By Riesa Lakin
August 25, 2020
There’s no greater gift than being able to spend your time around horses. And no one knows that truth more than Jordan Allen. As a junior rider, she climbed the ranks in the hunters and equitation as a working student for Ashland Farms. Now, having finished her first year of college, you would think so much has changed. That may be, but her love for horses and spending any moment she can with them certainly has not.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Allen about her past year and how she’s spending her time during the pandemic. One thing is for sure—her love and gratitude for horses is contagious. While I, personally, LOVE horses and riding, her energy and passion could restore even the most exhausted horse person.
Find out how Allen is spending her time during the pandemic, her plans for the future, and her tips and tricks for riding different horses, horse care, and more!
*Note: this interview was conducted in May, prior to horse shows reopening.
Jordan Allen competing at The Devon Horse Show on her horse, Cassini. Photo courtesy of The Book LLC.
Hi Jordan! I’m so excited to be speaking with you. How’s everything going? You’re currently in Wellington, correct? Are you still able to ride every day with the current state of the pandemic?
Yes, I am riding every day. I can't even explain how lucky I feel. My parents are up north in Michigan and are dying of boredom in their house. Obviously, I just go home right after the barn, but I’m usually there (at the barn) until 3-4pm every day nowadays. So, it's so nice to be able to still be out of the house for most of the day. I just feel so lucky to ride. There's no other sport, I think, that's able to say that right now. Even Mondays, which is our day off, it feels so weird to stay in the house even for one day. I can’t imagine staying in even longer.
Totally! It must have been a strange year so far. Did you just finish up your freshman year at college?
Yes, I'm finishing it now. We just have a couple more weeks left, which is so crazy that I missed out on half of it. It's so sad!
Wow, that’s really terrible. It must be tough as a freshman, but also for seniors, as far as graduation goes and their last NCAA championship.
The championships are just so heartbreaking because we worked so hard and we're such a close team at [the University of] South Carolina. I would say that, even talking to the seniors, it just breaks your heart that they can't finish it. No one saw this coming, obviously.
Yes, it’s very sad. I hope that everyone is staying safe and healthy, but to work so hard and to not be able to compete in your last final, it’s got to be tough.
Right, but also this (the pandemic) is serious thing. There are people dying, so really we have no complaints. It’s just unfortunate.
Pandemic aside, what were your goals for this year? You just came off of an incredible junior career. What was this year supposed to look like to you and have those goals been affected by the pandemic?
Well, thank you. That means a lot. I still think last year was such a dream—my last junior year. And, just a little off topic—I feel so bad for the kids who are missing out on their last Devon Horse Show. That’s really when my year kicked into gear. I had such the bond with my horse, Cassini, and Devon’s just so crucial. It's like the closest thing to finals—figuring out what horse, the way to prepare yourself, and the way to prepare and set up your horse. It's just unfortunate that they're missing it.
But this year, being an amateur, I have a horse; a hunter. I've been doing him in the 3’3 amateur owners division. His name is Barbizon. My parents got him as an investment. I'm having so much fun! You think it's going to be such a big transition, aging out, and it was sad. I went from showing so many horses a weekend to now, as an amateur, there are so many USEF restrictions. So, I just show Liam (Barbizon). But it is really amazing in a different way, having your own horses. I haven't had a horse in so long, and having your own horse, you really form a relationship [with them]. I was so lucky to catch ride, but sometimes I would just show, and I wouldn't even know the horse’s name. It's so nice nowadays that I'm getting to show my own horse and it's just really exciting.
My plans for this year are to work with him and to also excel in college at the University of South Carolina. The riding team there is so fun and so different from anything I’ve been doing, but also so similar, just catch riding in that you could get on a horse you're not familiar with and go head-to-head with someone. I really love it. That’s obviously being affected, like we discussed. The National Championship getting cancelled and college ending was huge. I mean this has never happened in generations. So, I'm really sad about the National Championship ending, but I feel so beyond lucky that I get to be down here in Wellington riding every day. I mean, I know there are not a lot of people in the world that can say they're still getting to leave the house and having something to do. It's just I'm really lucky.
Jordan Allen with her hunter, Barbizon. Photo by Andrew
Definitely! As a junior, you were a working student for Ashland Farm. Are you doing some work for them now or are you just focusing on your own horse now? I feel like being a working student doesn’t really ever end!
That’s so true! I don't work for them, but I would never…I cannot ever imagine just showing up at the ring and riding my horse. I love spending time with the horses. So, I'll get horses ready and I like to help when I can around the barn because I can't imagine not doing that. It wouldn't be right. It's why I love riding—spending time with the horses. So, I’m lucky to have Ashland. They're like my family; they’re the best people in the world.
I will travel with them this summer and just help whenever I can in the barn. I do it for fun. And I love so much the sense of having something to do and that I can help. We have about 60 horses at Ashland. So, it's always busy. There’s always horses to be ridden and things to do. I'm just so lucky that they allow me. And I’d say I’d spend all day at the barn from morning to night. I just really love it.
