Jessica Ayling is one of those fortunate individuals who’s followed her passion and turned it into a fulfilling career. Loving horses from an early age, Jessica is the owner and founder of Jessie’s Riding Academy at Lake Cathie – a thriving business helping people of all ages to also follow their dreams …
Jessie, what’s your back story?
I grew up on the Central Coast and attended school at Umina. In 1994 I holidayed in Port Macquarie and I loved it, so I decided to call it home.
Tell us about your affinity for horses …
I was born with a passion and love for horses; I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want one. My mum was constantly pestered to buy me a horse; she would always say, “We have nowhere to keep a horse”.
I thought I could find a solution to this problem, so I’d ride around town on my bike searching out places I deemed suitable (they were just small vacant blocks of land, but I was ever hopeful). Eventually, Mum admitted we were not in a financial position to own a horse. Looking back on it now, I will be forever grateful I wasn’t able to own a horse before I had the skills to ride, handle and care for one properly.
I began having riding lessons with Kim Lowe at Kariong, learning a broad range of important skills, including daily care and maintenance of horses, as well as competition up to Royal Show level. After four years of lessons, I was 15 and had a casual job to pay for the upkeep of a horse, so my parents bought me my first horse.
What led you to establish your business, Jessie’s Riding Academy? How much of a challenge has it been getting a new business off the ground?
Once I began riding lessons, it dawned on me that a career with horses was not only possible, but achievable. I wanted to spend every minute I could with horses and I have always loved helping people, so a riding academy seemed perfect.
The two biggest challenges with a business such as this one are the startup expense and securing the right horses. Not coming from a wealthy background, the facilities that can now be seen at Jessie’s Riding Academy have been a labour of love; they have been slowly and personally built by my very talented, supportive partner – in life and in business – David.
Our horses in the beginning had been my personal riding horses; as time moved on, they have been replaced with horses I purchased young or bred myself and trained specifically for the purpose of coaching students.
What training have you had/ qualifications do you hold?
Aside from years of personal experience, I have a certificate III in Horse Industry Operations, I’m an EA NCAS LEVEL 1 accredited Dressage Coach and I also have a Certificate
IV in Workplace Training and Assessment. I’m currently studying for EA NCAS LEVEL 2 Dressage. Our much loved riding instructor and resident stable manager, Georgia Kuhn, started as a student at Jessie’s Riding Academy in 2002; she is an EA NCAS Introductory Level Coach and is currently studying for EA NCAS Level 1 Dressage.
Introduce us to some of your horses: Splash is a 16hh paint bred gelding. He was purchased as a newborn from Smiths Creek Paint Horses at Rollands Plains in October 2000. Splash is a gentle giant who helps riders build confidence and strengthens their independent seat. Monty’s a 9yo 15hh chestnut paint horse, sired by Burnin Love (affectionately known as Burnie) – a well known paint stallion whose progeny have a reputation for being even tempered, good natured horses. Monty was purchased by a lovely lady as a green broke 2yo for her son; he was trained for them by us but when their circumstances changed, he was purchased from the family as a 4yo. He’s a lovely, quiet horse with very even steady strides – perfect for beginner riders. He’s well trained and has been shown in western events, so he’s also perfect for the more advanced riders. Bella is a 9yo, 14.2hh chestnut paint bred who is also sired by Burnie. She’s a sweet natured, sensitive horse, who has smooth movement, so she is great for beginners. She’s well trained and has been shown in English events, so she is also perfect for advanced riders.
These horses were chosen for their breed (paint horses) and their bloodlines, which help to predict their suitability for this type of career. We like to train our own horses, so we can be sure they understand clearly all the cues we teach our riders to use.
Describe some of the classes the Academy offers?
We have express lessons (30 mins) or horsemanship lessons (1 hr) and offer free after school pickup from Port Macquarie for term students, camps and clinics, birthday parties, pony rides, agistment and we’ve also been known to supply horses for weddings, proposals on the beach and other requested purposes.
What have been some of your proudest moments? I love my work, seeing riders of all ages applying themselves to acquiring new skills and improving their connection with horses.
I’m so very proud of my horses; they have taught many students over the years – some have become very competent riders and/or horse owners and are lucky enough to have excelled in competition – winning at Royal hack shows and dressage championships or winning National Titles at both AQHA, NPHA and PHAA shows, and some have represented Australia and won and placed at the Youth World Paint Show.
Changing disciplines is challenging (from dressage and hacking to western), so for me personally winning a PHAA National Title in the bridleless class on a 2yo at my first PHAA Nationals in 2007 was a highlight, as was winning Hi-Point Western Horse at the PHAA Nationals in 2013.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
We’re offering a new service to the public – starting (or breaking in), training and retraining of horses. You can find out more by checking our website or contacting us. Our inspiration comes from horsemen like Double Dans, Clinton Anderson, Stacy Westfall, Ian Francis and more. We hope to attend some clinics in the coming year to continue enhancing our own horsemanship.
More info? Our website www.jessiesridingacademy.com.au or alternatively, call 0416 309 486, or email email@example.com to talk to Jessie or Georgia. We also have a Facebook page.
Thanks Jessie. Interview by Jo Atkins.