California Riding Magazine • June, 2010

Shadowbrook Stables:
Jeni Brown
Top hunter/jumper training barn wins big with a basics-based approach.

Jeni Brown with Allison Van Sickle after she won the
1.30m Final Four Competition at Spruce Meadows.
Photo: Mike Keener

It’s no accident that students of Jeni Brown’s hunter/jumper training barn, Shadowbrook Stables, have been repeat winners of top West Coast honors for the last 12 years.

The down-to-earth trainer keeps things simple at her Moorpark barn, where she emphasizes thorough and proper preparation of horses and riders. Her clientele ranges from beginner competitors tackling 2’6” courses to Junior Jumper star Allison VanSickle. The stable’s itinerary ranges accordingly, from the local Gold Coast series to Canada’s Spruce Meadows. But whatever the venue, competitions are a place for Shadowbrook students to show off their best and pinpoint what needs to be worked on at home.

At a recent show, for example, some of Brown’s jumper clients encountered an unusually tight time allowed in a jumper class on the big grass field at a Blenheim event in San Juan Capistrano. “It was a new experience for some of my Childrens Jumper riders,” Brown notes. “They ended up going faster but not staying focused on the task. When we got home, we worked on more efficient tracks and getting the riders to think quickly without riding faster.” The results were immediately evident at their next show. Such advances keep Brown fired up about her profession. “I really enjoy teaching and seeing riders figure something out is rewarding.”

Brown believes in an individualized training approach for her riders and horses. “I teach a lot of group lessons, but still give attention to the details of what each rider needs,” she explains. Flat work is emphasized and packaged in exercises that build to incorporate jumping. As far as the all-important mental aspect, for horses and riders, Brown strives for constant improvement by challenging them a bit beyond their comfort level, without jeopardizing their confidence. “I do not want them to be over faced, but I do want them to have the skills to handle things that come up at shows, when everything is a little more difficult. Good basics enable my riders to deal with challenges. It’s all about doing the work at home and teaching them to think on their feet.”

Shadowbrook’s show schedule is built around clients’ goals. Although her students have racked up many year-end awards, “We’ve never gone to a show that we wouldn’t have otherwise just to chase points,” she says. This summer, Brown is particularly excited about returning to Spruce Meadows with three riders in that venue’s hotly contested jumper divisions. The fall medal finals season is a busy time, with students typically in everything from the San Fernando Valley Horse Shows Assn. 12 & Under final to the 3’6” USEF Show Jumping Talent Search.

Jeni Brown showing her young homebred mare, Miss Dixie, last July at Showpark.
Photo: Mike Keener

Horse & Human Haven

Based at the Southern California Riding Club, Brown can accommodate an average of 40 horses. In addition to training clients, she typically has several young horses and sales prospects in the barn. A long time partnership with Alan Waldman in Holland facilitates a steady inflow of high quality horses from Europe which Brown has enjoyed developing for her own clients and those outside the barn. She has also bred a few horses of her own, the oldest of which is a 6-year-old mare, Miss Dixie. By Farmer and out of an Indoctro mare, the 17 hh Miss Dixie grew up on Brown’s home farm in Fillmore and is now being campaigned in the Equitation and medal classes by amateur Susan Krieg.

The Shadowbrook atmosphere is nice for people and horses. Barn barbecues are regular occurrences and shows are a welcome chance to socialize with stablemates. At home, horses enjoy a lovely living environment, impeccable care and supervision, plus two hours of turn out, seven days a week. Two assistants enable Brown to keep the program running smoothly. Emma Lindstrom has been with Shadowbrook for six years and shines especially with young horses, showing the hunters and preparing all horses. Cecily Perkins recently signed on, bringing “great insights and experience in training horses and students,” Brown comments. The trainer is particularly grateful to her husband Mike Keener, who attends all the shows, drives the trailer and/or the motorhome and steps up in many ways. “I would not be successful in this business without him.”

An East Coast native, Brown opened Shadowbrook in 1998 after five years as an assistant trainer at Elvenstar. Throughout that time she has been active in various volunteer organizations. A former president of the Los Angeles Hunter Jumper Assn., Brown is currently an active California Professional Horsemen’s Assn. board member. Of her longevity in the sport, Brown says it’s been easy to maintain her enthusiasm. “I am so fortunate to get to come to work every day with horses, doing something that I love.”

For more information on Jeni Brown’s Shadowbrook Stables, visit www.shadowbrookstable.com or call 805-529-8069.