I interviewed Aleece Jarman – a junior rider who just turned pro! Aleece currently competes in the hunters and jumpers and rides out of her family’s farm, Aubrey Hill Equestrian Center, located in Florida.
Aleece began riding about 14 years ago. When she was younger she also did ballet and gymnastics, but her parents wanted her to choose one sport to invest her time in – she chose riding horses. For most of her life, she has adapted so that she could invest as much time and focus into riding and competing as possible.
“When I was in fifth grade I became homeschooled so I could focus even more on my riding and showing,” she said. “A few years after that I switched to online school so I could complete my work a little bit easier especially when traveling. Now I’m 18 and starting out my first year as a professional. I honestly can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
Being a professional means a busy day. Typically, Aleece will start schoolwork around 8:15 in the morning. This takes her about 3 to 4 hours. After eating lunch, she begins her rides of the day which are usually a minimum of 3 to 4. After finishing up riding, she and her family eat dinner and watch television together.
Aleece’s parents have played an integral part in her riding. They are not just the owners of where she rides – they’re her trainers too.
“Training with them is great! Not only do we joke around and have a good time but I feel more comfortable being trained by my parents,” she said. “They know me better than anyone so if I’m having trouble with my riding they will know exactly how to explain it so I am able to understand. We don’t fight at all. Our entire family is very respectful when it comes to each other and I definitely think that helps.”
Aleece said she loves having her entire family involved in riding, and she feels it helps to bring them closer together.
“We’re able to share a sport that we love with each other and that’s pretty cool because some families aren’t able to do that,” Aleece said.
Aleece recently became a professional rider, and she was extremely excited about it. She personally loves having new goals and problems to overcome, and she also loves challenges. Although aging out has been a little nerve wracking, she considers it to be a new chapter in her career. She also said that she hasn’t found it difficult to start riding as a professional, even at only 18 years old.
“I have a lot of people around me that are extremely supportive and want me to have as much success as I possibly can,” Aleece said. “I just continue to ride to the best of my ability and work hard to improve my riding every single day.”
Aleece did hunters for most of her life and considers it to be her “main” discipline. However, when she turned 16, she decided to try doing jumper classes because they looked “extremely challenging.” Additionally, the jumper levels go much higher than they do in the hunter ring. She also wanted to expand her knowledge and skill set.
Aleece currently competes in both the hunter and jumper classes on a few different horses. Her personal horse, Cantori (or “Canto”), is a 9 year old Holsteiner. During the end of her junior career, she showed him in the high junior jumpers. As she progresses in her professional career and he in his training and experience, she hopes to show him in welcomes, classics, Mini Prixs, and Grand Prixs. (Note: Aleece recently announced on her Instagram that she will be selling Canto. A horse that she has been riding, named Stevens, will become her personal horse.)
She also shows two other horses, both of which are for sale. Big Promise – or Promise – a 10 year old Dutch Warmblood that she considers to be a “great first jumper.” In fact, he helped Aleece get from the 1.10 meter classes to the 1.35 and 1.40 classes. Additionally, Promise is now ridden by Aleece’s sister who wanted to start doing jumper classes.
Finally, Aleece rides Wanelo – or Nelo – a 6 year old Dutch Warmblood in the pre-greens. He is also a sale horse.
Being able to train horses and ponies is something about which Aleece is extremely proud. She has been doing so since the age of 9 with the help of her parents.
“Putting all of that hard work and time into a horse or pony and then winning a big class or even qualifying for a big show means more than words can describe,” she said.
With all the success that Aleece has experienced, I wondered whether she ever felt the pressure to be ‘perfect.’ She did, especially when she used to show her small pony, Rico Suavè. Due to her success on him, a lot of spectators would attend her classes to watch her ride. She said this would make her nervous and cause her to choke.
“Eventually I learned to push the nerves away and just go out there and ride. Now that I’m older and have more show experience, I tend to not get nervous. No one is perfect so I finally stopped trying to be,” she said. “Turns out things work out much better when you aren’t trying to perform at an impossible standard!”
Aleece is extremely active on social media which hasn’t always been fun for her. She said that she’s experienced an incredible amount of internet hate, but she hasn’t let that get to her.
“Some people have said things to me that I do not wish to repeat…” She said. “Fortunately, I’ve always been the type of person that could care less what others think especially when it comes to my riding. I’m happy with who I am and that’s what matters. People that hide behind anonymous and try to destroy your life aren’t even worth your time. You just have to keep your chin up and focus on the things that really matter.”
Though she is a professional, Aleece said she does have a riding weakness: her size.
“I’m only 5’ tall so being strong enough is sometimes a big issue for me. For my height I’m quite muscular but compared to taller women or men I’m very weak,” she said. “Controlling horses much bigger than me can be a difficult task especially if the horse is acting up.”
However, she also thinks her size is an advantage as it allows her to ride any size horse or pony, and she wouldn’t want to be taller.
Aleece doesn’t have any specific goals going into this year aside from improving her riding and skill set. She also wants to learn as much as she can from the sport. Her ultimate long-term goal is to show in a Grand Prix or jumper derby at Spruce Meadows.
Since she is 18, college is just around the corner, but Aleece hasn’t figured out yet what she would like to do aside from taking some photography classes. However, she did stress that riding will always come first for her, and she considers it to be her profession.
As for other professionals, Aleece said she has always looked up to Nick Skelton.
“His horses are always in amazing shape and perform to the best of their abilities,” she said. “He goes in that ring to get the job done and he makes it look effortless in the process.”
She also considers McLain Ward to be a role model and would love to clinic with him one day.
“He is an incredible rider who not only has amazing equitation, but he’s also quite admirable in jump offs. He knows exactly how to set a horse up for a turn and knows exactly when to push the limit,” she said.
Finally, we asked about her favorite riding products. She loves Tailored Sportsman breeches (which she was still wearing at 7 pm during her interview), her GPA Speed Air helmet, and Pikeur jackets and belts.
All photos are courtesy of Aleece Jarman and credited to the photographers listed in the caption. Please do not use without permission.