Many a love affair has begun with “that look”- a gaze that is punctuated by something beautiful and trusting, albeit mingled with the excitement of uncertainty. It was this look that attracted Jenifer Robinson to her award-winning Arabian gelding, Shakar Ataan, or “Samee,” as he’s known by his friends. The duo recently earned their bronze medal from the United States Dressage Federation.

To qualify for the honor, Jenifer and Samee had to earn two scores of 60% or greater in first, second, and third levels at USDF recognized shows. Samee is a spry 24-year old, and Jenifer decided now was the time to pursue a USDF medal.

Jenifer has owned Samee for 15 years, but their route to the bronze was far from direct. When the two met, neither knew anything about dressage. Although she began taking lessons in hunt seat equitation at age 13, she was never exposed to dressage until 2002. In fact, it’s amazing that she discovered dressage at all!

After a move to Florida from Ohio in 1981, Jenifer continued to ride hunt seat. It wasn’t long until she began working on a hack line riding trail horses bareback or in a western saddle.  While doing trail rides, she encountered an Arabian mare who she began showing in English Equitation for her owner. Eventually, she found herself living on a large, working cattle ranch and riding solely western. That lasted a couple of years, and then she returned to the hunt scene again, taking jumping lessons.

Enter future husband, Dan, a paramedic. Enter also a colleague who rode dressage.  After coming off several times in front of Dan while jumping, combined with learning more about dressage from her friend at work, Jenifer decided that dressage may indeed be the prudent path, so in 2002, she began taking dressage lessons.

Eventually, Jenifer met her current instructor, Amber Kimball.  Through Amber’s instruction, Jenifer has schooled Samee to show through third level.  Watch him gearing up in the warm-up arena though and you may see him executing piaffe or passage! Jenifer credits Samee with an incredible work ethic and unparalleled “try.” According to Jenifer, Samee “always challenges me to do the best I can, and because we both have a perfectionist streak, with an even- tempered demeanor, we complement each other.”

As a nurse working three 12 hour shifts per week, Jenifer has four days a week to devote to riding, but she doesn’t limit her equestrian escapades to dressage. Last year, she was a navigator for her neighbor, a driving enthusiast, who competed in her first marathon event.

What advice would she give to others aiming to reach a goal? Never give up!!!!! It doesn’t matter how long it takes, keep going! Jenifer’s biggest challenge has been one that many competitors can relate to–performance anxiety. But in true Jenifer fashion, she sought a solution, devoured tons of self-help books by athletes who had worked through the same predicament and came out on the other side sans nausea and diarrhea. Problem solved!

While Jenifer is not driven by any motto or mantra, her innate love of horses has propelled her since age three.  Just ask her mother.

When it comes to equestrian resources, printed or otherwise, Jenifer has benefited from the books and videos of Jane Savoie and Eckart Meyners.  She also enjoyed a clinic with Janet Foy as well as her book, Dressage for the Not-So-Perfect Dressage Horse. But ultimately, her number one resource is her connection with her trusted partner, Samee, and his with her.

Article by Dale Sue Wade