Grand prix rider Schuyler Riley has been on a big winning streak this summer, first winning three grand prix classes at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (N.C.) and then the CSI-W at Bromont, Quebec, but she’s not the only one bringing checks back to the barn. Her head groom Jesus Pimentel has been on a streak of his own, capturing the new TIEC Groom’s Initiative Award three times.
“Even though it’s an individual sport, it really is more of a team when you think about the horse and rider as a team, and then you think about the grooms and your managers,” said Riley. “It does take a village to get you into the ring to be successful. His heart is in it. He loves the top of the sport, and that’s what separates anybody from being average.”
Pimentel, 26, has worked for Riley for almost seven years. He came to California from Mexico with his parents when he was 3. They both died when he was 16, and suddenly he was responsible for providing for his four other siblings.
An interest in horses led him to Long Island, N.Y., where he started out mucking stalls and handling horses at a lesson barn. He then moved on to work for equitation and hunter trainer Mike Zukerman and international grand prix rider Andres Rodriguez before landing the job with Riley at her Wolfstone Stables in Wellington, Fla., and Stockton, N.J.
Pimentel was excited to work with top show jumpers, something to which he’d always aspired. Now he handles Riley’s three grand prix horses: Q-7, Dobra de Porceyo and Navalo de Poheton.
“My favorite part is being at the horse shows because I really work to see them go in the ring,” Pimentel said. “I love to be at a horse show, but the only thing that I hate is that we have to wake up so early! Sometimes we have a couple horses to go first thing in the morning, so we have to start at 5 a.m., and then if it’s a Saturday, I have to stay until the grand prix, and I’ll be working until midnight that day.
“Even though we don’t win all the time it’s worth it, and at least you know your horses are always going to try their best in the ring,” he continued. “It’s always good to have that feeling before the grand prix that you know you have a chance to bring home the blue ribbon.”
Pimentel’s favorite charge is “Dobra,” a 9-year-old Spanish-bred mare (Action Breaker—Sanne, Indorado), who was difficult when she first came to the barn.
“We couldn’t even put polos on because she’d rear,” he said. “When they come from Europe, they’re not always the best behaved horses. I like to have a little bit of a challenge. We struggled with her when she got here when she was 6, but now she’s like a totally different horse because I think we gained her trust.”
Pimentel is an integral part of Riley’s barn, and she helped him get his green card. He received it in July after years of working through the process.
“He absolutely adores his horses, and he will do anything and everything to make them happy,” she said. “The hours are long, and you have to work hard, but he really takes a lot of pleasure out of helping with the horses. I think he puts all of his effort into it, and it really shows in the horses’ character and state of mind and health and well-being. He can pick up on stuff, and I trust him to tell me if he sees something on their legs, or if he thinks they’re not feeling right. There are a lot of horsemanship qualities that he’s learned over the years.”
This is the first in a new series of groom profiles to be featured on www.coth.com. Make sure to follow www.coth.com and like the Chronicle’s Facebook page to see them posted. If you know a fantastic groom you’d like to see appear in this series, email firstname.lastname@example.org.