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August 25, 2006

Louis Jacobs Juggles Jumpers, A Job And Family

From business suit to blue jeans to boots and breeches, Louis Jacobs has spent much of his lifetime perfecting a balancing act that comprises horses, family and a career.

At 42, Jacobs, of Buffalo, N.Y., divides his time between his wife, Joan, two children, Charlotte and Louis Jr., a full-time career and a barn full of horses stabled at his father's Deeridge Farm.

"Juggling all those things has been tough at times, but I feel like the horses bring the family closer together because it's something that we all share," said Jacobs, who credited his father, Jerry Jacobs, for introducing him to a hobby that's became a life-long passion.

More than three decades ago, Jerry purchased Deeridge Farm in East Aurora, N.Y., so that his wife, Peggy, and four children, Louis, Charlie, Katie and Jerry Jr. could share his love for horses. What started out as the occasional family foxhunting outing soon blossomed into full-scale horse showing.

The scope and momentum of showing for the Jacobs family has continued to grow over the years. Currently, eight members of the family compete on a regular basis.

Louis' sister, Katie Robinson, competes in the amateur-owner hunter division aboard Blush, while Charlie challenges Louis for ribbons in the medium and high amateur-owner jumper divisions with his horses Pia and Innocence.

Joan also shares in the Jacobs family's love of the sport and actively competes in the low amateur-owner jumpers with Nero Van Het, owned by Deeridge Farm.

In addition, both of Robinson's children, Phoebe and Grace, compete in the pony hunter divisions aboard Hill-crest's Treasure Chest and Dawn's Early Light, as does Louis and Joan's daughter, Charlotte, with her two mounts Razzle Dazzle and Home At Last. Jerry's daughter, Melissa, vies for ribbons in the children's, 14 and under division, with Joeut.

"It's really just a treat to compete as a family. It's fun that Louis and I have sibling rivalry, but we would love to see ourselves first and second in every class," admitted Charlie, 34.

He added, "If Louis has a rail in the jump-off, he'll watch and tell me where the winning track is--like where I should do five strides instead of six to catch the leader. We often do that for each other in hopes that we see someone from Deeridge on top."

A Family Affair
This year the Jacobs family has earned numerous blue-ribbon honors.

One of the newer additions to the family entourage of horses is the 16-year-old Selle Fran�ais stallion, Caucalis, who, with Louis aboard, was a contender in the amateur-owner jumpers throughout the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla).

"He's a wonderful horse," said Louis, who purchased Caucalis, a former grand prix horse, a year ago from trainer and former Olympic gold medalist Joe Fargis. "He's a very competitive horse and jumping is easy for him, but because of his age, we try not to over-campaign him and pick our spots."

Jacobs competed Caucalis for six out of the seven weeks of WEF and took home the top prize in the $10,000 high amateur-owner classic during the Nutrena/Western Hay Wellington Classic CSI*** and was second in the same class during the Kilkenny ICH Internationale CSI***.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Louis also actively competes two young jumper prospects, Kachina and Soleil.

"Kachina is not the typical type I would like," he admitted. "She is huge--she stands 18 hands--and is a little lazy and looks like a draft horse. But she jumps super."

Kachina proved her size and build were not a handicap during the Kilkenny ICH Inter-nationale CSI*** when she jumped to victory in the $10,000 medium amateur-owner classic. The 8-year-old, Selle Fran�ais mare and Jacobs also placed in the top five in the $10,000 medium amateur-owner classics during weeks 1, 5, and 7 of the WEF circuit and earned the circuit title. Kachina currently stands third in the United States Equestrian Fede-ration national amateur-owner jumper standings after winning the $10,000 high amateur-owner jumper classics in June at the Lake Placid and I Love New York shows.

Soleil, a 7-year-old, Dutch Warmblood mare, is another new addition to Deeridge Farm. Louis shows her in the low amateur-owner division.

"I'm excited to see what level the young horses take me to. It's always nice to get ribbons, but I look forward to making steady progress and getting Soleil and Kachina more exposure," said Louis.

Despite being crowned the 1982 American Grandprix Association Rookie of the Year and competing at the international level in grand prix events, Louis is now content to stay out of the grand prix ranks and keep his horses in the amateur-owner jumper divisions.

"I feel that the biggest change in the horse world over the years is the enormous amount of participation in amateur divisions today," said Louis. "When I first started in the amateur division, there were a lot fewer exhibitors. I think it's wonderful to see the growth in amateur participation because it shows that the industry is thriving."

Work And Play
"Riding has always been my recreational pursuit of choice," said Louis. "There have been times when I haven't been able to ride as much as I would have liked, but I have been fortunate to have had nice horses and great opportunities."

While attending Harvard University (Mass.), where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics in 1986 and a master's degree in business in 1991, Louis rode only on the weekends.

"The first year of school at Harvard was tough, and I found that I really had to focus on my academics, but I always found time to ride," he said.

Upon graduating, Louis was granted the opportunity to step into the family business, Delaware North Companies, which specializes in the hospitality industry and running various hotels, restaurants and food concessions.

"I work with my two brothers, Jerry and Charlie, as well as my father, so the company is really just an extension of our family," said Louis who is now executive vice president of Delaware North Companies.

After spending long days at work, Louis finds the summer months particularly enjoyable because of the extended hours of daylight. At the end of the workday, he often makes the short five-mile drive to the barn and rides two or three horses before going home to spend time with family.

Over the course of his life, there was only one brief period when Louis was separated from his extended family at Deeridge Farm and his equine partners. Between 1993 and 1994, Louis lived in Australia and didn't sit on a horse for more than a year.

"It was tough, and I certainly missed it," said Louis.

When he returned to the United States, the task of managing his time between the horses and a business became a little tougher. While in Australia, his son Louis Jr., now 12, was born. Shortly after his return to the States, his daughter Charlotte, now 11, was born.

"My children became the most important thing in my life and changed my priorities. I had to work harder to balance my commitment to my family and my own interests. I found I wasn't able to run off to as many horse shows," admitted Louis with a chuckle.

Since the many members of the Jacobs family stay busy with their immediate families and Delaware North Companies, barn manager Kristen Mauks and assistant Mindy Verzillo are credited with helping the Jacobs keep the ever-vacillating 30 or so horses and ponies fit.

Despite a plethora of blue ribbons, prize money checks and awards, Louis still feels that one of the most cherished facets of his riding career is his ability to share it with the ones he loves.

"Over the years, horses have made this family closer because we spend so much time at shows together," said Louis, who also
enjoys spending time at his son's hockey tournaments.

And Charlie agreed: "It's a blast that we all grew up riding together at Deeridge Farm and continue to ride together. Nothing beats gathering at shows and competing as a family."
 
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