The Centre Arena with Jennifer Webster

Jennifer Webster, after securing her championship at the Canadian Supreme, with family in tow.
Photo Credit: Barb Glazer

In late November I opened up my Facebook feed to see Western Horse Review had shared a blog post entitled, “Reflections of the Ride.” I eagerly opened up the piece and dove in, WHR is one of my most favourite horse publications, and the fact it centres in the West, and in Canada, makes it even better. Written by then Editor-in-Chief Ingrid Schulz, it was a beautiful, albeit slightly shocking piece, because it detailed the newest change in the magazine. Jennifer Webster, who was at the time Managing Editor, had purchased the magazine alongside her husband and was now Editor-in-Chief, and publisher. Wow, I thought to myself, now isn’t that something.

So, what do I have to do with any of this information? Well aside from my loyalty as a reader to the magazine, not much. However, I feel like I really know both Ingrid, and Jennifer. Do I? Absolutely not, but am I connected to both of them in weird and wonderful ways? Well, yeah, I kind of am, in the brilliant way that so many people recite everyday, “it’s a small world out there.”

As a loper in Arizona, my trainer and Boss’ barn was next door to the training centre of Arizona cutting horse trainer, Mike Wood. I had heard rumours that Ingrid, and her daughter, rode with Mike. I was at a show in Queen Creek, AZ, watching a client show, when I felt someone walk up next to me. I turned, and Ingrid was standing beside me. “Hi,” I stammered, “I’m Louisa, I work for so-and-so, I really love your magazine.” She smiled, thanked me kindly and walked off shortly thereafter. I remember thinking, I just introduced myself to one of my idols. Earlier this year, an intern position came up at Western Horse Review, I applied but because my degree isn’t in journalism, I couldn’t be considered due to subsidies. However, in an email response back, Ingrid told me “It’s really too bad, I think you would have been a great fit.” Her response made me hungrier, and in the ashes of the job application came the idea for the Centre Arena series.

Jennifer, I of course knew as one of the writers in the magazine, but also of one half of Clay Webster Performance Horses. Jennifer’s husband, Clay Webster, is a very well known Reining and Cow Horse Trainer, and there barn is a stones throw from my own. As anyone from the Okotoks, Alberta area would say, “Just on the other side of the overpass.” When I first started wanting to better myself as a rider when I was around 17, I sent out emails to every cow horse, reining and cutting horse trainer I could find inquiring about lessons, and lesson horses. Most trainers didn’t respond, but Clay Webster did, he was kind and apologetic when he said they didn’t have school horses. It always stuck with me, he didn’t have to take the time out of his day to even respond to the blundering 17 year old that wanted to “better herself as a horsewoman and hopefully show in some regard” (my words, back then). Most trainers in fact, hadn’t taken the time, but he did and that spoke volumes.

When I created my first equestrian focused blog “Time in the Saddle”, I was hooked on a blog that Western Horse Review shared on their website, “My Stable Life.” It was Jennifer Webster’s blog, about the trials and tribulations of being a horse trainer’s wife, of showing and ultimately of getting pregnant with twins. It was the first equine-blog that I really loved and I used it as inspiration for my own foray. My soft spot for the Webster’s continued, they just seemed like all around nice people.

So where does this ramble about two women in the horse publishing industry get us? Well, when I discovered that Jennifer was taking over the reins at Western Horse Review, I thought, what a wonderful interview that would be for the Centre Arena series. Not only has she had some major wins in the show pen in both Reining and Cow Horse, she is a celebrated journalist, now an Editor-in-Chief, and somehow manages to ALSO be a mother of twins, and the wife of an accomplished horse trainer. If that isn’t someone you wish to emulate, who is? So, I’m excited, and very grateful, to welcome you into reading the newest instalment of the Centre Arena Series, an interview with Jennifer Webster.

Jenn with her adorable twins
Photo Credit: Natalie Jackman
Jennifer Webster seems to be one of those people you just want to sit and have a cup of coffee with. However, finding the time in her busy schedule to have that cup of coffee, may be a bit of a stretch. The newly minted publisher and Editor-in-Chief of celebrated Canadian equine magazine, Western Horse Review, is also one half of Clay Webster Performance Horses. Jennifer, herself, is an accomplished showman, she’s extremely competitive in her respective divisions and has won numerous titles in both Reining, and Reined Cow Horse. Not only that, but she’s the devoted mother of 4 year old twins, a boy and a girl, and after discovering she gifted both toddlers mini Australian shepherd puppies for Christmas, I’m wondering if perhaps, she’s a bit crazy too?

