As Jennifer Roth pulled out of the Waterloo Hunt Club in Grass Lake, Michigan, following the GAIG/USDF Region 2 Championships, she carried with her an impressive haul of ribbons. But her seven tricolor sashes that hung from her Milestone Farms banner throughout the weekend didn’t mean nearly as much as those earned by her clients.
“It’s still all surreal,” said Roth. “I never imagined my two boys were going to do so well. I’m super, super pleased; they were both very good kids, and I was proud of them. My clients were great—everyone was in good spirits and cheered each other on. It was a fun atmosphere where everyone rose to the occasion.”
Roth brought two mounts to contest the championships held Sept. 11-15. One was Hashtag TOP, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Negro—Urania) that she and Hilary Matthews bought two years ago from Cecile von Martels in Canada. He won the championship titles for second level freestyle, first level open and first level freestyle.
“He’s kind of been our project horse,” said Roth. “When we got him, he was safe under saddle and could walk-trot-canter, but I’ve put the training on him.”
Her other gelding, Serengeti, is a newer addition to her string. She imported the 11-year-old Oldenburg (Sir Donnerhall—Feldbunte) last November, and she’s focused on establishing their partnership.
“We purchased him off of a video overseas,” Roth said, “which is not something that I ever encourage people to do or wanted to do myself. But people were encouraging me to do it, so we bought him sight unseen off of the video, and I think he’s working out!”
With that horse, Roth was champion in the third level open and fourth level freestyle and was reserve in the third level freestyle and fourth level open championship.
But Roth was more eager to reflect on the accomplishments of her students. Her training program prioritizes teamwork and a feeling of family.
“Our tent flooded one night,” Roth said. “Even in the rain and slop, everyone was out there digging trenches at 11 p.m. to get it done and make sure the horses were safe.
“It’s always fun to see clients do well,” Roth continued. “But to see them learn and to grow, for them to still love their horses and the journey and for everyone to come out with a smile on their face—even when they didn’t get a ribbon—and still support each other through tears and success, that was my favorite part of last weekend.”
Shows are a family affair for Roth with her mom, Sharon Patrick, helping to design her freestyles. Patrick introduced Roth to horses before she was born.
“Basically, my mom rode when she was pregnant with me,” Roth said with a laugh. “We have pictures of me sitting in front of the saddle as a toddler, and eventually my mom taught me to ride when I was little.”
Roth tried everything from hunters and jumpers to saddle seat as a child before settling on dressage.
“I pretty much test drove everything,” Roth said. “Then, when I was 12, I had an ex-race horse turned ex-polo pony, Unruly. He got sent to a dressage trainer to learn some manners, and that’s how I got started riding dressage.”
The trainer Roth sent Unruly to, Sharon Ridge, is still her trainer today.
“She’s always my eyes on the ground,” Roth said. “She was at regionals with me and my group this past weekend, so when I’m warming up and can’t pay attention to my clients, she’s there, and we all speak the same language. It’s nice to have such a support team.”
Roth attended Otterbein University (Ohio) and rode on the Intercollegiate Dressage Association team as well as the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association hunt seat and western teams.
In addition to her own business based in Pataskala, Ohio, Roth is a U.S. Equestrian Federation ‘r’ judge and is pursuing her S judging license. She also coaches Otterbein’s IDA team. Since she took over six years ago, the team earned the reserve national champion title in 2018, and this year they won the national title at the IDA National Championships (Ohio).
“I like getting kids who have maybe evented or done hunt seat and getting them interested in dressage,” Roth said. “It’s a competitive team—there’s nothing like drawing a horse out of a hat and getting to warm up for 10 minutes before going to do a test; it usually leads to some pretty interesting situations.
“But really, it’s just the kids,” she continued. “I get to live vicariously through them, and they make me think I’m still 19. They’re just really fun.”