Champ Jodie’s fine balance

Jodie loves competing, and has a string of fine successes under her belt, including winning the IW Showjumper of the Year title for the past three years, and the Leading Rider for the past four years.

In fact she has won the Island’s top showjumper crown on five occasions dating back to the mid-1990s, and plans to be back again next year attempting to lift more honours. She says: “I wouldn’t get on a horse just to ride down the road – I love competing.”

But at the same time Jodie has managed to find a fine balance between her own ambitions and the level she knows some of her horses have been able to reach. That is why she has sometimes reluctantly let some of her prized possessions move on to the mainland and beyond while she has stayed here to nurture others, while enjoying her successes.

“I have been asked several times why I have not moved off the Island to do more. It is not a case of big fish, small pond. I just love the lifestyle of the Island, it is a nice place to live,” she said. “There are times when I think I could really do with more showjumping on the mainland, but I know I am never going to make it a career, so I just want to enjoy it.

“I know my own limits, and I cannot afford to have lessons and do training all the time. But I do get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing some of my horses going on to bigger things.”

Jodie, 31, has ridden the same horse, Larigo to victory in the IW Show Jumper of the Year competition for the past three years. “He is such a good horse and never really lets me down. He always gives it his best. He is 16 now and has been brilliant – I love him to bits, he is my little pet,” she enthused. “He is going nowhere. He belongs to me and has made me more competitive again.

Jodie also rode Georgia Roco to glory in the open competition for the second year running. She was the only rider on the day to retain a trophy this year, and in the open competition she and Georgia Roco, eight, were the only pairing out of nine to jump a clear round.

But they will not be back to defend the title as ‘Roco’ has gone to live in France, and Jodie admits: “It was quite heartbreaking to see her go, but she needs to be jumping at a bigger level.”

Jodie was born in Ryde and went to school at Caversham House, Swanmore Middle and Ryde High. She first sat on a horse for the first time when she was just three years old, and within weeks she had her first pony. She was initially taught at Wootton by the late Helen Fernell, before moving to Simon Read’s stables.

She recalls: “My first pony was called Holly and was unbroken, and I spent most of the time on the floor. She used to throw me off all the time. It was probably because my parents, who were non-horsey at the time, just went out and got me a pony.

“Although my dad was brought up on a farm he appreciated horses more for working than riding. One of his friends told him he should get me a pony, and it just took off from there.”

After Holly moved on about a year later, Jodie had to wait until she was six for her next pony, and thankfully this time it was older and a bit more docile, so not so many falls. “She was called Harmony and had been in the riding school so she knew her job. She taught me to ride, and we used to go hunting, do cross-country and be in the Pony Club,” says Jodie.

“I loved Pony Club, it was really good for lessons and camp, but maybe not for health and safety. We used to do a lot of bare back riding, and it was a lot of fun, but you can’t do that anymore.”

While under Simon Read’s tuition Jodie had several more ponies, gaining experience with each one, before her parents, Stephen and Ondy, bought the Linfield stables on the outskirts of Ryde in 1994. On the very day they took over the stables Jodie won the IW Junior Showjumper of the Year at Brickfields on her pony Miss Jingle – her first major triumph.

“I have always done a lot of cross-country as well as showjumping, but I would have to say showjumping is my first passion, but I have never been into dressage,” she says emphatically. “As a kid I never wanted to do flat work at all. I just wanted to be going fast and jumping.”

But it was Hitherwood Pride, a horse owned by Alan and Anita Stay that really got Jodie into showjumping. Initially the plan was only to ride her at the Ashey Scurry, but it soon became clear to Jodie that she was a real showjumper. She went on to win a lot of events with her, even though she was still only a 13-year-old, but jumping above her age against seniors, as well as in junior events.

“She was a brilliant little horse and I rode her until I was 17, and also did quite a bit of showjumping on her both on the Island and the mainland at Newcomers and Foxhunter levels,” she said.  But perhaps one of Jodie’s biggest disappointments was just missing out on qualifying for the Horse of the Year Show at Wembley on Miss Jingle when she was 16.

“I took part in a qualifier at Dorset Showground, and there were about 100 starters. We finished third, but only the first two qualified. But someone saw how well my pony competed, so we sold him and he went on to do very well, competing for Britain in one competition.”

Jodie’s passion for riding remains as strong as ever. She admits: “I have ridden every day of my life since I was three, and I would never think of giving up. I wouldn’t know what to do without it.”

One of the 10 horses at the stables is Poppy, and she and Jodie have won the Somerton Open seven times, and also qualified for the National finals some years ago. Poppy is now 21 but still as sprightly as ever, according to her owner.

Inevitably travelling to the mainland is a costly business, and Jodie admits that is the main reason why her showjumping career has not progressed as much as she would have liked. But she takes satisfaction that she has had several horses that she has nurtured to a certain level, and then they have gone on to gain successes elsewhere.

“Unfortunately I have not been able to afford to then take them on to the next level, and be on the road and away from work two or three days a week, three weeks a month. I had a really good horse called Niels which I part-owned, and after we won a lot of classes he went on to a New Zealand showjumper named Grant Cashmere. Niels has moved on again, but is still doing well competing on the mainland.”

More recently Jodie sold a seven-year-old named Touplesse, which had a good pedigree, and enabled her to buy another horse. At the stables she has two-year-old Tupelo as well as a four-year-old, Cunegonde, owned by Johan Christofferson and both from the same stock as Touplesse.  She says: “I am really quite excited that they might be good, although it is still a bit too early yet to actually say so.”

After Jodie left school she worked for a catering company on the Island, then worked with horses on the mainland for a six-month spell which did not quite work out as she had hoped. So upon her return she did waitress and bar work before deciding to set up her own riding school at the Linfield Stables.

That lasted two-and-a-half years, before she decided she needed more regular work and the income that went with it. Now she is happy getting up at the crack of dawn to muck out and exercise the horses, before switching to her day job of delivering to farms for Island company Agricentre.

“I love the job, because it gets me away from the stables for a while and also provides a regular wage packet,” she smiled. “I go round delivering chemicals, gates, fencing – anything to do with farming. But I still have plenty of time for competing, which is very important.

“There is a lot of friendly rivalry on the Island, but at the same time everyone trys to help one another. But having won the title three years running, I am sure they will all be trying to beat me next time, so I suppose I do feel under a bit of pressure.”