By Sharon Meyers
Always horse crazy, Jenni Fairweather grew up in a city ‘built on gold’ - Bendigo in Victoria. The first gold rush there was in 1851 but Jenni well and truly struck gold over 125 years later when her cousin obtained a pony.
Luckily Jenni was allowed to ride him every Sunday and as their partnership blossomed they attended pony club and competed together at local shows. At the time Jenni figured she was the luckiest kid in Bendigo! In fact, even though not knowing it at the time, this little pony was to set Jenni up for a lifetime of happiness with horses.
Introduced to Arabians when at high school, Jenni purchased an unregistered Arabian filly previously confiscated with several other horses to settle a debt! She broke the filly in and has been hooked on Arabians since.
After high school she attended Melbourne University, Glenormiston College, obtaining a Degree in Applied Science (Equine Management). Not having any definite ideas about a career path, the one thing Jenni did conclude was her profession and lifestyle had to be jam-packed with horses – she just couldn’t imagine life without them!
In 2002 the black Arabian colt Baghira Era (Om El Shareikh x Eagleridge Rain Dancer) caught her eye with his masculine good looks and kind temperament. Jenni had previously enjoyed success with the Arabian mare Eagleridge Coco Chanel also sired by Om El Shareikh and believed when you are on a good thing, stick with it! As a result, Baghira was purchased as a yearling and was her inspiration to venture into the exciting world of Arabian horse breeding.
A relationship breakdown was the impetus for a move to New South Wales where Jenni worked on a couple of large Arabian horse breeding farms, which provided a totally different insight into the Arabian horse world.
A couple of years later she moved back to Victoria and was accepted into a government run program to establish her small business, Peak Performance Equine, providing PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) therapy for horses alongside her already established halter business, Leading Designs, making Arabian and miniature horse show halters. At long last Jenni had reached her goal of filling both her professional and leisure time with horses!
Always passionate about her little group of Arabians, Jenni has dabbled in breeding, showing and taking part in different equestrian activities with them. Like many of us, she just loves having them around 24/7.
Then life took an unexpected twist in 2016 when Jenni made the monumental decision to move to the United States of America. This resulted in the heartbreaking decision of what to do with her beloved Arabians.
I recently interviewed Jenni and was thrilled to learn she took one of her Australian homebred Arabians with her.
Yes. In 2016 a totally unexpected turn of events occurred when I received a Facebook message from America. It was from someone whom I knew while attending university 20 years ago! Prior to me travelling to America for a family wedding, we communicated regularly. After the wedding, Scott Fugate and I spent several days together where it dawned on us both that we wanted to pursue a future together. After considerable thought and discussion, it was decided I would make the move to the USA.
The difficult decision was made to sell my remaining horses.
I still own Baghira in partnership with Kael Park Spanish Arabians in Queensland, but the one horse I could not part from was my precious Jensems Suzie Q (Baghira Era x Warrawee Sahra). Born October 2009, she was one of the last foals I bred and closely represents my ideal Arabian. I’d had some success showing her in-hand in Australia, a highlight being Bronze Champion at the Australasian Breeders Cup (Equitana) in Sydney. She just had to go to America with me!
The more high profile classes are known as the “main ring”. Disciplines include western, English and park saddle classes, along with the hyped up halter classes. The English and Park saddle disciplines are totally different styles of riding to back home.
I was pleased to find the Sport Horse scene in the Arabian world over here. Sport Horse saddle classes are more similar to our hack classes and the other events for Sport Horse include dressage, working hunter and carriage disciplines. The in-hand classes are judged quite differently with score sheets and remarks similar to a dressage test sheet. Classes are presided over by United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) judges, as opposed to Arabian horse specific judges. The strength of these classes continues to grow and now rival the “main ring” in terms of entry numbers.
The cost of showing in America is comparable to Australia however the cost of keeping horses is less with feed and board relatively affordable. There is also a much broader range of disciplines that are well supported at the Arabian shows.
Not long after Suzie Q arrived in the US, we ventured to a local show competing in several Sport Horse Mare In Hand classes, bringing home four championships together with positive remarks from the judge.
In an attempt to qualify for the Arabian Sport Horse Nationals I travelled to Douglas, Wyoming to compete at the Region 6 championship show. There, to my absolute delight, we were awarded two Sport Horse Mare In Hand championships and for her debut under saddle, two championships and one reserve championship. We had well and truly qualified for the Nationals!
The Arabian Sport Horse Nationals is the only breed specific sport horse show held in the US. It was held in Nampa, Idaho in 2016. I had Suzie Q entered in her open and amateur in-hand and under saddle classes, five classes in total. The size of the classes was daunting - no less than 35 horses in the in-hand classes with more than 40 in each of her three saddle classes. I also competed a Half Arabian mare for a friend, a total of nine classes making for a busy show - each saddle class was split into heats.
To say I was totally overwhelmed with our results would be an understatement! Second time competing under saddle, Suzie Q came home with two top tens (third and fifth overall) plus a National Championship Under Saddle, along with two top tens in-hand (seventh and eighth overall). I also managed a top ten in-hand plus a finalist and a top ten under saddle with the Half Arabian mare I competed. A great show for our team!
With these results Suzie Q achieved both her Legion of Honor + as well as her Legion of Merit ++, points based awards similar to the ROM in Australia. She has also been awarded the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) 2016 Horse of the Year Region 6 Champion Arabian Sport Horse In Hand and Champion Arabian Sport Horse Under Saddle as well as finishing 20th nationally from 221 horses in-hand and sixth nationally from 228 horses under saddle. She is now officially registered as Jensems Suzie Q ++ here in the US.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever export a horse from Australia to America, let alone for her to become a US National Champion. I am bursting with pride for my little homebred Australian mare!
My plans are to aim for official dressage events and begin to work through the levels. I’m very fortunate to have found an excellent dressage instructor and with just a few lessons so far, we have already improved out of sight. Scott also enjoys taking Suzy Q out for the occasional pleasure ride.
One day I would like to breed a foal or two, but for now we will continue to compete.al or two, but for now we will continue to compete.