Horses & Humor
'This Is How We Do IT' Blog Series featuring Adult Ammy Jacque Graham from @witequestrian
I've had the pleasure of getting to know Jacque via Instagram...I love her no-nonsense, always entertaining and down to earth style of communication that makes me want to learn more about her backstory. The following Q&A touches on her approach to the adult amateur lifestyle, including all things riding, training, wellness, & her sweet boy Waffles. I encouage you to check out her IG page for a good laugh featuring relatable stories about riding, horse showing and so much more!
· Please share with us a 'day in the life.' Who are you, where do you live, what do you do when you're not riding, etc.
I’m Jacqueline Graham, I am 33 years old and reside in San Luis Obispo, California with my husband Craig and our three dogs Richard, Remi, and Pauly D.
I work as an account executive in software sales at Gartner, but I’m also the horse girl behind @witequestrian on social media-a page dedicated to creating relatable/humorous content for adult ammys to laugh and enjoy. I also like to use WIT to work with other equestrian brands to help them market products that I love.
Tell us about your pony or ponies!
I currently own one horse named Bo Des Gars (AKA Bordeaux, Waffles, Booty, Big Boi). Waffles is a 12-year-old bay Selle Francais gelding import that I began leasing in 2020. For more than three years, he has shown me the ropes in the jumper ring and has been the best teammate I could have ever dreamed of! Waffles is very laid back, very goofy, and a sweetheart. While he’s a tad lazy at home, when we’re in the show ring there’s no doubt that the horse loves to win and show off. From the second I ask for the canter and he hears the bell, he's like dynamite…always “right there” waiting for me to give him the slightest direction. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had because I’m extremely competitive, so it’s been a blast having a horse that wants to win too.
· How long have you been riding? What is your proudest accomplishment? What’s your experience been as an adult amateur?
I started taking riding lessons when I was four years old. I grew up on small farm in Westminster, Maryland where we kept two to three rescue horses on our property. I stayed in lessons through the time I was 14 years old and mainly did local county/4-H shows. I never had my own show horse or pony. I was lucky to borrow a pony named Icy and a small horse named Minty for the very few B rated shows that I did towards the end of my riding career.
At 14, my parents wanted me to focus on high school sports, so they pulled me out of riding. I swore every day after that I’d get back into it, and thus my adult amateur career began when I bought my first hunter mare named Tatjana when I was 26 and living in Austin, TX. I ended up moving to California the following spring and started showing in 2018.
I did primarily schooling shows up until 2020, so I haven’t participated in the rated circuit for very long.
As an adult ammy, I must work and save for every show, and every little thing in between. While it’s stressful and a lot of work, I have learned that working so hard for this has really made everything mean so much more to me. Every win is a “pinch me” moment!
I’m not sure it would be so meaningful if this journey had been easy. I know that 14-year-old me would be so proud of us for making it to the A rated circuit and she’d certainly be drooling over Waffles!
My proudest accomplishment thus far was when Waffles officially became part of the family. For the past three years, I had been working hard so I could turn my lease into a purchase. On my birthday in November 2022, Waffles became my very own! I appreciate everyone involved who helped make those terms happen and I don’t take it for granted. I’m so dang proud of that horse and the memories he’s given me.
· What do you do to maintain your overall wellness - mind, body, spirit? How do you stay well nourished? In terms of my mental and spiritual well-being, it’s Horses. Horses. Horses! Haha!. There’s nothing more therapeutic for me than riding/being around them. My husband always jokes that he’d probably have to divorce me if I didn’t have horses in my life because it’s so blatantly obvious if I haven’t had my barn time.
I’m also a big proponent of therapy. I started going to therapy in my mid-20’s and it’s truly helped me pinpoint the reasons behind some of my behaviors. When you understand why you’re acting the way you’re acting or reacting a certain way, it’s so helpful in breaking bad patterns.
I also find that eating healthy and consistently fuels both my mind and body and I feel so much better when I stick to a healthy routine. Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE sweets and what could be considered “less” healthy snacks too, but I find I’m mentally so much happier when I fuel my body with nutrient dense foods.
· Do you crosstrain and if so, what exercise programs do you do (ie, weight training, yoga, pilates, etc)?
I love supplementing my riding with weightlifting, and I really feel it makes a huge difference in my core and leg strength since I can’t ride as often as I’d like. I usually lift weights 5-6 times a week and occasionally mix in biking and hiking if I’m feeling bored in the gym.
