By Jan Westmark
As the president of the National Horse Show, Jennifer Burger loves the treasured historic show that is a special part of the equestrian world. “The show has a rich history and old-world elegance that has been preserved so successfully,” she said.
While Jennifer’s horses have competed at the National Horse Show for many years, she started her working relationship with the show by serving on the ladies’ committee before becoming a member of the board of directors and then the president. “It’s a privilege and great honor to be president of such a wonderful organization,” Jennifer said. “I’ve always loved the National. My horses have shown there for years with Jennifer Alfano and then Louise Serio as my riders. My dear friend Mason Phelps got me got me involved when it moved to Lexington.”
Jennifer also serves on the boards for Devon, THIS Insurance Services, Unity of the Palm Beaches and Brandywine Horse Shows, which she founded with Louise Serio. The Brandywine Horse Show started while Jennifer and Louise were trail riding and remains one of Jennifer’s funniest memories. “We were trail riding and Louise looked at me and said, ‘Let’s start a horse show.’ So I responded, ‘Sure! Sounds like fun.’ Louise comes back with, ‘How hard can it be?’”
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Buffalo, New York. I attended Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, and worked on my masters in the San Francisco area. I currently have homes in Wellington, Florida, and Buffalo, New York.
How did your horse career start?
At the age of 7 at Longacres Camp in East Aurora, New York. Then I started to take riding lessons at the Buffalo Saddle and Bridle Club with Mervyn and Bessie Alexander.
Who did you show with growing up?
I grew up riding with Mervyn and Bessie Alexander and Roger Young. As an amateur, I rode with Jennifer Alfano, Susie Schoellkopf and most recently, Louise Serio. I stopped riding a few years ago, thinking I was better off at my age with two feet on the ground. I’m now 62.
Tell us about the horses you have now.
I have Rock Star and Rock Harbor, and they’re both retired.
What did you do for a career prior to the National Horse Show?
I had an advertising agency. Since then, I’ve been in various positions with non-profits. Included in that list are therapeutic riding centers, schools, Buffalo Equestrian Center, SPCA, Devon, USHJA Foundation, US Equestrian and the USET Foundation Advisory Committee.
Of all the things you do, which do you like best?
Simply watching a beautiful hunter execute a brilliant round
Any favorite horse experiences over the years?
Some of my favorites include winning the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular with Rock Harbor and Louise Serio; being voted High Performance Horse of the Year and Overall Hunter of the Year with Rock Star and Jennifer Alfano at the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame; breeding Phillippa and interacting with the offspring; sharing years of riding with my daughter on the show circuit and founding Brandywine Horse Shows with Louise.
What’s your favorite thing about being part of the horse world?
The animal itself. I love being around horses. Also, the people, my dearest friends, who share a horse connection with me.
If you weren’t involved with the horse world, what career do you think you would have picked?
Something with marketing and advertising
If you had a week off, what would you do?
Sit on a remote island, without my phone
Who inspires you?
Within the industry, I find the USET Foundation to be an exemplary group of people. Jim McNerney, Bonnie Jenkins and Bill Weeks lead with constructive, knowledgeable, honest efforts for our horse world. It’s a pleasure and honor to work with them.
What talents do you feel you have?
I have a ‘big picture’ way of thinking which can help with problem-solving. My mind is wired for business challenges and marketing strategies.
Do you have a personal motto or catch phrase?
My favorite quote is one from Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
What’s your favorite item of clothing to wear?
A comfortable pair of jeans or casual dress
What three items can usually be found in your refrigerator?
Wild-caught hot smoked salmon, yogurt, and carrots for the horses
What’s your favorite meal?
Caesar salad with grilled salmon
What would be the best gift in the world?
To have judgement end and see unification amongst people
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Twinkle my nose like Samantha on “Bewitched” and fix things
What’s something everyone should try at least once?
Starting a horse show
How would you like people to remember you?
As kind, approachable, generous, open-minded and willing to help out
Jennifer Burger with Rock Star