By Jennifer DeMaro and Ruby Tevis
Every accomplishment begins with a dream, and for Jennifer Truett, that dream looked something like Dancing Horse Farm. Situated on 40 acres in Lebanon, Ohio, Jen’s own dressage wonderland lies beyond the farm’s gates—it’s home to her family, her business and her journey to success down centerline.
As the daughter of a horse-crazy mother who taught lessons at a local riding school, Jen had the seed for her horse dream planted at a young age. “I have no memories without horses,” Jen said. “My parents were incredibly supportive of my horse passion. They took me to 4-H and open shows almost every weekend in my youth.”
Jen’s mother, Lynda Sappington—now a world-renowned equine sculptor—was the driving force behind Jen’s love for horses, though her father was equally supportive. “My father was always there for me and my mom. He’s a stage 4 cancer survivor and is still the rock of the family,” Jen said.
Though Jen enjoyed her active, barn-rat upbringing, she didn’t initially aspire to become a professional. “I wanted to have a job that allowed me to afford and support good-quality horses,” Jen said. With the encouragement of her parents, Jen pursued college and a master’s degree in criminal justice.
An early entrepreneur, Jen got right to work after graduate school. “I started two companies, both involving the creation and execution of a first-of-its-kind domestic violence tracking system prior to the internet age,” she said. Jen eventually sold it to multiple police departments and the United States Air Force before moving on to pursue a corporate career with a defense contracting company.
Dancing Horse Farm
On paper, everything seemed to be working out right for Jen—a successful start to her career, a lucrative corporate position—but her “big” dressage dreams were growing hungry inside of her. “As much as I enjoyed the experiences and challenges of corporate life, my job never fed my soul,” she said. With the support of her husband and family, Jen made the decision to leave her corporate life behind and follow her dreams full time.
In 2006, Jen and her husband, Lenny, purchased an equestrian facility on 40 acres in Lebanon, about 30 minutes outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. “We named the farm after my Cherokee Nation name: Jennifer ‘Dancing Horse’ Truett,” Jen said.
Though the property had good bones, the facilities were outdated and neglected, so Jen and Lenny had lots of work ahead to turn it into the facility they envisioned. After years of blood, sweat and tears, Dancing Horse Farm is now a thriving business serving dressage clients of all levels, ages and goals.
“Our farm’s motto is ‘Dare to Dream,’” Jen said. “I came up with it when we put in our contract on the farm. I felt like I was daring to dream about building a successful training business—and how we could make that a reality,” Jen said.
As Jen grew her business, she also sought to grow her string of personal horses. After tragically losing her heart horse and Bronze medal mount, Lydia, to Potomac horse fever, Jen had a lackluster budget for her next partner. Then, she discovered Lafayette HQ, known as Taffy, for sale for just one dollar.
One dollar and a handshake later, Taffy was unloaded at Dancing Horse Farm. Taffy’s discounted price tag was just the beginning of his road to recovery—he’d fractured his left hind cannon bone in an unfortunate accident, but Jen knew that anything was possible with persistence, hope and her dare-to-dream attitude.
While it took a year and a half to rehabilitate Taffy, he also faced psychological trauma and had other physical challenges to overcome. “Taffy was just as wild under saddle as he was on the ground,” Jen said. “I had to use walls to stop him, and he would bolt at any sound. I’d never felt a horse’s heart pound out of their chest the way his did almost daily.”
With Jen’s careful guidance, Taffy found himself in a position where his talent could finally shine through. “After rehab, he breezed through the levels, even winning regional championships along the way,” Jen said. Though Taffy challenged Jen through the levels at times, he provided her with an education that she still builds upon today.
“We spent over a year trying to conquer our fears of flying changes caused by his wild buck-bolt,” Jen laughed. “But once his changes were confirmed, we sailed from Third Level to Grand Prix in just two years. It only took us a total of five years to get to Grand Prix from his arrival at our farm.”
With a stellar career filled with nothing but try, Taffy was retired in 2020 after riding his final Grand Prix at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida.
Committed to her education, Jen consistently makes an effort to learn from her mentors and peers. “I’m incredibly lucky to have had several gifted instructors throughout my career. They have helped me transform into the rider and person I am today,” she
said. “I have devoted years to learning to be a good teacher—not just a good rider—for my students. It took years, but I finally found my counterpart to me in my coach, Olivia LaGoy-Weltz.”
In her training, Jen credits her experience with Taffy for paving the way to her holistic approach towards horsemanship, which she refers to as her Dare 2 Dream training method. From the ground up, Jen evaluates every aspect of the horse and rider and provides her knowledge of in-hand work, classical dressage principles and human and equine biomechanics.
“My clients are known as ‘Team Dream,’ and they support and cheer each other on, instead of the more commonplace environment of always trying to outdo each other,” Jen said. Her teaching has helped riders from all backgrounds, levels and disciplines to grow as riders and become better stewards to their horses.
Developing Dancing Horse Farm’s welcoming atmosphere has been the most important aspect for Jen in her business, and of course no barn is complete without a cat. “I can’t imagine life without cats, and thankfully Lenny feels the same way. We weren’t able to have children, so we dote on our furry family members like they are our babies,” Jen said. Prixie, their tuxedo cat, has been seen walking on a leash at shows, much like any barn dog. “She enjoys attending dressage shows to meet her adoring fans, and I often find she gets recognized before I do because she’s made so many friends at almost every major dressage competition in the country!”
Dreams Worth Pursuing
As Jen works each day to help her students reach their full potential through her Dare 2 Dream training program, she is also carving out a plan to achieve her own personal goal: representing the United States. “I feel that it’s not out of reach,” Jen said, and she has the horse with which to do it. Aptly named, Absolute Dream is a 2014 Westfalen gelding Jen purchased in the Netherlands from Reesink Horses.
“Dreamy was only within my budget because he’d been so naughty at the 2-year-old stallion showcase that he was promptly gelded. Once he arrived stateside, I wondered if I was up for the challenge because leading him anywhere was like wrangling a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon in high wind!” Jen laughed.
Using the training foundation she built with Taffy, Jen worked her magic again with Dreamy, and the pair was honored to be members of the USEF Emerging Young Horse Program in 2021. In 2022, they were named the Intermediate 1 Champions at the US Dressage Finals.
Jen is honored to be one of the eight USDF FEI “B” Certified Instructors, and hopes to participate in the inaugural USDF FEI “A” testing once the curriculum is finished. Last year, Jennifer was recognized for having earned all six USDF medals with the new Diamond Award, and this year, she is honored to have earned the new “with distinction” designation for her Bronze, Silver and Gold medals for scores above 67%.
With many dreams achieved and many more to go, Jen believes it’s especially important that the right foundation is established for both the horse and rider. Jen will continue to build her business and grow her education so she can help others reach their goals and dreams. “I dared to dream beyond what seemed possible,” Jen said, “and I proved that dreams are worth pursuing.”
For more information, visit www.jennifertruett.com
Photos by Melissa Fuller, melissafullerphotography33.mypixieset.com, unless noted otherwise
Photo by Susan J. Stickle