Gates Makes A Gap-Year Trainer Switch

Jun 25, 2018 - 3:53 PM
Jennifer Gates has started riding with World No. 1 Harrie Smolders. Photo by Molly Sorge.

Successful under-25 grand prix rider Jennifer Gates has relocated to Europe and started training with World No. 1 Dutch rider Harrie Smolders at his Belgian stable in Grobbendonk.

Gates, 22, recently graduated from Stanford University (California). She’s taking some time off before she heads to medical school, and she wanted to further her riding education. She’d heard great things about Smolders, so she reached out to him.

“We’re just getting started now, and I’m really excited,” she said. “Everything from poles on the ground to big jumps he’s been super helpful.

“I’m super grateful for the opportunity, and I’m excited to learn from him,” she continued. “He’s a wonderful horseman. He really works with the horses on the ground every day at the barn, so it’s not even from a show perspective. He does every step himself, and I have more and more respect for him every day I see him at the barn and see how he operates. He’s a really good person and horseman.”

Gates previously trained with Hardin Towell. She met the Towell family when she was 7 during a pony clinic, and she began riding with them shortly thereafter. Hardin trained Gates from her first .75-meter jumper class up to 1.60-meter grand prix competition, and they decided to go their separate ways at the beginning of this year. In 2017 Gates won the $25,000 U.S. Open Hollow Creek Farm Under-25 Grand Prix (New York), the USEF Under-25 Show Jumping National Championship at the CP National (Kentucky), and earned the Horse of the Year title in that division.

“I have so much respect for [Hardin] and his family and where they’ve brought me in the sport, and I would never be where I am now without them,” said Gates. “I’ve known that family the whole time I’ve grown up, and I’m so close with them.”

Gates rode with Sayre Happy throughout the winter circuit, and she’s planning to spend at least three months in Europe showing on the Global Champions Tour. She’s currently undecided about her plans for the fall.

“I just really need to see where I’m at with my riding,” Gates said. “I’m planning to start medical school in a year or two in New York, so obviously that’s a big step in my life, and I’m going to want to dedicate quite a lot of time to that, and school is a big commitment. So I’m really just playing everything by ear, and I’m grateful for all the support [Smolders is] going to give me in the next year. Who knows what the future is going to hold.”

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