· What other practices do you use to maintain perspective and keep a positive mindset?
I like to practice the tool of manifestation to keep a positive mindset. I’m a little neurotic in that if I want something I cannot stop thinking about it. I think about every detail, what it would be like to accomplish/have that thing, and I try to picture everything I can about whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish. I think about what it would take to get there, who I need to be and practices I need to adopt to get to that place. I do this when I’m driving, on a walk, at the gym etc. As weird as it sounds, it works!
For example, on show days, I spend all day thinking/picturing my round. I picture myself nailing it. I picture what it would feel like to have a round I’m proud of. I picture myself riding a flawless course and I listen to energizing music while I’m doing it to really get my brain/heart/soul focused. I picture myself being THE rider that wins, and I imagine how it would feel. Do we get perfection? Absolutely not, but we always have our most competitive rounds when I focus in this way.
· Other interests besides horses?
I love spontaneous adventures with Craig and visiting new places/cities as well as doing outdoor activities with him like snowboarding. We have so many places to visit on our bucket list as well as hobbies to try like surfing and scuba diving. We also really love comedy and enjoy going to Comedy Clubs and shows.
· What are your favorite guilty pleasures?
I love early 2000s reality shows, and I find comfort/nostalgia in binge watching them. Some of my favorites are Laguna Beach, The Hills, Jersey Shore, the Simple Life, Teen Mom etc. I find that after a long day, it’s nice to just watch mindless tv that never fails to make me laugh.
· What are words / quotes that you live by?
One of my bosses told me once: “Never let the highs get too high and the lows get too low.” It’s a simple saying but it’s one that’s stuck and keeps me at equilibrium. I find that if I let the highs get too high, I get overzealous or tend to over-extend myself. When my lows get too low, I allow the negative thoughts to takeover and isolate myself. Neither of those are productive nor healthy so I work to maintain an even keel. I celebrate my highs and I also allow myself to feel my lows but try not to dwell too much on either.
· Favorite mentors in or outside riding & why?
My trainer, Sarah Pollock is both my mentor in the ring and outside the ring because she’s also my very close friend who I love and respect immensely. In 2018, Sarah was the first trainer in my ammy career who really took a chance on me and didn’t see me as “less important” or lower priority because I didn’t have money, didn’t ride well, and didn’t come up through the rated show ranks.
From the very beginning, Sarah offered her home to me so I could stay overnight and ride twice a week as opposed to just once a week since I lived far from the barn. When I started riding with Sarah, I had zero confidence in myself, and my riding really brought that to light. Rated shows weren’t even a consideration for me, and I genuinely had no idea why anyone considered showing “fun” because the experience had always been both terrifying and stressful.
But from our very first lesson we really hit it off personally, and her holistic/organic methods of training both horses and riders really stuck with me as well. Fast forward to present day and her consistent advice to me as both a friend and trainer have completely shaped the more confident rider that I am, and she’s made me a better person for it as well. This sport, and this life is so much more fun and so much more worth it with her as a friend and coach.
· Other people, places and things that have shaped who you are today?
My parents taught me my work ethic and instilled the “never settle/shoot for the stars” mindset that I have today. Those skills/tools brought me back to my life with horses and keep me motivated and competitive where needed.
Craig is also a huge influence and inspiration in my life. He's one of the most positive/smiley/friendly people I’ve ever met and can talk to pretty much anyone. More than that, he’s helped shape my desire to be the best version of me, the best equestrian, the best friend, the best wife I can possibly be. Relationships don’t work unless you consistently work on yourself, and he has made me want to be better.
Finally, being in the equestrian world has shaped who I am. Having spent the past few years around so many incredibly talented professionals and amateurs has really been inspirational and eye opening. It’s taught me to go after my dreams, and to never discredit myself. It’s taught me to never give up even when things are tough or not going as planned. It’s taught me a plethora of things, but most importantly, it’s made me a much better, more patient, and kinder person.
· Future plans you can share with us?
Good question. My brand WIT Equestrian really has changed and evolved so much in the past year. What started as a novelty clothing company has morphed into me creating a community for adult amateurs to laugh, learn, and relate to each other through content creation. I learned that I don’t really like designing clothes, but that I loved the community that WIT helped me create with other equestrians. I think from here you’re going to see more personal content, more humorous relatable content, and more work/partnerships with other brands/companies and helping them market their products.