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Horseless - again and again


For Jennifer Baker, the chance to ride at the World Equestrian Games meant everything. It was the chance she refused to give up on despite being horseless numerous times.


by Pat Payne


“When I couldn’t ride, I was pretty much dead inside.” Despite devastating injuries, Jennifer found a way to


“I


ride. What’s more, her determination and drive, along with some incredible luck, helped get her to the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games as a para-equestrian. Jennifer was given her first horse when she was barely in elementary school thanks to her grandfather’s will. “My grandfather was a horse trainer who emigrated from Ireland. When he died, he said that my mother was to use some of the money to buy me a horse,” she remembers with a chuckle. With her competitive fire ignited, it wouldn’t be many years later when she would be using the cash gifts from her first communion to purchase a horse more suited for the show ring. For Jennifer, that deter-


mination to compete and to succeed has never diminished, despite personal and profes- sional setbacks that would have stopped a woman less focused and, perhaps, less stubborn. Now riding as a Grade IV para-equestrian, she simply refuses to give up.


TEENAGE DREAMS After spending her teenage years helping her mother build up a training and lesson operation in Mt. Bethel, Pennsylvania, Jennifer’s life changed abruptly when at age


42 January/February 2011


’ve been riding my whole life,” Jennifer Baker says, both proudly and with a touch of wryness. “It’s what I do.” Later, the 47 year old adds more somberly,


19 she became a single mother. That left little room in her life for the competitions, including dressage, and the fox hunting she had so enjoyed. Instead, she was studying to become a phlebotomist and waitressing to support herself and her son. She rode when she could, but opportunities were sometimes few and far between. It was a difficult time in her life. A dozen years later, her mother Nancy—a big part of her support system—moved to Cincinnati. Jennifer decided make a big change in her own life and take over the management of Forest Brook, the operation she and her mother had built in Mt. Bethel. Her son was now a teenager and life was settling into a more comfortable pattern. She also met a man whose company she enjoyed, one who shared her taste for adventurous sports. In his case, adventure came on two wheels—a motorcycle— instead of four legs. Together, they were having lots of fun.


DISASTER STRIKES…TWICE In 2001, everything changed. On their way to celebrate her birthday, riding his motorcycle, Jennifer explains, the pair was struck by


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an automobile while they waited in traffic. The injuries were both dramatic and traumatic—her right ankle was crushed, as were many of the small bones in her foot. In addition, her fibula and tibia were broken. Because of her seat on the back of the motorcycle, Jennifer’s injuries were the far greater of the two. Months of recovery ensued. It was a slow process, but by October, eight months later, Jennifer was back on her


Above: Jennifer and Duel, the horse loaned to her from the University of Findlay’s dressage program.


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