Meet Jordan Allen, a 17-year-old who was invited to compete in one of the final events of the 60th annual Washington International Horse Show held recently at Capital One Arena.
On her sixth birthday, Allen’s mother, whose name also is Jordan, took her to a “barn,” the term used interchangeably with “stable” to introduce her to to the place where horses are bred, groomed and trained.
“The minute I walked into the barn, I knew I loved it,” said Allen before she understood what was involved in the sport. “The horses, the thrill of competing, all of it.”
An only child, Allen’s parents Jordan and Sherman Allen originally supported her interest in horses by finding a barn in the Detroit area. It was not far from where they live in West Bloomington, Mich. An equestrian’s life is rigorous with long hours. Allen began to connect with excellent trainers who chartered the path that led her to compete in numerous events.
Part of her growth was to learn about the three disciplines for working with horses. They are “hunters,” “equitation” and “jumpers.” Allen explained that hunters are based on the horse’s style, equitation is based on the rider’s style, and jumpers are based on the speed of the horse. At 5′11″, Jordan requires a big horse. Her horses are all more than “16 hands” which is 64 inches high. When kids start out riding, it’s usually on ponies, but Allen admits because she has always been tall, she has never been able to ride ponies.
“It’s about the best fit,” Allen said. “With a horse, it’s about age and temperament. When you know it’s a match, it’s a match between horse and rider.”
The same discipline required to be a competitive equestrian, Allen said applies to other aspects of her life which is lived primarily on the road. She works with barns in Kentucky and Florida, making it home only four weeks out of the year. Her parents have been able to travel on the road with her. Like many other young riders, schooling has been online and with tutors. Signature Academics based out of Florida and New Jersey, is a tutoring group on the horse circuit that has kept Allen on top of her studies.
“She’s finding a way to make this horse thing work for her,” said Wendy Salomon, a former rider and founder of Signature Academics. “It’s my goal that kids on the circuit don’t have to compromise their education when they are traveling, training and competing all over the world.”
Understanding the uniqueness of her position, Allen knows that horse riding as a sport is not accessible to everyone. It is considered an elite and costly sport. She is quick to repeat how supportive her Howard University alumni parents have been. But even with her mother’s career as a dentist and her father’s career as an oral surgeon, the world of competitive horse riding an expensive. Allen offsets costs by working at the barns. She is up at 6:00 a.m. doing everything from grooming to cleaning barns. She knows everything about the competitive horse-riding world, because she has done the work, from nuts to bolts.
Allen offers encouraging words to any young person who wants to pursue the world of horse riding. She knows that in her position, she can encourage other Black children.
“It makes me want to work harder to show we can do it,” said Allen.
Now finished with high school, Allen is taking a gap year to continue competing. She will enter the University of South Carolina with a scholarship where she will ride on the school’s National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) team. Allen’s career goal is to go to medical school to study anesthesiology. She plans to ride as an amateur while in med school. Of course, she has her sights on the Olympics.
“That’s the end goal” Allen said calmly. “It takes a lot of all of the right things to get there. I am a very for-sure person, but I always think I can work harder.”