Jessica Barno has some sage advice for other equestrians: “Ride the horse you have, not the one you wish you had.”
Although just a freshman when she won the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s 2015 National Championship (Individual-Open Division) in May 2015, Barno has had a lot of experience to back up her advice. In addition to riding a variety of horses as an equestrian studies/equine business management major, she has worked for several trainers throughout high school, and during her school breaks at UF.
“I have paid for nearly all of my riding experience throughout my career so far, and going to college hasn’t changed anything,” Barno wrote in an email from her summer position in Temperance, Michigan. “I got the opportunity to work at David Biesel Stables at a few of the winter (2014-2015) shows in Wilmington, Ohio,” she added. “During school breaks, I would travel to New Jersey to work for Emil Spadone of Redfield Farms, which included riding 6-8 horses a day.”
Although most riders form a trusting partnership with their own horse, the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) rules mandate that riders “draw” a horse to show shortly before their classes begin. This can make for some anxiety and even disappointment when a difficult mount is chosen.
“The best piece of advice I could give to someone riding a new horse for the first time would be to ride the horse underneath you and don’t try to change how the horse goes,” Barno responded. “The horse is how it is and you have to make it work with what you’re given.”
Funding her passion
No stranger to hard work and entrepreneurship, Barno started a pet sitting business in her hometown of Clinton, New Jersey, at age 9, saving “paychecks” to buy her first saddle. She worked 40-hour weeks during her junior and senior years of high school, still managing to graduate with high honors. UF has awarded her a merit scholarship, which helps significantly with her college expenses.
“Work weekends” are a requirement of the UF equestrian program, where students are responsible for chores at the barn as well as other tasks to keep the facilities in the best condition. Barno has had to balance University work weekends with her extra grooming positions throughout the academic year. She’s not complaining. In fact, she has relished the opportunities to learn from different trainers and ride a variety of horses.
This past summer, Barno interned for Polly Howard at Fox Meadow Farms in Temperance, Michigan. She spent much of her work time at shows, preparing horses for the ring and making sure every horse and every Fox Meadow rider was where they needed to be.
“I got the opportunity to show a little. Thanks to Polly for supplying me with a horse for the day! I got the opportunity to show a horse named, ‘The Wolf,’ in a few of the equitation classes. I also have gotten to show some of the other horses in the hunter under saddle classes where the horses are judged on their movements and overall look. It has been such a great experience!”
Russ Walther, UF hunter/jumper instructor and IHSA team coach thinks Barno is a very special horsewoman and a “super student.”
“I think Jessica will be a leader in our IHSA team this coming year,” Walther added.
With the 2015-16 academic year fast approaching, Barno is perfecting her skills and lining up jobs for what looks to be another successful IHSA show season for The University of Findlay.