We have narrowed down our applicant pool for the first ever JN Blogger contest to three very deserving writers. For the semi-final, each candidate was prompted to seek out and interview a rider whose story inspires them. Continue reading to see what today’s featured finalist brought to the table!
Genevieve Edwards isn’t like most professionals in the spotlight. Unlike most of her competition, she didn’t have the illustrious junior career and lacked the financial backing to put her in the spotlight. One thing Edwards did have, however, was an unstoppable determination and an undying work ethic that has slowly risen her to the top.
How Echelon Sporthorses Was Born
Describing herself as a serial “barn hopper,” Edwards never really stuck with one barn or one trainer during her early junior career. She had some success with the ponies before moving on to the jumpers and from that point she never looked back.
When her jumper mount suffered an injury when she was 17, Edwards decided to hang up her helmet and focus on school. After a few miserable corporate jobs, horses began to make their way back into Edwards’ life. What started out as a few local rides here and there paired with a few lessons, Edwards was hooked once again. She quickly realized the need for a top-notch show facility in her area. After scouring the area with her husband for years, the pair finally purchased land, hired a builder and Echelon Sporthorses was born. They opened the doors to the public in 2010 in Guyton, Georgia.
“I was expecting a line out the door,” recalls Edwards. “After just three clients in our first six months, our pantry was dwindling down to Ramen Noodles and Jell-O, I got desperate to succeed. I wanted to prove everyone wrong. I rode absolutely everything and anything I could get my hands on. Quarter horses, Arabians, OTTBs, rearers, flippers, buckers—you name it. If it had a check attached to it, I was game.”
Edwards was hungry. She wanted it bad enough that she was willing to do whatever it took to succeed. The long days, long hours, lots of mistakes, endless tears and the ups and downs were all paying off. Slowly but surely, nicer horses started to come through the doors. Edwards found herself selling higher quality horses. Her students started winning and people were noticing her presence.
“I wasn’t the new kid on the block anymore,” stated Edwards. After years of hard work, Echelon now houses over 30 horses and 27 full stalls.
Success in the Show Ring
Edwards now boasts a successful record in the show ring with a quality string of horses. Because she didn’t have the pocketbook to buy finished show horses, Edwards knew she would have to develop them herself if she wanted to succeed.
Her string of horses includes two young jumpers which Edwards has brought up the ranks herself. Baloumerang SV was purchased as a four year old and developed through the 1.30m. He was the 2015 five-year-old Young Jumpers Champion and is now piloted by a very deserving junior rider at Echelon.
Edwards’ other mount, Vantablack de Muze, was purchased as a four year old and is currently being developed through the 1.35m. “Ocho, as he is known in the barn, is pretty much like one of my dogs. He’s definitely a guy you would invite into your house to watch a football game and drink a beer with,” joked Edwards.
Edwards has big plans for Ocho and is hoping the FEI classes will be within reach. “We will just take it slow and move up when he tells me he’s ready and see where it takes us!”
If building a first-rate show facility wasn’t enough, Genevieve and her husband, Brian, own and operate an innovative tack trunk company called AeroEquine. AeroEquine is a new company that designs and manufactures custom tack trunks made of cutting-edge aircraft materials, making them super lightweight and stunningly beautiful.
“AeroEquine started after my husband lifted my ugly heavy show trunk onto the trailer for the umpteenth time, and had enough. He created a beautiful, lightweight show trunk out of aircraft materials at the shop he works at. It was so well received by my clients here that we decided to try our hand at retail. The response has been so encouraging, we are taking baby steps to slowly revolutionize the tack trunk market,” stated Edwards.
Every piece to the trunks is designed by Edwards in addition to running all of the marketing and social media accounts while her husband builds and focuses on product development and research. “Our ultimate goal for the company is to grow it to the point where he can solely focus on AeroEquine and travel to shows with me to watch Ocho jump the big classes,” says Edwards.
When asked about the future, Edwards stated that Echelon has already far exceeded her expectations. “After I had been bucked off for the millionth time so many years ago, I laid in the sand looking at my barn really questioning my life choices. Now, I can proudly say all of that was worth it.”
She hopes to continue to provide impeccable care to her horses, continue to watch her students succeed and to work closely with breeders to develop top young horses. Her life goal of jumping a world championship is not so far out of reach now. “Maybe, just maybe, Ocho will be the one to get me there, but he will tell me what he wants to do and I’ll be sure to listen.”
Melissa Collins runs a small hunter/jumper/equitation operation in rural Western KY where she specializes in young horse sales. She holds a bachelors degree in Agriculture from Murray State University. She and her husband run Collins Sporthorses with their two dogs and currently house around 14 horses.