Jenn grew up in Okotoks, Alberta, and was a self-professed, city kid. However, growing up, her grandfather had Belgian draft horses who she loved driving and riding, the bug bit at an early age. Her parents hoped she would grow out of the “horse crazy phase” as she grew older, but as most of us know, it doesn’t really work that way. At 13, Jenn was gifted her first horse for Christmas by her best friend, Jaime and she never looked back. After High School, she became involved with the Calgary Polo Club as a groom, then went to work for Jonathan Asselin and Nancy Southern at Attache Stables in the jumping industry. From Attache Stables she attended Olds College and acquired an Equine Business Management Diploma. Her first internship was at Western Horse Review, but wasn’t as glamorous as one may think. She spent her first day moving heavy boxes of magazines, and felt frustrated and unsure of her early steps into the magazine world. One lunch break, she called her mother and cried on the phone to her. Her mother told her, simply, “stick with it, do any job they gave me to the very best of my ability - no matter how insignificant it seemed at the time - and to have faith.” 


Jenn rose in the ranks of WHR, and in 2000, set out to interview the man who had just won the Canadian Quarter Horse Nationals, Clay Webster. Despite the interviews behind held over the phone, they hit it off immediately, and Clay and Jenn would eventually be married. Jenn found herself moving from polo and jumping horses to reiners and cow horses, but calls it a “natural progression to my life with Clay.”  Riding reining horses, and with Clay as her new trainer, she learned more about body control and the subtle cues riders have in their seat, achilles heel and hands. She couldn’t believe how advanced a horse could be in its training, and was soon addicted to the exceptionally broke reining horses.

So, what does the “average day” look like for a mom, wife, competitor, and publisher? Hectic. Jenn’s days usually start with a coffee, a quick check of her emails, and the hope her twins will continue to sleep a little longer than usual so she can get even a tiny bit more done of the computer. She has done her dues as a stall cleaner, and horse-feeder extraordinaire, but thanks to great help around their barn, she rarely finds herself having to do horse-chores as well anymore. Unless, of course, she needs too - then she's there too.

Once the kids are up and at ‘em, she cooks breakfast, attempts to clean the kitchen and prep for dinner. In the meanwhile, you can find her chasing the kids around, chasing the aforementioned christmas puppies, and attempting to get work done on the computer when she can. Some days, the kids go to preschool, allowing her some “interruption-free” time to work on the magazine and other ventures. She also does the business administration side of Clay’s training business. Once the kids come home, it’s supper time, and if there is a show on the horizon, Jenn will ride at night. However, if a show isn’t close, she doesn’t ride, there’s just not enough hours in the day. In an average year, she’s lucky to ride 5 months out of the year because, in her own words, “everything else has to come first.” The nights she does ride, the kids get a bath because you can usually find them covered in arena dirt from playing in the barn, and they go to bed. She then returns to the computer, and continues to work until midnight, or as late as 2 am to get everything done. It takes a village, and Jenn recognizes that the team’s she has cultivated are a big part of her success. “I am truly blessed to be surrounded by a great team of people (on both the Western Horse Review side of things, and the Clay Webster Performance Horse Inc. side.) So that helps a great deal. And I’m not afraid of hard work - in some ways, I suppose I am a work-a-holic. But that attitude has taken me far over the years.”

Family is important to both Jenn and Clay, and they are both good about taking time every week to be a family. Usually on Sundays they go swimming, or skating, and manage to both take a break from their businesses. The kids are growing up fast, and taking the time to be a family, do crafts, read to them, cook healthy meals - these are all important things to the Webster’s. Some of her personal favourite activities are travelling, snowboarding and listening to music, but because of her lack of spare time, she loves to do all these things with her family, because they are her life.


The family behind the very successful, Clay Webster Performance Horses
and NOW Western Horse Review as well.
Photo Credit: Natalie Jackman
As an equestrian, she has also gone far over the years, but a lot of these accomplishments came from hard learned lessons. As a mother, Jenn has little time to spend in the stirrups and therefore tries extremely hard to listen to her husband’s instruction and execute her maneuvers correctly the first time. Although she get's nervous when she shows, or works buffalo, she says she’s fond of the “Just Fricken’ Do It” approach to showing and riding and believes that confidence is really the only thing you need with you in the show pen. When it comes to riding, her guilty pleasures in fashion and function are her goat hide roman reins from Avila's Pro Shop, her black Lucchese boots, and her favourite turquoise custom shirt by "Sister Act Custom Show Shirts.”

Ten years ago, Clay wanted to expand his business, and started to get into cow horse, Jenn followed suit. She loves the finesse of reining, but cow horse is just plain fun and pushes her outside of her comfort zone and shows her how tough she can, and has to be some days. In cow horse, one of the portions is fence work, or to “go down the fence”. Where a rider will, at a high speed, take a cow down the fence, and then turn the cow sharply. Clay, loves the adrenaline aspect of the sport, but Jenn, as a mother, can’t fully commit to the fence work portion, and instead stays in the rein/box classes of cow horse. This division allows competitors to do the reined work portion of the sport, and follow it up with a “boxing” portion of a cow on the end of the arena only.

