People who complain that teenagers these days don’t know the meaning of hard work haven’t met Jake Parker Wymard.
Wymard’s mother Ginger Parker-Yerg runs Flower Farm, a warmblood breeding operation, and Ashcombe Sporthorses, the training wing of their business, and he grew up helping out at the stables. He’s always had a working student gig on the side, first with Kris Cheyne, then with Bruce Davidson, then with Andre Dignelli’s Heritage Farm and now with Kevin Babington. But his first priority is helping with the family business.
“He helps foal out the babies; he helps bottle feed the babies; he’s probably mucked a million stalls,” said Parker-Yerg of her 18-year-old son. “He drives the truck and trailer and mows the field. Mondays aren’t a day off because we just got back from a horse show, [and] there are eight who haven’t been ridden. He rides anywhere from five to 12 horses a day. He loads the trunks and the hay—if you didn’t see him on a horse you’d assume he was in barn management.”
And this year Wymard will be making his professional debut at the Devon Horse Show (Pennsylvania) in the 3’6″ green hunters aboard a special mare named Valrhona that he made up himself.
A Passion For Young Horses
Wymard has always had a love of working with young horses, which is a good thing because there are plenty of them at Flower Farm in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania—most of them by Parker-Yerg’s homebred stallion Vinca. While Erika Sentz tends to give the young stock their very first ride, Wymard takes over soon after to instill the basics, then a more sophisticated education.
“I love their personalities,” he said. “When they’re bucking and young and just trying to learn everything, I just think it’s hilarious. I love the journey of it, thinking three months ago they were learning to trot and now they’re cantering around a course with lead changes. I’ve been riding them since a young age, and it took me a while to grow as a rider. Now I understand the process and appreciate it. When their new owner posts about them on Facebook or Instagram I love thinking I had something to do with that.”
That’s not to say that it’s always easy to be riding sales horses as a junior, especially a when it’s a junior who also has an eye on the show ring. Finding an equitation horse was especially tough.
“Jake is a trainer’s kid,” said Parker-Yerg. “There was never any extra money for anything just for him. All the horses in our program are actively for sale, and we never got anything to the point where it was suitable for the equitation before it went out the door. But Jake decided he would dig deep and stick with it, so I shook every bush trying to find him a horse.”
Last year they found a possibility in a horse owned by Jennifer Lenihan. While that horse ended up not being quite what they were looking for, Lenihan was impressed with the Ashcombe program and decided to send another of her horses, Valrhona, to them.
The Dutch Warmblood mare (Bodinus—Pantora), who was 7 at the time, was a little quirky and very green, but she took a liking to Wymard and the confidence he gave her. They started small, and over the course of several shows gradually moved up to the children’s hunters, winning a championship and a 3′ equitation class their first time out at that height. By the end of the season they were showing in the 3’3″ junior hunters, and Valrhona had qualified for 2019 USEF Junior Hunter Finals.
Moving Into The Big Leagues
Valrhona and Wymard stepped up to the 3’6″ green hunters in December and quickly started picking up tricolors, inspiring Lenihan to ask if they’d like to head down to Wellington, Florida, for the Winter Equestrian Festival for a month. He went down with Valrhona, as well as a jumper named Hat Trick and a homebred hunter, Fiorello FF, with plans to be a working student for Babington.
Things got off to a rough start. His saddle was stolen on the first day of the horse show, so he rode in borrowed saddles throughout the circuit. And his mother’s credit card was skimmed at a gas station on the way down, so they were without a credit card for the start as well. But once they started showing things got better.
Wymard relished the opportunity to show Valrhona in the big leagues against the likes of Scott Stewart and Kelley Farmer. He had his own big shot hunter pro in his corner in Louise Serio, who trained him and “Jolie.”
“It was an incredible learning experience,” said Wymard. “Walking into WEF you have expectations and standards, and you grow as a rider because you get to see what perfection looks like. But it was even better to see how [top pros] ride the young ones and the inexperienced ones. When you watch videos online you only see the best rounds. It’s even more interesting to see when a top pro has a rough round, to see how they handled it.
“I tried to put in as close of quality rounds as I could,” he continued. “I’m not competitive with [the top pros], but I respect everything they do. That’s all I can ask of myself. There’s so much more I have to learn. Now I feel like I’m in a great spot and can learn more and more. To have Louise as the voice of reason in my ear telling me what I should have done and what I did well is so helpful.”
Serio is happy to help a motivated student with work ethic to spare.
“He works really hard and tries really hard and absorbs everything you tell him,” she said. “The horse he qualified on is quite a nice horse, and a super jumper, just a really good mare.
“They do all their own work, and they’re working hard in a difficult world to be successful, and I give them a lot of credit for that,” she continued. “It’s not an easy world, and it’s just getting harder.”
Not only will Wymard be one of the youngest professionals at Devon, he’ll be zipping home as soon as his classes are over for his graduation ceremony from York Country Day School (Pennsylvania), where he served as the captain of his basketball team. He’s received a four-year academic scholarship to Gettysburg College (Pennsylvania), but he’s delaying entering college so he can focus on riding for the time being.
“I’m looking forward to the experience of it,” said Wymard of Devon. “It’s a great accomplishment and a wonderful reward to a lot of hard work. I’m going knowing that the mare is actively for sale after Devon, so this her final parade for me; it’s our Super Bowl. This is probably my final time showing her, so it’s exciting and sad and everything in between.”