Maggie, Charlie and Haylie Jayne reflect on growing up in the horse business and finding their niches as young adults.
Ask any of the Jayne children how long they’ve been riding, and their answers are all the same: basically since birth. As sixth-generation horsemen, Maggie, 25, Charlie, 23, and Haylie, 21, were all exposed to the lifestyle when they came home from the hospital to the 140-acre Our Day Farm in Elgin, Ill., owned and managed by their parents, Alex and Linda.
The early acclimation obviously paid off, as all three have become top riders in different fields. Though they all placed well in major equitation finals during their junior careers, they’ve each gone in slightly divergent directions since then.
Maggie spent 2009 sweeping hunter championships at the Devon Horse Show (Pa.) and the fall indoor shows, Charlie rode on the Meyden FEI Nations Cup team and placed well in several grand prix classes, and Haylie took a varsity national championship as a member of the University of Georgia equestrian team.
After childhood, all three children decided to stay in the family business, and they now partner with Alex.
“No, there really was not an option for them not to be involved with horses,” Alex joked. “I’m lucky they all love it as much as I do at this point.”
Alex, a fifth-generation horseman, was raised around horses too. His great-grandfather owned a livery stable where patrons were charged a nickel to rent a horse for the day. His father, Frank Jayne, Sr., first had a traveling rodeo—featuring a bull that could jump over a car—and later trained race horses at Arlington Race Track.
“When my parents got married, my dad quit doing the race horses. He said it was no place to raise a family,” said Alex.
After leaving the track, Frank Jayne, Sr., bought a dairy farm, which he later converted to a barn for show horses. It’s the same farm and barn Alex owns today.
In the late 1970s, Alex and Linda were A-level Pony Clubbers together in Wayne, Ill. Though Alex had a lengthy family history in horses—he was a fifth-generation horseman who also started riding before he could walk—Linda only started riding a few years before the two met. She was 17, and he was 15 when they went on their first date.
“I didn’t know he was 15 at the time,” Linda said with a laugh. “He was 6’4″!”
The two married in 1980, and Maggie was born in 1984. During his extensive riding career, Alex dabbled in hunters, jumpers and eventing, even qualifying for the 1978 World Eventing Championships (Ky.). But shortly after Maggie was born, he mostly gave up competitive riding, instead focusing on training and selling horses.
“The kids needed more direction than I could probably give when I was riding all the time,” he said. “Something had to give somewhere. My wife and I decided our careers were over, and we needed to focus on our kids. We made the effort to put all the resources we had into their riding.”
A Passion From The Start
Though all Jayne children started riding at young ages, Maggie had the honor of starting the youngest. She was placed on a horse the first day she was alive—Alex set her on a pony’s back when the family returned from the hospital.
As a baby, she often wouldn’t fall asleep for naps so Alex would strap her into a backpack and take her on hacks. She was doing short stirrup when she was 3 and winning pony hunter championships at major shows soon after.
“Maggie was more or less born on a horse—she had the feel early on,” Alex said. “I didn’t push the other two as hard as I pushed Maggie because once I had her up and riding, I wasn’t as worried.”
Then came Charlie, who got a different type of instruction than Maggie. Alex and Linda worried too much intense instruction would cause him to lose interest. They allowed him to play on the horses a bit more instead of immediately teaching him classical equitation.
“We had a really good, trustworthy pony,” Linda said. “We would put Charlie in a western saddle, tie his reins in a knot and he would walk, trot and canter around with a whip in one hand and a plastic gun in the other. He always had a unique style, but we thought, ‘OK, it’s hard to get boys interested.’ He didn’t want the direction when he was younger, and we didn’t want to deter him.”
The altered teaching style obviously didn’t harm him—Charlie rode in his first grand prix class when he was only
11 years old. By that time, Haylie had been born. Unlike the other two, it took her a little more time to warm to the horse business and riding. She sometimes protested her family chore of schooling and helping sell small ponies, but soon enough she started enjoying it.
“After saying, ‘We’re not going to force them,’ we said, ‘We’re going to force this one a little,’ ” Alex said with a chuckle. “She was excellent in school. She probably could have done anything she wanted, but soon she was hooked too.”
Once the children were old enough, the entire family would spend weeks on the road at horse shows, with all children riding, and Alex training them and other clients.
“People think it must have been a strange life, but it was so much fun,” Linda said. “When they were little, they still needed naps. In the feed stall, we would set up a cot, and they would take their naps in there.”
“Having three kids and my husband being a trainer, I wanted them all to love it,” she continued. “I thought, ‘What if one of them doesn’t like it?’ It’s an odd lifestyle [with] what we do and how much we travel. But they all loved it. It was so much fun to be able to do it as a family. We did everything as a family.”
Maggie enjoyed her time at the horse shows immensely but said initially it was difficult when the ponies she’d become attached to would get sold.
“That got easier as I got older,” she said. “I got good at focusing on the young ones, bringing them along, helping them get sold and then starting again.”
Though they all did essentially the same things and all worked with the same trainers, Alex and later Missy Clark, Linda noted that all three turned into riders with individual styles they still carry today.
“They come out with their little personalities from day No. 1,” said Linda. “As parents, you’re a little bit along for the ride. Maggie was such a determined child and still is to this day, so determined and focused and intense almost. Charlie is a little more laid back. Haylie is kind of in the middle. That’s the way they are, and they ride that way too.”
