Lexington, Ky.—Sept. 1
JJ Spot didn’t exactly make the best impression when Ainsley Jacobs first started riding him in 2014.
“He had real bad anxiety issues,” she said. “He was very nervous and very tense, and he would just grab the bit and run. He’d rear. I knew there was a good brain in there, but there was just too much. He was overwhelmed. I worked with him, my old coach worked with him, and he did really well. I got him back to sanity levels.”
Much of “JJ’s” history was vague. The now 16-year-old Paint (Dipped In Paint—Macnasty’s Plain Jane) was bred for western pleasure in Oklahoma before ending up in the Atlanta where he did some low-level dressage and hunter shows. Jacobs had grown up competing on the hunter circuit, but JJ inspired her to try eventing.
“We went to a tadpole and killed it. He was awesome,” she said. “Then we went to a recognized beginner novice, and I fell off three feet before the finish line on cross-country. Ever since then, I was like, this is my sport, these are my people, I’ve found my horse. It’s changed my life, and it inspired me to start my business.”
She leased and evented him for two years before finally pulling the trigger to purchase him.
Five weeks later, in April 2016, he tore a collateral ligament in the pasture, which led to an extensive recovery process that included platelet-rich plasma and IRAP and a year of stall rest. While JJ was still recovering, Jacobs had her own catastrophic injury when she got hit head-on by a driver on the wrong side of the road in late November. She broke two bones in her foot, underwent a pair of surgeries and was on bed rest for three months followed by four months of physical therapy.
“My recovery coincided with his recovery, so we both kind of had to go to the gym together to get back to work and get strong. We’d both gotten fat and lazy. We both went to rehab together. He came back stronger than ever. I still have some pain. My foot goes numb when I jump. But I’m just grateful it wasn’t worse on both of our behalfs. He has been so good in taking care of me. He’s a saint.”
Under the guidance of Lauren Turner, Jacobs and JJ had a successful season at beginner novice in 2018. They moved up to novice this year but missed out on qualifying for the 2019 USEA American Eventing Championships at that level. But since they were qualified at beginner novice from the previous year, they decided to attend at that level, and they finished seventh in the beginner novice amateur division.
“He’s got a great heart, and he’s a fabulous jumper,” she said. “He just takes me to things. I’m basically just the GPS up there. Lauren has been super instrumental in helping us get to where we are now. She’s been so important and so generous with her time and her coaching. She has made it very clear through her actions that she genuinely cares about seeing us improve, so that means the world to me, and I’m eternally grateful.”
Outside of riding, Jacobs owns a marketing agency in the motorsports industry that’s geared towards drag racing. She also owns an eventing-inspired apparel company Ride Heels Down that sells items with humorous quotes her coaches have yelled at her.
“[JJ] was my inspiration for [Ride Heels Down],” she said. “One of my first rides on him when we first started working together, my old coach had put up a novice height jump which I wasn’t comfortable with at the time. I was coming into a jump and thought to myself, ‘Heels down, hold on, let your horse do his job.’ I thought it would make a really cool t-shirt.
“I joke that my life is everything from one horsepower to 10,000,” she said. “I have loved horses and race cars ever since I was a kid. I wasn’t the little girl that wanted Barbies and teacups and makeup. I wanted horses and race cars. When I was a teenager I started hanging out at the local speed shop and learned how to wrench and work on cars and do engine swaps. I started drag racing and started working in the automotive industry when I was 19. I’m 35 now. It’s been great. I love the sport; I love the people. It’s a lot like eventing times 10,000.”
The Chronicle is on-site at the USEA American Eventing Championships bringing you coverage and beautiful photos from the competition.
Ride times and live scoring are here: https://eventing.startboxscoring.com/eventsr/aec/ht0819/
The schedule is available here: https://useventing.com/events-competitions/aec/aec-schedule-of-events