Prairie Woman of the Month: Jamie Gerardi

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Jamie Gerardi is a New York native turned Midwest local. She has been riding horses since she was 4 years old, and has established herself in the Central Illinois community as one of it’s best riding instructors. She owns a horse barn named J&S Farm, just outside of Champaign, Illinois, offering lessons for all ages, as well as coaching competitive equestrian teams. She is a model prairie woman for her self-driven success! 

For more info on Jamie's equestrian services, visit her website.

Did you grow up on a horse farm?

I did not live on a horse farm when I was a kid, but horses have always been a big part of my life. My family lived in a residential area that was too developed for keeping horses, but my parents often drove me to a barn 30 minutes away so that I could learn to ride and to care for the animals.

What does a typical day look like for you?

During a typical day, I take care of my household, my daughter, and my business. When my daughter leaves for school, I spend time corresponding with customers to schedule lessons and personally address their concerns. With the time left over, I help with barn work such as cleaning the facility and turning horses out in the pasture. At night, I spend time with my daughter and often cook family-style meals for us and some of my employees. The rest of my time is spent teaching. On average, I teach 100 lessons a week. I also run a registered Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) team, so I often travel to shows to coach them during the school year. My team is open to any junior high or high school age riders in the area, so it is always expanding. However, these riders take lessons in my regular program and learn horsemanship by helping out in the barn, so I am able to stick with my typical routine even as my business expands.
 

What is your favorite part about your job?

That is an easy question. My favorite part about teaching people to ride is watching the happiness on my riders’ faces as they learn. I love to watch each rider’s confidence grow as lessons progress. In my program, I stress teamwork, enjoyment, safety, inclusiveness, and understanding the psychology of riding. I have had many riders enter my program with shot confidence, but I found that encouraging these horsemanship practices is a sure fix.
 

What is the most difficult part about your job?

My favorite part of teaching riding is also the most difficult part. Instructing does not just involve explaining the right actions to take, but also talking people through many tough situations that they already know how to ride through. It is the safe overcoming of human fear in a student that can make or break an instructor—so while it is my favorite part of the job, it can also be high stakes.
 

If you could have lunch with one person, living or dead, who would it be?

If granted this opportunity, I would definitely choose to prepare a home-cooked meal with my (now deceased) grandmother. I used to spend weekends with her. She taught me one of the most important lessons in life—and it isn’t something that you would take away from a business economics class. She allowed me to be myself. She taught me that being myself meant that I could love life and enjoy what I am doing even in the face of huge pressures and stress. Though horses were not a major part of the bond that I had with my grandmother, that particular life lesson of hers has allowed me to become a successful horsewoman more than any physical tenant of horsemanship that I have learned. Horses respond to the rider’s and handler’s state of mind just as much as they respond to physical cues. That means that when I am enjoying myself, my horses are too.
 

What or who would you say is your greatest inspiration?

My two greatest inspirations are my daughter and my horses. My horses always continue to inspire me because of their ability to teach. In many cases, one human speaking an infinite amount of words to another could not accomplish what a horse’s actions can teach a rider in one moment. My daughter is also my inspiration, most definitely because of her free spirit. She is a born entertainer, and she can bring a smile to the face of the most stoic person I know. As a rider herself, she has helped me to foster an inclusive and supportive atmosphere for all of my riders, but most especially for my IEA team.