By Dani Moritz-Long
High school dances. Friday night football. No thanks.
Eighteen-year-old eventer and US Equestrian Ambassador Jill Treece would rather be riding — which is why, instead of duck-face selfies at popular high school hangouts, Jill’s Instagram account is filled with stunning equestrian athletes and most of the selfies you’ll find on her page feature both horse and human.
“I never really fit in,” she explained of her adolescent experience. “I suppose it’s because my interests always laid outside of dances and football games — with the horses.”
For her, Jill explained, horses have been a longtime fixture (and borderline obsession) in her life. She was the kid in elementary school whose stable of stuffed horses rivaled any childhood collection and who was constantly immersed in drawing up her imaginary four-legged friends.
“I’ve loved horses since I can remember,” she said. “I drew them in preschool and had every horse stuffed animal known to man. The inciting event, however, was when my second grade best friend showed up at school in shorts and her boots and chaps. I went to her lesson with her, and I haven’t stopped riding since.”
Luckily, now that Jill has graduated from high school, her lifelong passion for horses will feature even more prominently in her life. Jill says she’s relieved to trade an all-day school schedule for more time at the Salem Equestrian Center, which is her home base in Arkansas.
With more time at the barn and a flexible riding schedule, she says she’ll not only be able to ride whenever she wants (which, for her, means avoiding the hottest temperatures), but she’ll have plenty of time to spend with Zoe, a 6-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred Jill started three years ago.
A New Horse
She started riding the headstrong but talented mare when her previous horse, Beau, was on a break. At the time, Zoe was right off the track and needed some work. Having previously retrained several Thoroughbreds into eventers and jumpers, Jill was the perfect candidate to bring Zoe along.
She rode her for the first time at a local hunter-jumper show and the second time at a recognized event, and things clearly clicked. Jill continued to ride her for a friend and, when the opportunity to purchase Zoe arose after Jill sold Beau, she jumped at the opportunity.
“It has been simultaneously the most frustrating and rewarding journey, and we’re not even close to done yet,” Jill said of the training experience. “She’s a hotter individual, so some days we go according to plan, and others if we can just walk like a horse, and not a fire-breathing dragon, I’m happy! She’s a brilliant animal and has a heart of gold. Working with her has truly been the most incredible adventure.”
Together, the duo is competing in novice-level eventing — which Jill describes as an exhilarating experience.
“I’m addicted to the precision and complexity of dressage, the thrill of the adrenaline rush and the smile on my face all around cross-country, and, lastly, the technicality of show jumping,” she said. “Eventing is such a trust-oriented experience between horse and rider, and that is evident in each phase. Without that relationship, there is no sport.”
Like with most eventers, however, Jill’s favorite phase is definitely cross-country.
“Cross-country is the most fun,” she said. “While the other two are nearly as exhilarating for me, nothing beats that adrenaline rush.”
Inspired by her passion for the sport, Jill hopes to eventually work up to the Training Level. To get there, she relies on expert advice. “I’ve taken clinics with some of the best horsemen and women out there,” she said. “Boyd Martin, Will Faudree and Cindy Thaxton are some of the best instructors and riders. They genuinely strive to understand the animal and work with it. It’s a prey animal, so it isn’t difficult to frighten or force, but these instructors take the time to help the animal understand and play the game. Of course, my favorite inspiration is my trainer, Gena Rossini. She was a grand prix show jumper in California and has taught me virtually everything I know.”
When Jill isn’t in the saddle, you can find her online, uploading images to her Instagram account @jeteventing, where she chronicles her equestrian career in a colorful display of sport and lifestyle imagery.
Thanks to her popular page — which boasts more than 54,000 followers — and Jill’s attention to detail in her photography, editing and writing, she has been selected by US Equestrian to be an ambassador for the sport. As an ambassador, Jill uses her Instagram platform to share her love of eventing and connect with fellow equestrians.
“I enjoy that I get to connect with so many incredible people,” Jill said of serving as an ambassador through Instagram. “I was given a friendship of a lifetime with Madison Ibach, another US Equestrian ambassador, that wouldn’t have been possible without Instagram! We met because of the app.”
Looking to the future, Jill plans to study psychology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with hopes of one day investigating criminal behavior. As far as her equestrian career, Jill plans to keep it simple. While she doesn’t have any plans to turn her hobby into a profession, riding is certainly something she plans to continue for as long as possible.