A Supportive Environment
Maggie and Charlie often rode in the same divisions when they were younger, and though both admitted to a bit of sibling rivalry, they mentioned the competition never felt harmful or intimidating. Instead, it provided each the impetus to work harder and ride better.
“It made us all rise to the occasion a little bit,” said Charlie.
Haylie, who never competed against Charlie or Maggie as often because of the age differences, said the environment was only supportive for her, without the edge of rivalry. She did occasionally feel like she had big tall boots to fill, but she turned it into a positive.
“Maggie and Charlie had more success before me, and I had a lot of opportunities because of it,” Haylie said. “I got to ride a lot of great catch rides. They were always nice to me, trying to help me, train me, and get my horses ready in any way they could. They were more competitive with each other than they ever were with me.”
All three also mentioned that although some riders might have found it difficult being trained by a family member, they never had too many problems with it. Charlie had the worst time, going through a brief defiant
“There are times when you wanted to scream,” Charlie said. “I feel like if you had the right trainer it would have been like that with any person. It was a little hard when we were younger, but at the end of the day he was always my dad. During the day he was always my trainer. It’s hard to separate the two, but we figured out a good combination.”
Alex echoed Charlie’s sentiments, mentioning he always tried to draw the line between trainer and dad.
“No, surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult to train my own children,” Alex said. “I guess I’m tough enough that they knew I was dad in the house, but in the barn I was their trainer. Maggie got the brunt because I so wanted to have national success with her. Once she paved the way, I probably eased off a little bit.”
The trust between trainer and students extended to Linda as well, allowing her not to worry about her children’s safety too much, even though they were doing extraordinary things at young ages.
“I trusted my husband had them mounted very well on safe horses,” Linda said. “So it never worried me that much. What made me a little more nervous was when they were asked to do catch rides, and I didn’t know the animal. That made me nervous, and it didn’t matter if they were jumping little jumps.”
Missy Clark, of North Run, schooled all three Jaynes before major equitation finals and said Alex’s training provided them with strong foundations and excellent work ethics.
“They grew up in that horse family, and they had so many miles on billions of ponies and children’s jumpers, and it gave them a great start,” Clark said. “It’s been very cool to watch their progression. They’re just a great, great family, and it’s turned into a great team effort.”
Finding Their Own Ways
After enjoying a successful junior career, Maggie knew she wanted to work with horses full time and elected to skip college. After two years working for Janet Sassmannshausen in St. Charles, Ill., she went back to working with Alex and Charlie.
She has a house in Elgin and a house in Wellington, Fla., where her biggest client, the Thatcher family’s Pony Lane Farm, is based in the winter. Maggie mainly focused on the hunters and hunter derby classes in 2009, but she’s looking to get into more high performance jumpers in the future. She also coaches junior riders.
“I think it used to be stressful on me, but now I’ve gotten into a groove,” Maggie said of entering the business as a professional after her junior years. “It’s just my way of life right now. I was used to it growing up as a junior so it wasn’t that big of a change.”
Charlie chose to attend Florida Atlantic University, and he is still finishing night classes there in the business management program, fitting them in around a busy show schedule in the United States and abroad. He admitted it can be difficult to fit it all in but that it’s ultimately worth it.
“At the end of the night you want to go home and go to bed, and you can’t do that some nights,” Charlie said. “It’s definitely helped me. Being disciplined and growing up was a huge part of me going to college. I think it helps my business too.”
Haylie graduated from the University of Georgia in December of 2009 with a degree in classical cultures. She still
rides as an amateur but anticipates going professional at some point. She’s also getting married in June. Out of the three, she was the one most tempted by an alternate career path.
“I wanted to think about my options when I was in school,” Haylie said. “If I didn’t want to ride I think I would want to work in an art gallery or museum, but riding was always No. 1.”
Haylie is also the only Jayne sibling who rode on an intercollegiate team—something she felt helped her riding immeasurably.
“Riding all the different horses was great,” Haylie said. “I would do it again in a second. It was how I made my friends at school, and it was the first time I got to go where I wasn’t Maggie’s and Charlie’s little sister. It gave me a lot more confidence.”
Now that they’re all based out of the same barn, both in Illinois and in Florida, the siblings still find time to help each other with their horses.
“We’re all in the same place, but we have separate guys,” Maggie explained. “Whenever we need something we help each other out. I flat two of Charlie’s horses during the week, and he rides mine sometimes. We’re not shy—we always ask for help if we need it. Horses are difficult, and it takes more than one person to get them all ready.”
They also apply Alex’s lessons in riding and horsemanship daily, passing them on to their own students.
“We value every jump the horse has,” Maggie said. “When we’re at home, we hardly ever jump. The kids all have their own practice horses so they don’t jump their show horses. For sure my dad taught me that. Everything’s just become routine for me.”
Alex still trains all three and said it sometimes feels like not much has changed since their pony days. When a new horse is imported or purchased for the business, it’s a struggle to figure out which Jayne should work him.
“It’s always a process finding the next one and finding the right child to ride it—figuring out which kid got to ride which pony,” Alex said. “It may be 20 years later, but things are always the same. They all want to ride the new horse.”
If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. “The Jaynes Share The Horses And The Spotlight” ran in the March 12, 2010 issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.