessed by the people I have met along the way.
Can you share some of your philosophies about riding with us?
My philosophy about riding and training is simple. Learn the basics, have a solid base of support and foundation. Don’t rush your students or your horses, repetition, repetition, repetition. I strongly encourage total horsemanship and learning basic horse care. My mantra around the barn is “take care of your horse before yourself”.
I ride and teach traditional forward seat with emphasis on correct equitation. For me that is what keeps a rider safe. But I also know that we never stop learning and I go to as many clinics as possible, read a lot and watch DVD’s with my students. I have taken Dressage lessons and was blessed to be able to go to Germany for 10 days with a German coach.
How horses have contributed to my personal and spiritual growth?
Wow, I don’t even think I can separate that out from my total being. Horses are and have always been a part of my life, I don’t think I could have ever made it through the tough times in my life with out them. Many times I have cried, yelled, laughed or just sat in peaceful solitude with my horses. Who else can you tell all of your hopes, dreams and problems to and know you will not be ridiculed except God and your horse.
From your twitter and blog, it seems like you are quite passionate about health. Are there any products or techniques you can recommend for riders to stay healthy and fit for riding?
My passion for health is new, but not new. Riding is a physical sport, and I have always been one to want to stay in shape.
But, turning 40 has made this even more important. Our bodies don’t recover and we can’t abuse our bodies like we did when we were 20. All of a sudden my body was changing, and diets are not well kept with a 7am to 9pm job. Due to some family health issues also, I now drink a wonderful nutrition drink
daily to ensure I get the nutrients my body needs, and I recommend this for all riders. But most important is stretching, on the ground and on horse back. Any exercises to strengthen your core and keep your muscles tone and supple is great.
Do you have any other advice for riders for having fun and getting the most out of the partnership with their horses?
My goal for my kids is for them to develop a passion with horses that they can turn to as adults for enjoyment, relaxation, exercises and peace in a stressful world. My goal for my adult riders is to be the place where they can come to for all of the above. Most of all it has to be fun! Set your goals, riding and financial. If all you can do is a once a week lesson, great. If you can afford your own horse but not show, great. If you can show a little or a lot, great. It is all good.
As for your partnership with your horse, you have to learn to really listen to your horse and respect your horse. When you gain a horses respect, they will do anything for you. And when you gain a horses respect, you also have learned to respect yourself, and there is nothing better than that.
Follow Jill on twitter: @myso