Horse lover following her dream one lead change at a time

“We bought the property right before he was born in January 2014,” Jessica Griffith said, looking to her son. Griffith is the owner of a stable and riding establishment in Derry, Pa.

“I was very pregnant and walking up and down these hills, trying to figure out if we could get septic here,” Griffith said. “We could, so we went ahead and purchased it.”

“I started out riding my grandparents’ horses, both on my mom’s side and my dad’s side,” she said, “so I started riding when I was very little.”

Jessica Griffith and her son walk through the barn and is greeted by Lena. Griffith trained the horse from a young age. Photo courtesy by L.Cowan/Setonian

Jessica Griffith and her son walk through the barn and is greeted by Lena. Griffith trained the horse from a young age. Photo courtesy by L.Cowan/Setonian

Griffith said, “On my dad’s side it was draft horses and on my mom’s side it was quarter horses.”

“I remember when I was 10 I had some more riding lessons,” Griffith said.

“When I was 12 I got my first pony,” she said, “She was 14.2 hands. She was right on the line between a pony and a horse.”

Griffith said that she started off riding western style with a horned saddle. “My one instructor told me that that was silly,” she said, “I really should be jumping.”

From then on Griffith never turned back. “After that it was too much fun.”

“I kind of took a pause right around when I was 16 until I went to college,” Griffith said, “I started riding again in college.”

“I joined the IUP Equestrian team but I couldn’t afford to go to all of the shows, it was just too expensive,” she said, “I rode in all of the practices. I taught lessons while I was in college to little kids.”

Griffith added, “After I became a teacher and had my horses then I started giving lessons.”

When it comes to specific breeds, Griffith said, “I like the warm-bloods.” Warmbloods are a group of horse that is considered middleweight. “I like anything that does what I want it to.” Griffith said she gives equal opportunity and is a pony lover as well.

Griffith is the only person running the stable. “I have a student worker who works to pay off her lessons, by doing different odds and ends around the barn once in awhile,” she said.

12 riders show up for lessons throughout the week. She charges $30 per lesson.

Bella waits to be fed in her stall. Photo courtesy by L.Cowan/Setonian

Bella waits to be fed in her stall. Photo courtesy by L.Cowan/Setonian

Although a stall door stays open, she is not taking in horses yet for board. “Eventually we are going to put a barn in front of the indoor arena and then we’ll board,” she said, “But until then, this is it.”

Griffith currently owns three riding horses named Bella, Lena and Nattie. They are well known by the riders, who take lessons with them. She also owns a miniature horse named Buzz and a miniature donkey named Jake. Because of size, right now Buzz has only one rider.

According to Griffith, her son will absolutely ride when he gets older. “He just doesn’t remember that he should hold on. He sees all the big girls ride and he thinks that he can just ride like them,” Griffith said.

As the girls rise and fall with the rhythm of the horse’s stride while trotting, Griffith said, “He hops on Buzz’s back, sits there and pretends to post, and then as soon as Buzz moves he goes ‘ahhhh!’”

“He doesn’t think about the fact that he should hold on,” Griffith said.

According to Griffith, it was a lot of hard work to get to where she is now. She and her husband works 16 hours a day each. “We own a web design business and we are both teachers,” Griffith said.

Griffith teaches math at Derry Middle School, “And I do riding lessons. And I tutor, and I sell Mary Kay. So it’s been a lot of work,” she said. “Just how much work it’s been is surprising enough.”

The indoor arena was built in twenty days. It lets students practice their skills without weather interference. Photo courtesy by L.Cowan/Setonian

The indoor arena was built in twenty days. It lets students practice their skills without weather interference. Photo courtesy by L.Cowan/Setonian

“It took us an entire year to just build the driveway because of different things that happened,” Griffith said, “And then we were planning on building the house this summer and we couldn’t because we need a sewage tap and they won’t give out any sewage taps because Latrobe didn’t follow the rules.”

“The indoor was supposed to be here in July and it never came until September and it was supposed to take ten days to put up but it really took twenty,” Griffith said.

“Then he was born seven weeks early,” Griffith said, referring to her son, “We started the driveway that summer and that was really difficult for me because I wasn’t really able to help as much as I thought I would be able to.”

“That was frustrating,” she said, “that process took way longer than we ever imagined.”

“If something can not go right it has not gone right,” she said, “But it works out in the end.”

“My husband and I are doing as much as we can,” Griffith said, “We have an excavator that has done some of it too.” The excavator helped build the driveway and did some ground moving according to Griffith.

“We had a company called general industries that put up the indoor for us,” she said.

The indoor arena is a large area where riders can practice their jumping, posting and other specific skills. It is covered to protect the area from strong winds, rain and the upcoming winter season.

“For winter I am planning to add a battery-operated watering trough,” Griffith said, ”Plus we should have the solar power up and running by then.”

The Griffiths plan on building a house in the future on the property as well as a garage. Griffith said that she has plans for a larger barn that would hold roughly 14 more horses. An outdoor arena is also being planned.

“I love giving lessons, so I think I will continue doing that,” Griffith said, “I would like to have more room so my students can have horses.”

“I am not really into training horses.” She trained one of the horses and finished the other two. Griffith said she has no desire to break them, especially after having a kid.

“I just want to be able to make enough money off of the boarding and the lessons and break even,” Griffith said, “That’s my goal.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *