Born into an equestrian family in Riverside, California, Jeff’s parents were active competitors in team roping. So it was only natural that he was on a horse by age four.
At age seven, Jeff and his mom moved to Mendocino County, California, where horses continued to be a big part of their lives. Jeff went from riding roping horses, to dressage, and ultimately settled on the hunter jumper rings. By age eleven, he was competing in the Children’s Jumper division on a Morgan cross named Mister Dan.
Jeff remembers getting serious about riding when he was about fifteen years old, while watching his first international show jumping competition on television. Watching Ludger Beerbaum and the amazing German jumping team, he was captivated by the power and precision needed to compete at the international level. Inspired to take his riding to the highest levels, Jeff put all his focus on learning from top professionals and emulating their riding styles.
Coached by Elizabeth ‘Lumpy’ Kilham, Jeff moved quickly through the jumper ranks. Lumpy, and his horse Lyttle by Lyttle, taught him confidence, focus, teamwork and the discipline that it takes to win.
Later in his junior years, Jeff rode his Dutch Warmblood Laremy to multiple championships in the High Junior Jumper division and grand prix classes.
At age nineteen, after briefly considering a career as a firefighter, Jeff made the move to Creekside Equestrian Center in Woodacre, California, to establish Ridgetop Ranch together with his mother. There, he discovered a love of teaching, and realized that he enjoyed figuring out what makes each horse tick, and how to get the most out of the partnership between rider and horse.
While training with Duncan McFarland, Jeff met Rachel. A few years later, they married and became business partners in Sandhaven Farm.
Jeff continues to ride, while training others in keeping with his motto: be disciplined, but keep it fun! For all the hard work, it also has to be fun. Jeff enjoys teaching fundamentals and aiding the progression of both student and horse.
by Erin Gilmore | Sidelines Magazine, August 2009