For the last four years, Jennifer Gates has been the best kind of over-achiever: balancing the rigors of higher education with a demanding training and competition schedule. It’s been hard work, but she's not one to shy away from that (she may be small, but the girl is mighty). Currently, she’s seizing an opportunity to take a break from her studies (see this article for more riders who've mastered the school/competition balancing act) to ride full-time before beginning the next crazy and wildly intense phase of her collegiate career - medical school.
“As I considered the option of jumping straight into med school, I realized that I have never focused solely on my riding to see where it would go,” says 22-year-old Jenn, who completed her undergraduate degree at Stanford last month.
“The medical school program allows me to defer my plans in order to pursue other passions before entering another four-plus years of intense but amazing schoolwork. I felt this would be a good time to give myself the opportunity to just focus on the sport.”
Jenn is making the most of this limited time opportunity, too, announcing last week that she will be training with none other than the current Longines FEI Jumping World #1, Harrie Smolders.
You go girl.
Harrie hardly needs an introduction, obviously, but it’s worth reminding you guys that he represented the Netherlands at the 2016 Olympic Games, 2010 World Equestrian Games (we’ll probably see him at the 2018 WEG, too), numerous World Cup Finals, (including a second place finish in 2016) and topped the 2017 Longines Global Champions Tour Rankings. Essentially, he's a living legend.
“I've always admired Harrie's riding style, and how he really seems to work with the horses to make them feel confident and be successful. It is an incredible honor to train with someone so talented and accomplished,” Jenn says.
Jenn is a gifted competitor herself, recently winning the USEF U25 Show Jumping National Championship at the 2017 National Horse Show and riding on the silver medal Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ team in Coapexpan earlier this year. Jenn was also awarded the 2018 Lionel Guerrand-Hermes Trophy by the USET Foundation, a prestigious award presented annually to a young competitor who demonstrates exceptional sportsmanship and horsemanship. Currently ranked 266th in the world, Jenn has also competed on both gold and silver medal North American Junior and Young Rider Championship teams, and looks forward to competing more at the Grand Prix level this upcoming year.
“During my undergraduate career at Stanford, I never imagined that I would be able to ride at such a high level. My incredible team at Evergate Stables along with my family’s support was instrumental in making this possible.”
In the coming year, she has her sights set on gaining more Grand Prix experience and making several stops on the Global Champions Tour. “My goal is to learn as much as possible and use this opportunity to grow as a rider. I would love to become more consistent in the bigger Grand Prix classes and really enjoy the sport along the way.”
Harrie says he’s looking forward to working with Jenn to “help channel her ambition, passion, and work ethic to reach the highest level in our sport. It’s going to be a fun year and I’m excited to see the success she achieves as she focuses full-time on riding.”
Jenn will be based in Europe for the summer and will return to the States before Wellington next winter. Traveling with her will be “some of my older, incredibly trustworthy mounts such as Luftikus S, Pumped Up Kicks and Alex along with some newer horses I am developing partnerships with.”
While many successful young riders seek to continue with a full-time professional career in the sport — it would also not have been a surprise to see Jenn follow in the footsteps of her technically intrepid father, Microsoft founder Bill Gates — but Jenn has always known she wanted to go into healthcare, specifically pediatrics.
“I can’t wait to explore that passion more deeply and undergo the rigorous process of becoming a medical doctor. It has always been a goal of mine.” She may have put her medical training on a short hold, but she is nevertheless following a dream.
“Right now, my top priority is focusing on my equestrian career, and at some point, my primary focus will shift to medicine. I feel so fortunate to be in a position where I can keep all options open and pursue two passions that I love,” Jenn says.
“I have no expectations that I will be able to keep this up in medical school, but horses are a passion of mine and they will always be an important part of my life, whether or not I am competing at a high level.”
Being impressed by this powerhouse multi-talented lady is an understatement - we're basically fangirling over her drive and ambition. If there was any doubt in your mind that Jenn Gates is seriously going places, consider them null and void.
Girl's got game.
Photos by Meghan Bacso
Written by Hossein Maleki
Having grown up on horseback, Leslie Threlkeld, Managing Editor at NOËLLE FLOYD, treasures her career in the equestrian industry as a writer, photographer, and eventing technical delegate. Leslie thrives on frequent travel but never tires of returning home to the serene mountains of North Carolina.