I have been riding horses my entire life and I love riding horses in San Diego. Ever since I started leasing a horse a few months ago, I began looking around for trainers to help me improve. I have met a lot of different trainers over the past few months, but Jamie is one that has really stuck out to me. I started talking to her a lot more about her past and her experience with horses and she had a lot to share! Here is my interview with her:
San Diego Lifestyle: Tell us a little bit about where you grew up and when you first started riding horses.
Jamie Pierce: I was born in Alaska and lived there until age twelve. When I was around seven or eight, every year after for my birthday, I would ask to go on a trail ride. I was the typical horse-crazy little girl. We then moved to Oregon. That first summer my sister and I didn’t know anyone, and there were no kids in our neighborhood so our mom let us start taking riding lessons as a way to meet friends. She told me later she thought the lessons would just be for the summer until school started. My mom still can’t believe how it transpired into a life of horses.
SDL: When did you become a competitive rider?
JP: My first horse show was during my first year of riding. I was in a walk/trot class combined with English and Western riders. There were twenty-five horses in the class, and I placed around third. I had never even seen a horse show before so I didn’t really know what I was doing. After that first show, I was hooked. We didn’t have the resources to pay for a completed show horse, and I was very involved with 4-H so I sold my first pony for a yearling Paint Horse, Sonny’s Gold Coaster, and started him under saddle with lessons from my trainer. I showed him all around the local open shows and in 4-H. We did great, winning lots of High Point awards and medallions in 4-H. I later traded him for a weanling APHA (American Paint Horse Association), Ms Reprinted Rosie, and showed her on the Paint Horse circuit in the Northwest.
I love the challenge and all the preparation it takes to get a horse ready and trained to show at a competitive level.
SDL: What are the main differences between Western and English riding?
JP: For basics, Western saddles have horns and are bulkier than English saddles. The English saddle provides a closer contact with the horse and is used in jumping. People typically think of Western as cowboys and rodeos, but it’s so much more than that. Within Western there is Western Pleasure, Trail, Ranch Horse, Barrel Racing, Reining, Working Cowhorse, the list goes on. Similarly people tend to think of English as jumping, but it includes Hunter Under Saddle, Dressage, Cross-Country, and Saddle Seat. I always tell people starting out that the fundamentals of riding are all the same. Once you learn to ride in one style, it’s fairly easy to translate that into another style.
SDL: What made you choose Western? Do you also ride English sometimes?
JP: Since I started out on trail rides as a kid, it was easy to stick with Western at first. My sister had taken some English lessons in Alaska so she kept with English. It was our way of not getting too competitive with each other I suppose. After that first year or two, we both transitioned to Western and English. I haven’t ridden English after I got pregnant. I was just learning to jump since I hadn’t jumped a horse after falling off my pony when I was twelve. After I got pregnant, I promised Andy I wouldn’t jump. I really want to get back into it if I could find more time.
SDL: Do you do cross-country or trail riding?
JP: At my university there was a cross-country course where we’d occasionally go to ride. It was a ton of fun, but I never really learned proper cross-country. I think you have to be completely fearless to do cross-country! I do go on a little trail ride once in awhile. There are trails near the stable, but I usually have time for a quick loop. I know there are a lot of trails hidden through the area that would be fun to explore someday.
SDL: We understand you went to college on an equestrian scholarship. How was that? What have been your most significant accomplishments as a rider?
JP: Studying at William Woods University was the best choice I ever made for my education. I started out at Portland State University because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My mom told me she would help pay for my horse’s board (She never paid 100% of “the horses”. It was always a deal that we’d buy our own horse then pay half of everything) and living expenses if I was in college. If I wasn’t going to school then I was out on my own. I knew I couldn’t afford my horse on my own so I had to go to college even though I knew I wanted to be a trainer. When I learned from a friend whom I showed with that I could get scholarships to ride, I felt like I won the lottery.
One of my most significant accomplishments as a rider would be starting my own horses. I was the first person on both Sonny and Rosie, and I got them to that point. It was such a rewarding feeling to get these horses as a yearling and weanling and grow with them. I learned so much about patience, respect, and love from those two horses.
SDL: How do you like teaching, and what age groups do you teach?
JP: I love teaching riding and horsemanship! This is seriously my dream job. Right now I only have a couple afternoons to teach so it’s mostly kids around nine to twelve but really any beginner. The kids are loads of fun and remind me so much of when I was starting out. You can see the passion they feel for the horses. When they learn something new or master a riding skill, I get so excited for them.
SDL: Do you own your own horses or lease or ride for trade?
JP: I currently ride for Gail Willis. If I have time, I try to ride before my lessons, but often I end up riding with them. It can make it easier to demonstrate something I’m trying to teach them, and they learn a little quicker.
SDL: Do you like to do the grooming and barn work or just ride?
JP: Grooming and caring of horses and tack, it’s all part of riding. I used to clean stalls and help feed the horses to pay off my board and learned so much about horsemanship through 4-H. Nearly anyone who loves horses loves being out at the barn regardless if they’re in the saddle. Knowing how to take care of your horse and tack is extremely important.
Some of the parents are initially surprised when they find out their child will have to groom and saddle their horse before and after their lesson. Once they realize that it’s teaching the kids that caring for the horse is part of riding, they appreciate it a lot more. Plus I’ve been surprised at how many times I have to teach a student to sweep! I always tell them they better go home and sweep the kitchen now that they know how.
SDL: Do you ride at many stables or do you have a home stable?
JP: I ride at Ridgemar Equestrian Center in Del Mar. I took a break after college and started on a more typical professional/business career path. When I started getting back into riding, I volunteered and rode at Saving Horses Inc. a horse rescue in Olivenhain. I wish I had more time to go volunteer and ride out there as well.
SDL: What do you do when you’re not riding horses?
JP: I’m chasing our ten-month-old son Andrew, walking the dog, or trying to squeeze in a little yoga when I’m not at the stable. Gail had a great idea when I was pregnant to set up one of the tack rooms as a nursery so I could still ride every day, but Andy wasn’t so keen on the idea.
SDL: This was really awesome and super informative. Really cool to get to know you better! As you know, we’ve known your wonderful husband, Dr. Andrew Pierce, for some time. He’s a great guy! How can people get a hold of you for lessons?
JP: Thanks, this was really fun! With all of the riding I’ve done, I lucked out that not only is Andy a super awesome husband and father but a really good chiropractor.
For lessons, the best way is to contact Gail Willis. She’s the head Western trainer, and I give lessons under her program.