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Meet Kelly Jennings of Cellar Door Farm in Bell Canyon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Jennings.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
After years of pestering, my parents bought me a package of horseback riding lessons as a Christmas gift–they thought spending hours outdoors in the middle of winter would dissuade me; boy were they wrong. After one lesson with temps in the mid teens and several feet of snow on the ground, I was hooked. From there, I spent my adolescence graduating through the ranks as a working student–starting as a stall mucker, and working up to managing the 60+ horse barn, helping to break and train babies, green and problem horses, getting repeatedly thrown off, pretty much learning anything I could through working, helping, watching, and doing. When it was time for college I majored in Equine Studies at Centenary University, finally able to fully study every intricate detail of this world and these animals I so love. That major, and the connections I made there, enabled me to work as an assistant to some incredible trainers after moving out to Los Angeles post graduation. I spent the last ten years riding, training, and showing for Ginny Plancke, Ilan Ferder, Erin Duffy, and Peter Lombardo, working with some amazing horses and legends such as Bill Cooney and Holly Hugo-Vidal. Finally feeling like I had established my own personalized training methods and had experience on the business end as well, I started Cellar Door Farm, the realization of a dream I’ve had for twenty years, since before I ever trudged through the snow for my first riding lesson.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I like to think nothing worth doing is ever a perfectly smooth road; what fun would it be if it were too easy? The bumps along the way are there to learn from and make you better, and I’ve certainly had my share. At 27 when I was hit by a drunk driver, I was laid up for almost a year.  I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to ride professionally again. Outside of the physical challenges all athletes face, I’ve faced ethical issues, which come up with some frequency in my industry. Starting my own business was a chance to do things my own way, in the way I think is best. Putting the well-being of the horses first is paramount to me, and building a program that teaches people to appreciate their horses in a similar way, to communicate with the horses clearly and have a sense of camaraderie, allowing the horses to rise to the occasion has always been my goal.

Cellar Door Farm – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Cellar Door Farm is a boutique professional show barn that specializes in hunters, jumpers, and equitation for horses, ponies, and riders of all ages and experience levels. At Cellar Door, the relationship between horse and rider is highly valued. I teach not just how to ride a horse, but how to establish an open line of communication between the horse and rider. Cultivating this common language in the saddle helps to create a symbiotic, respectful relationship leading to a true team effort in which both sides feel seen, heard, and inspired to give their best. We also concentrate on biomechanic straightness, to help horses give their best athletic effort, and ride to prevent injury as best we can.

I am proud to have a client base of riders who truly love their horses. There is nothing more rewarding for me as a trainer than watching someone connect with an animal and achieve their goals together. I am proud of the care we take of the animals, treating them as if they were our own, and they certainly seem to appreciate it, and return it in affection. Our smaller size and deeply personalized approach, as well as encouraging owners and riders to be hands on, to learn, and to connect, is, I feel, quite unique.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
My definition of success varies from situation to situation, but ultimately it’s always linked to the client and their animal. I take great pride in being a trainer, both in teaching and riding. When I’m able to gain an animal’s trust and bring them along to trust others and happily perform to their highest ability, I feel a great sense of success. When I can bring a rider along and help them achieve a goal in their riding, be it at home or in the show ring, I feel a great sense of success. When I can help someone learn something they’ve been struggling with, or help them connect better with a horse they’ve felt disconnected with, it’s an incredible feeling. When I can help a rider gain confidence where before they’ve felt timid, or make them feel able where before they’ve felt inadequate, it’s a great sense of success. Blue ribbons at horse show always help and certainly have a literal success attached–of course, we all love getting those, but the spirit of training for me is not in the ribbons; it’s in the horses and the people, and the work we all put in.

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Image Credit:
Tyler Townsend and Remin Ozbay

1 Comment

  1. Linda Sturgis

    February 9, 2017 at 22:14

    Kelly Jennings, our beautiful niece, what a wonderful story this is about how you were so young and put in the hard work to get where your at today. I think you know everything there is to know about horses.I know you’ll have a great business. Your Uncle Stan and I are so proud of you!

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