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Event Horse Owner Spotlight: Jerry Hollis

by Jerry Hollis | Apr 24, 2023, 9:00 AM

Jerry Hollis, Sommersby, and Jenny Caras
Jerry Hollis, Sommersby, and Jenny Caras. Photo courtesy Jerry Hollis.

Having been blessed with two wonderful daughters has always kept my wife and I rather busy. Like most parents, we wanted extracurricular sports for them that were healthy, built character, and taught responsibility and we found those qualities in abundance in the eventing community. We happily ferried the girls to lessons and clinics in the afternoons and on weekends. We cheered them on at their first shows and watched with bated breath during the daring and yet, our favorite, cross-country phase. I quickly became a big fan of the eventing discipline, enjoying watching my daughters learn and go up the levels.

I have now owned event horses for my two daughters for the last twelve years and I learned quickly to rely on the experience of the talented eventing professionals in our area for advice and to help source and sell horses. We bought a seasoned upper-level horse that Waylon Roberts had trained and previously competed with for my younger daughter. She enjoyed and benefited greatly from occasional lessons from him and his wife, Jenny Caras. I consistently sought advice from the wonderful young couple and worked with Jenny to help import and train a young horse for my daughter. So, when she offered me the opportunity for ownership on an up-and-coming horse that she believed in, my wife and I made the decision to jump in.

The nine-year-old Holsteiner, named Sommersby, that we became proud new owners of, was very capable of running the Preliminary level at the time we became involved. He’s a beautiful horse and a great mover with such gentle ground manners, it was hard to imagine him being such an aggressive cross-country machine, but our confidence was in Jenny’s proven track record of selecting and bringing along young horses.

Sommersby and Jenny Caras
Jenny Caras and B. ©Julieann Prettyman

Since our partnership with Jenny began, we’ve been fortunate to witness the growing relationship that her and “B”, (as we fondly refer to Sommersby), have developed and watched them make the move up to the Intermediate level. Witnessing this pair finish 2nd at the 2022 USEF CCI3*-L Eventing National Championship in Fair Hill, MD., last October was an inspiring occasion for our entire team and the high point of our year. It was later made even better when Jenny and “B” were listed by the USEF to the 2023 Eventing Pathway Development Program. We were beyond ecstatic with the news and so appreciative of all the hard work that Jenny has put into her program.

Having been an owner of event horses, I was keenly aware of the joy and sometimes heartbreak that comes with the territory. Being listed on the Development Program and podium results at championships aren’t occasions that come around often and we aren’t taking them for granted. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the success that we’ve enjoyed to date and while we know that Jenny has plans to move B up to advanced this year, we’re content to see them happy and healthy at any level.

Being invited by US Equestrian to contribute to the newsletter and educate the eventing public about horse ownership was a bit of a surprise and I privately questioned what I might be able to offer. What I know for certain is that eventing has been a fantastic experience for myself and my family. Being an owner for Jenny has been magical. Behind the scenes access at the big shows, attending the USEF Development Training Session in Ocala, Fla. and knowing that we’re a small part of the big wheel that makes up U.S. Eventing is inspiring.

I want to take this opportunity to encourage eventing fans to find a way to support U.S. Eventing. Horse ownership is a great way to show your support, but you don’t need to own an entire horse. There are horse owner syndicates available which give you all the owner benefits for a much smaller investment amount. You’ll be supporting your favorite athlete and helping them obtain the best horses for their program and contributing to the improvement of the U.S. Eventing Program on the world stage.

Jenny Caras and Sommersby at Fair Hill
Jenny and B at Fair Hill. Photo courtesy Jerry Hollis.

The biggest piece of advice that I can offer when contemplating becoming an eventing horse owner would be about the athlete that you choose to develop a relationship with. That decision will be much more important than the horse you pick. The ups and downs with horse health and performance is something that is difficult to control but the bond that you develop and the support that you put behind your athlete will be something that you both benefit from. You’ll be involved with the initial contract negotiation, you’ll get regular training and schedule updates, you’ll be together when things go really well, and you’ll console each other when things don’t go as planned. Try to get to know the athlete before you make a commitment. We were fortunate to have a relationship with Jenny before our partnership, so we were able to see and admire her great work ethic and appreciate that her personality was a great fit for us.

We’re once again at a special place in U.S. Eventing with so many talented athletes and quality horses in our upper-level program, it’s a great time to take the step to horse ownership. We’ve recently placed Team second and individual first at the prestigious CHIO 4*-S Aachen, dramatically secured silver at the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championship in Pratoni, Italy, and we’re heading into 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event poised to put an American at the top of the podium for the first time in fifteen years. I’m proud to be doing a small part for U.S. Eventing and I hope that you’ll be inspired to pick an athlete, pick a horse and go eventing!