Do you consider yourself a forever barn rat?
Oh my God! I will never imagine the day that I won’t be! It's so funny because in any other field, you know, it can make you tired. But with riding, I don't know what power it has to make us want to work from 6:00am to 6:00pm all day, every single day. It's just unbelievable like that. We all love it so much. I can never do a nine-to-five now.
Image by Taylor Pence
With the pandemic and the ban of horse shows, as well as your school turning to virtual classes, how you're using your downtime with the horses?
I would say with the horses, I'm just trying to improve my riding as much as I can. It's honestly so nice. The world pandemic is so terrible, but it’s so nice to be lessoning and working on different exercises. We’re not working right now to have a great round in the show ring. We’re working on making the horses go as best we can, and we’re keeping them very fit. We’re riding every day, we’re lessoning, we’re doing all the things, so I would say I’m working loads on improving my riding while I can, having a different focus than on winning the class. It’s so nice to step back and focus on different things.
What are some of your favorite exercises that you've been focusing on at home that you really enjoy?
Mine and definitely Ken Smith’s favorite exercise is extending and collecting. We will set up a line in the ring—say two small verticals—and we will do every possible number in them from like six to eleven [strides]. I love it! I think that is the best way to train a horse and yourself mentally because it's a discipline game. You could flow down in the right number of strides and then add four strides to that, or you leave out five. It's so free to make a mistake and I love that. You don't get it right the first time. It’s so off-kilter. In the [show] ring, you’d never do a 12 in a 6 [stride], but it’s mental discipline, and I think that's my favorite exercise.
We also do a lot of gymnastics with the jumpers to work on position for both the horse and rider. I have always loved gymnastics. I think they're really important, more so than practicing courses actually. And we're also doing a lot of flat work lately because the horses don't really need to jump. So, we're having a lot of flat lessons which is nice.
What are you doing outside of the ring during this downtime?
Oh my gosh, school! It's harder than people think. It's funny. If I'm being honest, I really think it's harder to not be at school doing it. A lot of kids (whom she rode with) did online school in high school. I never did that. I always went to a traditional school. So, the online aspect is actually really tough for me. I don't know why; I just love a classic classroom. It’s hard to not have your office hours at your disposal or not have an exact calendar because you're not going to see your professor for a while. It's been a little harder for me than I think for others because I’ve never done online school. I make myself do it, but it really is challenging.
Your passion for horses is evident in everything you do. Where does this passion come from and has it grown over time, or has it been a constant throughout your career?
Yes, I would say it has absolutely grown through the years since becoming a working student at Ashland. I always loved horses and when my mom took me out to the barn when I was seven, it was like love at first sight. I love riding. It is my forever passion. But being a working student and spending time with them really made me love the animal aspect of them. I spend so much time out of the saddle with the farrier and the vet. They're amazing animals and they don't have to do any of the things that they do for us, as riders. So, I think that's what's so amazing to me. That's why I love them so much. They're meant to run around in a field. We ask the unthinkable of them and the fact that they do it for me is just unbelievable. I also think the bond you can form with a horse is so special. I have never and I will never have a bond like I had with my equitation horse, Cassini. He's still in the barn, so I'm lucky I see him every day. But the bond—I can’t explain it in words. It's like he always knows, when I ride him, what I'm thinking, and I always know his move. He glams me up and makes me better. That's when I really realized how much I love horses. You have to appreciate a bond like that.
I love that! It’s so true! Did your parents ever have interest in horses, or is it something you found on your own?
My mom, when she was younger, did like a little bit of riding. My dad—absolutely not! He played football. He was always into something a bit cheaper (said laughing).
Image courtesy of Jordan Allen's Instagram.
You said your family is in Michigan. How has it been with you being here and unable to see them?
Yes, they’re in West Bloomfield. I was just saying to someone how it’s been a long time and I miss my parents. My mom and I always have this rule. I’m so close to my parents. I'm an only child, so every three weeks she would come down to school. We have meets (for the equestrian team) almost every week, so she would come to the meets, or if I went to ride [in Wellington], she would meet me in Wellington. Michigan is on a lockdown even stricter than Florida, so I haven't seen my parents in about a month, and it's hard. They were here last time for spring break. They came here (to Wellington) to meet me, but it's just hard having not seen them in a long time. I'm not used to it.
Michigan is so far. To drive would be crazy. If I were in Kentucky (where Ashland Farms is based out of), it'd be easier to drive. It’s really bad up there and both my parents are in the medical field, so it’s just hard.
Wow, that sounds tough. It’s clear your passion for horses is something that’s not going anywhere, but what are some longer-term goals? What are you thinking of doing after you graduate college?
