Wilmington, Ohio – This week’s Wilmington Sunday Spotlight shines on Jessica Jurkowitz. What started as a family activity for Jurkowitz, turned into an everlasting love for equestrian sport. The professional rider of Clover Hill Farm in Lebanon, Ohio, can be found in the R+L Arena with her top mount Fineas in the Green Hunters and the National Hunter Derbies. We caught up with Jurkowitz after her rounds to learn more about her special relationships at Clover Hill Farm and the touching story behind Fineas.
WEC: How did you get into the sport?
I started riding when I was really young. My grandfather had horses and I started riding in front of him on the saddle when I was two years old. I always loved horses. My sister has Down syndrome, and growing up she started riding with the handicap program when it started in 1985, and I would go and take lessons with her. It evolved from there. I kept riding and it was really the only sport that I ever liked.
WEC: Tell us about Clover Hill Farm.
I am originally from Cincinnati, and I rode with a handful of people in the area growing up. After college, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go professional or stay an amateur. After I graduated, a wonderful lady contacted me and she needed a rider/manager. She was fantastic so I could not turn it down! I went to work for her and I have been with Clover Hill Farm for 18 years. I took my amateur horse with me there and started my professional career. It is just one family at the farm and Maggie Gieske, and her daughters ride, and my daughter gets to ride too. It is small, we have about 15 horses and 7 show horses that we bring. I have great help on the ground and the horses are going great. It has helped me turn it up a notch.
We don’t have a big team, but we have the best team. We have Hector and Katie that keep all of my things intact and ring side. It isn’t a huge team, but it is a great team. Some people stay home and take care of the ones that don’t show and it is wonderful.
How has WEC been influential for you and your horses?
I love coming to WEC because it is so good for the horses. The footing is amazing, the jumps are amazing and it is super friendly for the horses to keep them sound and happy. It is in our back yard, so it is easy for the clients to be able to drive up, horse show, and then have dinner and be able to spend the night in their own house. The location and the benefits for the horses are just amazing.
Tell us about your horse, Fineas.
He is wonderful. The owner of the farm, Lynn Schiff, who has since passed is my lifelong inspiration. She picked him out on the internet. He was from Viriginia, and she sent me down to buy him. So, we drove down and tried him and he was just amazing. We did him in the baby greens and shortly after, Lynn ended up getting diagnosed with Leukemia and passing away. Fineas was the last horse that she picked out and he is just amazing, so any time I get to ride him it’s like she is with me. Now Maggie has the farm, and we are all doing it together and making her dreams come true. He is so many dreams wrapped up in one horse and now they are all coming true.
What are your 2024 show plans?
I want to keep doing the derbies with Fineas and I will bring some of the others along. Maggie is showing some, and both of our daughters will be showing some. We are just going to keep if fun and go out and be competitive. We will stay here for the whole winter to start the season.