She has found quite the amount of success in cow horse as well, one of her fondest memories to date was winning the Reserve World Championship Title at the NRCHA Celebration of Champions in Fort Worth, Texas in 2014. She qualified to attend in the $5,000 Non-Pro Rein Box class aboard her mare, MS Tyson Chic N Nic, and then advanced to the finals. That morning of the finals, she woke up with a fever but decided she had dragged her family too far in a truck to go home empty-handed, they finished off with the Reserve Title overall.

Then, this past year, she began showing Clay's stallion, Whiz N Starlight. Together, the pair has secured wins at the 2015 Alberta Championships and the Canadian Supreme. They also qualified for the Celebration of Champions again this year, in Texas. Jenn confesses that Whiz N Starlight, or Bob, as they call him, is by far the best horse that both Clay and herself have ever had the privilege to ride. The 2004 stallion (Starlights Wrangler x My Lucky Moonstone) has 65,000+ LTE and is a cherished member of the Webster family. He is included in the annual family photo shoot every year, and the twins even ride him without worry from their parents.

I think Jenn herself sums up her feelings about Bob, the best, with this sweet quote, “This might sound strange, but sometimes after winning a class I have a hard time taking a compliment about the run. The reason is because Whiz N Starlight is such an amazing animal that for me, I’m not sure I deserve to take any kind of credit. I become uncomfortable and I try to change the subject. That horse is so amazing that as long as I don't fall off - we're good. He is an incredible athlete. His mind is tremendous.”

Jenn showing Porsche in Reining
Photo Credit: Tracey Eide
When it comes to showing as a mom, and a wife, it takes a lot of balance and preparation. She hates leaving her kids on the sidelines to go show, and worries they'll need her. Some of her favourite moments at shows are having the kids jump on with her after the fact to cool her horse out. As far as mom-management tricks and tips, she says to bring several changes of clothing for every child, kids get dirty ya'll! Take as many toys as you think you might need, and don’t even give a second thought to anyone who rolls their eyes at you, makes comments about your mothering skills or whatever. Ask for help when you need it. Be good to your fellow competitors. Do what you think is right to look after your family. And ride the horse you have, to the best of your ability, on that day. Beyond that, Jenn says, nothing else matters. As a horse-trainer's wife, one of her least favourite aspects is having to witness her husband break bones, and hurt himself, in the pursuit of training horses. Now that Clay is a father, it worries her daily that he will get hurt, and terrifies her because she wants her husband to be around for a very long time - no matter how tough he is, we're all human, and that's something that heavily resonates with Jenn. Finally, after the show is all said and done, if it hasn't gone well, she allows herself 10 minutes to be upset about it. Then, it's time to check her emotions and get back to reality and figure out how to perform better next time.


As a journalist, Jenn’s favourite articles she’s worked on vary, but one of her favourite pieces was interviewing Country Music Star, George Canyon, back in Sept./Oct. 2014. She has also interviewed the likes of female jockey phenom, Chantal Sutherland, Pheonix, AZ Coyotes captain, Shane Doan, World’s Greatest Horseman Bob Avila, NRHA $4 Million Dollar Rider Andrea Fappani, and the $5 Million Dollar man, Shawn Flarida. Now that Jenn is taking over the reins for Western Horse Review, she says she doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel in 2016 because she believes it’s already such a fabulous publication. She wants WHR to continue to deliver useful information, to be cutting edge in terms of delivering the newest health, training and industry information and be the “go-to” magazine for western riders. She prides herself that the team at WHR are horse people, they are the same as everyone in the industry, they have the same problems as readers do and attend the same events. However, she does have some exciting and cool ideas coming up in 2016 that she’s excited about, but of course - can’t share with us just yet - we’ll have to grab the newest issues to find out! 

When I first reached out to Jenn to interview her, she wasn’t sure if she was the right fit for the Centre Arena series. I’d have to (politely, and graciously of course) disagree haha. Not only can the girl rock a pair of Old Gringos, take a reserve World Championship title at the Celebration of Champions and dominate her show year with her newest partner, Whiz N Starlight. She also manages to be one half of a serious power couple, mother to four year old twins, and editor-in-chief, insightful journalist and publisher of a titan in the Canadian publishing realm. The whole point of the series was to set out to interview women that are dominating, and killing it, in their own respective worlds and avenues in the horse industry. I think, Jennifer Webster, is doing just that.

Jenn at the NRCHA Celebration of Champions in Fort Worth, Texas
Photo Credit: Primo Morales

Comments

  1. Very cool! Amazing how she balances everything

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow shes sure busy!
    I used to work for Johnathan too, that's cool she did too!

    ReplyDelete

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