From Dunnville to Attercliffe to Smithville to Caistor Centre Jody O’Neill has settled where her parents bought a farm so she could pursue her lifelong passion—Horses.
She began loving horses from the time she was very little, two in fact. At five she asked her Grandpa for riding lessons and in grade 5 she finally got her wish to begin riding. In 4-H her leaders were Paul and Betty Mitchell and she was eventually able to give back to 4-H by leading with Annette Van Marrum, Glenna Benson and then with Carol Filinski. But she owes her dream of having a farm and riding arena to her Dad Brian Hodgkins. He was the one who bought the farm with a barn and put up the arena.
She tried to get away from the horses but was not successful. She went off to McMaster University for one year but that was not for her and eventually she traveled to Ohio to attend the University of Findlay for Equestrian Studies. Here is how the University describes their program. ‘The professional skills learned in both our English and western disciplines enable students to transform their love of horses into rewarding careers.’ And so Jody completed her studies and returned home to working with horses. For one year she worked for Theo Meester riding his horses, working nights at Bethesda, riding for Brian Corbett and racing back home to feed her own horses, riding at Theo’s, napping, giving lessons, napping and back to work. Eventually she began to give lessons at her own farm all day and in the evenings not just to children but to adults as well. “Kids have passion,” she said, often they came with no self confidence and then as their skills increase so does their confidence. She has trained horses, sometimes crazy horses and race horses, “I guess I am good at it,” she said I have broken horses and owned many and boarded some also. Right now though some of her horses need people to come and ride them for she has stopped giving lessons to pursue her show dream. Thanks to her husband Rich, who supports her both financially and in the grandstands she is training and riding and showing at the American Quarter Horse Congress. The All American Quarter Horse Congress is the World’s Largest Single-Breed Horse Show. The show receives more than 17,000 horse show entries during its three-week schedule. The Congress attracts more than 650,000 people to the Columbus area, bringing more than $180 million dollars to the central Ohio economy.
The Congress which runs for three weeks during October is one huge horse show. “I told myself, just go out there and try not to make a fool of yourself, whatever you do.” Out of 202 competitors in the showmanship competition, “which is the same as showing in any horse show be it 4-H or local fair or large horse show, I came 2nd out of all those horsemen.” In the Equitation-Pattern Class I didn’t even make the cut.” In the Hunter-Under Saddle there were 20 in the first split and only 4 get to go back and in the semifinals they are down to 24 and only ten get to go back. “I wanted to go back in.” Jody made it to the finals, “but I was very nervous and I was a bit too fast. I didn’t show to my best advantage. I want to go back and try again,” she says. “Many people show for years at the Congress and they never have gotten out of the first split, I have watched for many years but this is the first time I have shown.” Now Jody will travel to Florida for shows under the palm trees and continue herself to take lessons instead of giving lessons. Rick Fleetwood and Robin Storey are aiding with pattern lessons and helping with her horse if it is not behaving. Jody would like to continue showing for two more years and see what she can do and to go as big as she can. The downside is a lot of time away from her family. Does her family like to ride? My daughter Bryanna rides with friends, Stone can ride but doesn’t ride very often and my son Jake is so good with horses but he does not ride much either.
What has kept her loving horses for all this time? “I have had such a good time with so many young people Sandy Bijakowski, Katelyn Ludgate, Kaylee Swierenga, Kelly Filinski, Susy Farr, Samantha Allan, Olivia Swayze, Tom and Theresa Van Marrum and I am sure I am forgetting some.
What does she like to do for fun outside of horses? As a family we like to take hikes and watch movies and just hang out. Watch for more updates to Jody’s riding adventures as she pursues a life long dream.