Horses will forever be a part of it. I cannot imagine a day that I will not ride. Right now, I think I will continue riding at the University of South Carolina, obviously and Ashland. I want to be an amateur there for a while. I'd really like to keep riding all throughout college and med school, but the long-term goal is to be either an anesthesiologist or dermatologist—something in the medical field for sure. I also love children, so I’d love to do something in pediatrics. But I will ride forever. I cannot imagine a time my life when I wouldn’t.
Is the interest in medicine come from your parents, or do you feel like you got that interest on your own?
A lot of it comes from my parents because it’s all I’ve ever known, but my parents are so supportive. Whatever I wanted to do, they’re right by me. There’s something about children and helping people; I've always known that I wanted to help people and save lives. Especially right now with everything going on and this pandemic, it is interesting to me because a lot of people are working from home—almost everyone. But my parents go to work every day. I was talking about it with someone the other day about would I want to do that (have to go to work during the pandemic), and there was no question in my mind that I wouldn't want to stop working. I would work until they kicked me out. I really do have a passion for working and structure. I just love it.
That’s really great! Ok, I have a few lightning-round questions for you. First, if you could only pick one discipline, which one would you choose?
What’s your favorite must-have products to have ring-side.
I must have my favorite spurs. I could not show without them. I literally could ride any horse–the hottest horse to the dullest horse. I try not to ever change my spurs. I've had them since I was young, and they have two different straps and are two different sizes. I think that's why I love them. No one would want to take them—they’re so jank.
Is there anything else you keep in your show backpack?
Oh my gosh! I have to have boot polish. Last circuit, especially when I was really busy, I would keep granola bars because I would not realize that it would be three o'clock in the afternoon and I hadn't eaten. So, I would always keep granola bars in my bag. I try to keep sunscreen [on me]. It's been so hot these days and the sun can be terrible. I also always keep Chapstick, water, and a phone charger, because my phone is always dying. I have my favorite stick and sticky spray. And everyone knows that I always have a sweater. I'm very anemic, so I'm always cold. If I'm not wearing my show jacket, I’ll have a sweater on even in the hottest weather.
Even if it's 90 degrees, you like having a sweater on?
Do you still get nervous when you show?
No, for some reason, I don't feel nervous really ever showing. It's really weird.
What’s your favorite horse that you’ve ever ridden?
Cassini, of course.
How about favorite horse that you’ve never ridden?
My favorite horse ever was Hickstead. And the fact that he went out trying his hardest, I mean that seriously says something.
How do you spend your Mondays typically? Do you have a favorite activity for your day off?
Last year, I was on a gap year. Since I didn’t have school, I LOVED to lay out at the pool, and I would nap a lot. I also love going to see the horses when I’m not in breeches, taking them out and putting them in the paddock. I love having the day off and going to see them.
What are some of your favorite horse care products?
I'm obsessed with the purple shavers. They are literally a godsend. My favorite shampoo is QUIC SILVER that I use on the white horses. I could not imagine not using it because the white horses are somehow always getting dirty. I love EquiFit boots. We use them for training and showing on every equitation horse and jumper. I love EquiFit. I think there's such a great company. I also love their T-sport polos. What else am I obsessed with? I love liniment. I think it's so good because I don't think horses should get poulticed as much, and I think it's better than alcohol. Those are the things that I really love.
Jordan with her trainer Emily Smith. Image courtesy of The Book LLC.
What's your favorite memory on a horse?
That would have to be Medal Finals when Cassini won the Best Eq Horse Award. It was the best feeling. He is single-handedly the greatest horse to walk the earth. Just being there, the day was so special, and being recognized as the best horse just meant a lot because he felt he knew it was an important day. It was all special.
Does he get extra competitive? Does he know when it’s a big show day?
Oh my God, it’s not even funny. He knows. He's so smart.
But another favorite memory, I have to say was the Hunter Spectacular on Kind Of Blue. It was really amazing. Both of my parents were there, and it was my first night class. That was a huge night for me. He’s one of the best horses ever too! (Jordan rode the horse to third place in the $100,000 WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular in 2019)
Do you still get to ride him?
No, but I am lucky to see Brady Mitchell all the time. So, I always hear about him and make sure he's doing okay. He does the A/Os with Dana, his owner and she's so sweet. So, I keep contact with all of them.
Do you have any tips or tricks that you’ve learned along the way from riding or caring for your horses?
I think it's very important, especially in this world, to be nice everyone. I was so lucky, and I’ve been so lucky to have had some incredible opportunities. There are so many people that were in my position, and I just I got really lucky and had a lot of people who wanted it for me. So, I think it's important to be nice really to everyone. There’re so many nasty people in the world in general and I think it’s disgusting. I think it's important to be nice as a rider.
In the sense of catch riding, I've learned to make the most out of your flat work. It's hard…you get on these horses that you don't know, and you go right into the show ring. So, it's important to use flat work so you can get to know them better. It's important to extend and collect and test out your gears with the horse if you don't know them before showing.
Thank you so much for these great tips! We appreciate you taking the time to share with us what your life looks like right now. You can now catch Allen showing again in the hunter rings this summer as the horse shows have started up again.