By Alannah Castro
Portraits by Kristie Nichols
For as long as she can remember, Jessica Greer has been horse obsessed. Like so many young girls who are born with the horse bug, she spent her childhood looking for any and all signs of horses wherever she went. A surprise on her ninth birthday, however, would set her on the course for a lifetime of equine affiliation.
“My mom is really artistic, and she made a gigantic card out of poster board and drew a horse on the front of it. I opened it and it said, ‘Your birthday present is riding lessons. Your first lesson is on this day,’” Jessica said, laughing. “She told me I could have as many lessons as I wanted for as long as I wanted. That was like the kiss of death.”
A quick learner, Jessica was able to pick up riding concepts rapidly. Her mom, concerned that her daughter would rush into jumping, suggested that she learn dressage first. Her answer: What’s dressage?
“This was the age before the internet,” Jessica said. “My mom told me to go look it up in the encyclopedia. When I looked it up, I saw a picture of a person in a shadbelly on a horse. The description was that the rider rides the horse using invisible aids. I was like, ‘Wow! How do you do that?’ I took a dressage lesson, and I never missed jumping and I never went back.”
Launching Her Career
After competing for several years and moving up the levels, Navarro, a 1995 Dutch Warmblood, came into Jessica’s life. She credits him with launching her career. Owned by Joy Lanzano, Navarro was imported from Holland in 2000 and, though she wouldn’t end up riding him until 2005, Jessica met him early on. “Joy and I were both at Paragon; I was a senior in high school. When I was 19, I had to give my horse away and didn’t ride for a year. By 20 I’d had enough of not riding, but I needed a horse and couldn’t afford to lease or buy. I was connected to Joy again and since she remembered me, we arranged a deal where I would ride Navarro for free.”
Jessica began riding Navarro at second level in 2005, and moved up an entire level each year. “I ended up training and showing him through Intermediaire-1, and he was doing most of the grand prix movements,” she said. “I showed him in a few CDIs and we placed second in one of them. He had such a big heart, and he was the first horse I trained and showed to the FEI level. He enabled me to do this as a profession.”
Jessica competed Navarro through 2013, after four years at the FEI level, when Navarro was 18 years old. He now enjoys a happy retirement in a big grass field and will be 24 in the spring.
As Jessica gained clients and built her business, she trained several other horses to the grand prix level. She currently has two horses of her own that she is developing, and she has continued to show several of her clients’ horses. One of her mounts, Harley, came to her in a very unique way.
“I had a young Holsteiner, who was jumper-bred, that I bought with a partner, and he was really good at dressage but not super excited about it,” Jessica said. “I had my friend jump him and he was amazing. I thought, This is what he needs to do, and my friend and I traded horses. He had a horse that he was showing 1.60 meters, and he told me, ‘This horse, in his mind, he’s won the Olympics. He doesn’t need to do this anymore.’ So we traded.”
Harley has a personality to match his jumping ability, according to Jessica.
“He is the king of the farm,” she said. “He knows everything that’s going on, and everyone knows Harley. It’s Harley’s farm, and everyone else is just living here.”
Jessica’s other mount, affectionately called Larimar, is a 4-year-old that she has big hopes for in the future. In the meantime, Harley has had to learn to share. “They are so jealous of each other! They each think they own me,” Jessica said. “They can’t stand each other. It’s like sibling rivalry.”
Life in Colorado
Jessica’s daily routine is filled to the brim with horses. Between teaching, training, clinics and horse shows, her schedule stays packed. “I live at Paragon Equestrian Centre. Normally I’m up at six in the morning, and I’m down at the barn by 8:00. I’m on my first horse by 8:30, and I ride all morning,” Jessica said. “Then I teach later in the day, and I generally am done around 6:30 in the evening. We rotate night check duties, so some nights I’m back down there around 8:30 at night.”
As a native Coloradan, Jessica indulges in other outdoor sports as well. “I love hiking and camping — pretty much anything outside,” she said, chuckling. “I’m a total outdoor nerd, although I don’t like the winter. Our barn is heated, and I’m not a fan of cold weather sports.”
Jessica stresses the importance of continuing education, whether that’s working with a trainer as a professional or gaining judging certifications. “You have to have someone that’s pointing out what you need to work on. I feel like the moment you think you don’t need anyone coaching you, that’s when you’re no good to anyone,” Jessica said. “You have to keep growing.”
A graduate of the USDF ‘L’ Judging Program, Jessica has utilized her knowledge of the judge’s perspective to help her clients, who currently range from third level to grand prix, develop their competitive edge.
“When I was younger, I’d go to horse shows and ride a test and I never really understood what the judges wanted,” Jessica said. “I really wanted to educate myself on what judges were looking for and how they arrived at a score. In the hunter ring, you’re in a class with 30 people and you get placed, and you never really know why somebody won. Dressage is unique in that the judge’s give you comments and tell you what to work on. I wanted a better understanding of it.”
Ultimately, there’s no other life that Jessica would choose. Her commitment to her horses and the equestrian lifestyle fulfills her. “In the past, I had a more traditional life,” she said. “I ran my business, but it was very separate. I owned a house and I took weekends off. Three years ago, I leased a farm with a business partner, and then I went to Germany to train Harley for three months. I came home, and that’s when I moved onto the farm.”
From horse-obsessed child to weekly lessons to full-time professional, Jessica can’t help but keep getting closer to horses. “I want to be the best rider I can be, and to truly know my horses, living with them and being with them is the best way for me. I’m the one who turns them in and out, grooms them and blankets them. They are so bonded to me because I’m with them 24/7. It changes your relationship. You know them so well. I can’t imagine doing this any other way.”
For more information, visit www.jessicagreerdressage.com
Photos by Kristie Nichols, moonfyrephotography.com, unless noted otherwise