ONE HAS TO TRAVEL ONLY A SHORT DISTANCE FROM THE BUSTLE OF WASHINGTON TO ARRIVE IN THE BEAUTY OF VIRGINIA HORSE COUNTRY. NORTHERN VIRGINIA HAS ENJOYED AN ESTEEMED EQUESTRIAN REPUTATION FOR OVER 200 YEARS, COMPLETE WITH TRAILS, RACES AND SHOWS. RECENTLY THE SPORT HAS GAINED IN POPULARITY, A MUCH NEEDED CONNECTION TO NATURE TO COUNTERACT OUR DIGITAL AGE. POSH SEVEN SPOKE WITH JENNA ZIMMERMAN OF GREAT FALLS ABOUT HER LIFE AS A YOUNG EQUESTRIAN AND ALL THE BENEFITS IT AWARDS HER.
Posh: What got you started with riding?
My sister, Andrea, rode throughout her childhood, and since she was my older sister and I wanted to be exactly like her in every way possible when I was younger, so I decided to start riding as well. However, my parents told me that I was allowed to go have my first lesson under one condition: I use the “big girl potty.” So really, my passion for the equestrian sport all started as an incentive for potty training.
Why do you ride?
I ride because I love horses; I ride because it is my coping mechanism; I ride because I want to be more responsible; I ride because I enjoy the partnership between horse and rider; and I ride because I cannot live without it. Whenever I am having trouble with school or with friends, riding always helps to distract me so that I can come back to the conflict later with a clearer mind. Also, getting to work with another living creature, in a language only the two of you know, to achieve a common goal, is something you only get to experience in the equestrian sport.
Furthermore, as a child I played a lot of sports. Even though I enjoyed all of those activities, I never understood any of them like I did horseback riding, so I always found myself quitting different sports and activities, while keeping riding constant. It was my escape and it was something that I understood, no matter what.
How has riding made an impact on other parts of your life?
Academically, riding has helped me stay more organized, manage my time better, and work harder because I completely understand the value of hard work through my riding career. Riding has also built my patience, made me more independent, and helped me gain responsibility.
Do you do any supplemental activities to stay in shape for riding?
I have gotten into yoga and cycling, in the past, to stay in shape for riding and build my endurance, flexibility, and strength.
Virginia is famous for it’s beautiful horse country. Do you see a growing trend with rising equestrians in the area?
Virginia has a long history of equestrian sport and shows like the Upperville Colt and Horse Show help teach others about, immerse others in, and welcome others into our long history and continued presence in the horse community. The increase of the live streaming of major horse shows in the area and the push towards showing more within the state of Virginia, as represented by the Virginia Hunter Championships, has brought equestrian attention back on Virginia.
How do you mentally prepare for a show?
I get incredibly nervous every time before I show; my stomach ties itself up; my heart feels like it is beating in my throat, and I can barely keep my eyes open from the exhaustion of the nerves. However, to combat my pre-show anxiety, I try to keep myself busy. I normally ride in the ring in the mornings. To distract myself, I polish my boots, take my horse out for some grass, help the groomers by cleaning tack and tacking up horses, and occasionally nap. Although I have not yet found the exact perfect formula for calming my nerves before competing, I have a few rules that I follow so that I can perform as well as possible in the show ring.
What are the health benefits of being an equestrian?
Besides the general exercise that riding presents, the equestrian sport provides a relaxing component that not all other sports can.