JJ Tate must be one of the hardest working people in dressage.
The Grand Prix rider based out of her own farm in Landrum, South Carolina, in the summer and Yellowbird Farm in Wellington, Florida, in the winter is a whirlwind of energy. She has trained 14 horses to the FEI-level, gone down centerline in FEI classes on 27 horses and has trained many, many more horses to help their owners achieve their goals.
At the 2017 Dressage at Devon, she rode four different horses in CDI classes including the Prix St. Georges, Intermediaire I, Intermediaire I Freestyle, Intermediate A, Intermediate B, Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle. Then, she turned around three weeks later and competed three different horses at the 35th Annual CBLM Championships in Virginia at Third Level, Fourth Level, Prix St. Georges, Intermediaire I and Grand Prix. That makes a total of seven competition horses on which she’s currently going down centerline from Third Level to Grand Prix.
“There’s a lot of experience there,” Tate said. “I live to ride, train, show and sell. Everything I have always done is based on integrity and the love of the horse. I think having integrity and correct content in the training of horses and being a good person is important.“
That integrity and experience is intertwined with her Midwest upbringing, work ethic and honesty.
“I grew up in the Midwest and owned a farm there,” she said, adding that being the runner-up in Robert Dover’s Search for America’s Next Dressage Star spurred her to move to help her achieve her goals. “The experience and what Robert said to me and inspired me to do was a bit of a catalyst for change in my life and I moved east after that.”
Tate has had a cadre of top-notch trainers besides Dover to help her along the way including Charles de Kunffy, Scott Hassler, Michael Klimke and her current, trainer, Michael Barisone.
“My training with horses is not a lot of frills and bells and whistles,” she said. “I grew up riding normal horses and Charles de Kunffy instilled in me that first, you’ve got to make the OK horse good and then you can make the good horse great. And then, if you are lucky enough to get a great horse, you can make it exceptional. I base my training program on really correct content and substance and things that work for all horses. Basic foundations. It is really classical.”
Tate’s ultimate goal is to be a part of a United States dressage team at the international level and, along the way, she believes in a we-are-all-in-this-together team approach. She is frequently consulted by other trainers about business practices including staffing and barn management and she is happy to help.
“I want to help the sport as a whole,” she said. “I did a good job of creating a business just working hard. I love it. I believe in every day getting up and doing your best.”
She is looking for someone to help support her journey toward her goals as she keeps working hard toward achieving them. She is a frequent clinician and believes in helping other trainers by bringing Charles de Kunffy in for a trainers’ symposium every year.
“Every day you have choices to change your future and you have the power to do that by education, by self-reflection, by thinking outside the box,” she said. “Be honest. Ask the hard questions. The truth is hard and so is figuring out how to tread through the world in the most successful way. Remember that success is different for people. Horses are the first things to tell me if how I am behaving and what I am reacting to is real. They have no ulterior motive. Horses teach life lessons about yourself and it’s up to you to learn them.”