Article & Photography by Allison Rehnborg
Even when it’s hidden behind a mask, Jennifer Barbee’s bright smile can illuminate a whole barn. So when she took fourth place in the Masters Amateur Trail on the second day of the Western APHA National Championships, it’s safe to say the whole arena at the Southpoint Equestrian Center lit up just a little! Jennifer, who’s from Sanger, California, earned the Top Five finish with her long-time showing partner, Gotta Be A Hotrod, a 2005 chestnut overo gelding by Hot Roddin Zip and out of Zipityoso.
“Overall, I was really pleased with our performance,” Jennifer said. “We had a couple of ticks, but ‘Eddie’ steered very well, and I loved our transitions up and down into the different gaits. But any time I get to ride Eddie, I’m really happy. I was also really happy that my friend, Sue Merchant, and her horse, Two Timin Gentleman, were fifth. We compete a lot together and it’s not unusual for us to trade places back and forth. It was great to be able to share that with her!”
Jennifer’s passion for showing Paint Horses, and especially showing her horse, Eddie, is only eclipsed by her passion for the Paint community. In addition to being an active member of the California Paint Horse Association, she’s an APHA state director as well as the chairperson of the California Coordinating Committee, which unites the various Paint Horse Clubs all across the state of California. Jennifer began volunteering for leadership roles in organizations like CCC because she wanted to help improve the future of Paint Horse shows in the West.
“Because our state is so vast and the memberships are so different across the different geographies, the CCC helps make sure that shows are held and that points are calculated correctly and that there are rules that govern year-end activities,” Jennifer said. “My friend, Janet Radford, had been helping to do these things for many years, and she helped me recognize that some of the people who had been filling those roles were starting to retire, but that people who were my age and younger weren’t stepping up to take those positions. I realized that if I wanted to make sure I had more shows to go to, I’d better start volunteering!”
Jennifer’s passion for Paints and her innate talent for serving and welcoming others makes her a natural ambassador for the Paint Horse breed. Whether she’s chatting about Eddie, expounding on her passions for showing, or just sharing her insights on the day’s Amateur trail course, Jennifer recognizes the importance of not just maintaining the association, but also improving it.
“I’m also on the Long Range Planning Committee for APHA, and I am so proud to be a part of it,” Jennifer said. “It makes me feel like not only am I contributing to the things that are really important to me as a competitor, as an exhibitor, as a breeder and as an owner, but also to the things that other people are interested in. I have a better understanding now of the vastness of the industry that our breed organization serves.”
Jennifer may be a hard worker, but she also knows how to celebrate. Her sister, Leah, frequently comes to shows to support Jennifer and Eddie as their groom. So when the Western National Championships ended up falling on the same week as Leah’s birthday, it only made sense that Leah would make the long flight from New York to join her sister in Vegas.
“I only get the opportunity to steal Leah away for some of our bigger events because she is a professional horse person and has her own barn in New York,” Jennifer explained. “So it’s hard for her to get away from the farm to come be my groom, but I had to make her come to Vegas to celebrate her birthday!”
[Reprinting all or part of this news release is permitted, so long as credit is given to the Paint Horse Journal and a link provided back to apha.com.]
The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest international equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded. APHA promotes, preserves and provides meaningful experiences with Paint Horses.