Jackie Jermyn: detecting a winner

Catching up with Waikato-based rider, breeder and show jumping selector, Jackie Jermyn

Jackie with Halo, a young Holsteiner gelding by Cassiano x Corland VDL (Image: Christine Cornege)

Jackie Jermyn is a woman of many talents! She is well respected in eventing, showing and show jumping circles as a rider, breeder, owner, volunteer and selector. She does all of this while also holding down a very demanding job, as a police detective

Tell me about your early riding days

I wasn’t from a competitive horsey family, but with Dad always had a horse for farm work. They were very supportive when I did start riding though; I think Mum was glad when I gave up Highland Dancing (those bagpipes!). My first pony was called Valencia (‘Tiny’) and I remember at one stage she had a young foal still feeding off her, which got left home one day when I went to pony club.  he subsequently dumped me and galloped home down the main road to her foal. I also used to take Dad’s 17.2hh farm horse to pony club! 

I continued through the system at Wakefield Pony Club and ended up the Head Instructor.  I represented the Marlborough-Nelson area at several PC dressage championships and went to the eventing champs once in Wanaka.

Dad (Ken) was my main supporter with my ponies, when I was a showing princess, so I quickly became a very good plaiter! In my teens I focused on eventing, and Mum (Julie) would take me to the events, in between her demanding shifts as a nurse. She often finished a night shift and jumped straight in the car to take me to an event for the day.

As a Young Rider, I gather you were a very successful in eventing. Tell me more about your main horses?

Hinton Admiral was bought from Sue Fowler (now Astek Stud owner); he was a St James stationbred gelding, but quite thoroughbred-y. We were consistently in the prizes at Young Rider and Advanced level and finished fifth in the Oceania Zone of the Landrover World Rider Series in 1992. We also were the first to win back-to-back Young Rider Championship titles at Paikakariki in 1990/91 and were a part of two New Zealand Young Rider Teams.  Winchester was successful at Intermediate level and won at the Christchurch Three-day Event. Both of these horses were sold to the Netherlands and Winchester went on to compete with Martin Lipps at the World Championships.

The horses took a back seat when you started with the police. Tell me about your career

When I was in my 20s, I was drifting along and couldn’t decide what to do. I read an article in North and South magazine about women police and that motivated me to find out more. I went through the process of becoming a police officer, which was a shock to the system as I wasn’t much of a runner at that time! The shift work was tough to start with but it was fun working on the street as a uniformed officer and yes, I do have some good work stories!

I have been a detective for 10 years now and for the past six years I have been assigned to a Child Protection Team, which involves investigating serious crimes involving children as victims. I have a consulting role, where I screen each new case and liaise with the agencies and make sure they are accountable. It can be hard with the baby and infant cases and dealing with upset parents, and it is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do enjoy the work. We have a good squad and it is very satisfying to prosecute those types of perpetrators. I have also been approached by many young show jumpers asking about the police force as a career. It has been nice to mentor them into this path.

When you returned to riding, why did you make the choice to show jump?

It was all about the time factor and the fact that my partner, Kerry Willets, was an ex-show jumper. I was very busy at work and I found that show jumpers weren’t as demanding as event horses. Show jumping is more relaxed and social and I met a lot of nice people.

Kerry and I both brought a young horse each and we started going to shows together in a float and after two wet weekends, he announced that he was never going to another show in a float, so he built a truck. He is the ultimate handyman;, he can build houses, is a mechanic and capable with electrics and plumbing also!

You have had a couple of pretty handy show jumpers in recent years. Who have been the favourites?

We bought Dolcetto unbroken. She was my first proper show jumper (though an allrounder really), a Clydie crossbred by Glendevon Commander. She was the worst horse to break in, a real maggot and was prone to bolting!  But she ended up winning the Amateur series in 2008/09, and the Working Hunter of the Year title twice in 2009 and 2010.  One year at HOY she won the working hunter title, the 1.25m title, was placed in the Show Hunter of the Year and competed in the Lady Rider!

From her, we bred Dorofino, by Corofino II, who has been sold to the South Island and looks to be following in Dolcetto’s footsteps. Landenfeld came to us to ride and sell as a five-year-old, but after six months we couldn’t find anyone to buy him, so we bought him ourselves. He wasn’t really my type of horse, but he had a very cool jump! When he got up the grades, I felt I wasn’t competing enough (due to my job) and wasn’t doing him justice.  I gave the ride to Melody Matheson as I thought she could do a better job on him, and she did! I think it is important to match the right rider to the right horse.

We have broken in and started many young horses, which I really enjoy doing and it is so rewarding to see them out at the shows with their new owners winning ribbons.

Jackie and Ladenfeld in the Lady Rider of the Year (Image: Christine Cornege)

What is the reason for all these recent overseas trips?

Between eventing and the police force, I missed out on doing my big OE. So now Kerry and I are enjoying seeing the world and seeing how the big shows are run and also catching up with the overseas-based New Zealand riders. We are inspired to make our Waikato show the show that everyone wants to go to, and we have picked up a lot of ideas from our travels. The one thing that I have learnt about these international shows, is that they always jump on good surfaces and riders can pick and choose shows if a venue doesn’t suit their horse they have so many shows to choose from.

What made you decide to become a selector?

As a young rider, I was on the Talent ID Squad and I gained a lot from the subsidised training. This made me aware of the system and the importance of keeping young riders progressing through. Now that I am riding a bit less, I have more time to watch and take interest in the young riders. Not all riders are good at promoting themselves so I enjoy doing a bit of detective work, to see how they are going. It isn’t easy being a selector! There are four of us and we all have to agree, so we don’t always get our own way. We have limited spaces available on the squads and some riders will be disappointed to miss out. But generally, their time will come!

What is it like being the fiancé of the Waikato Show Jumping president?

Leading up to the shows, I am a show jumping widow. Kerry is very busy at working bees and preparing. We don’t always agree on ideas, but I think he has done a fabulous job with the shows and they are a credit to all his hard work. Quite often, we don’t have time to work our own horses because we are too busy at Mystery Creek. And our new truck is in the process of being built, but Kerry has been a bit distracted with these Waikato shows; so after four years, the steel work is done but it still waits to be finished! And now, I notice it is parked behind the boat, which needs a few repairs. There are no wedding plans in the near future – I would rather go travelling instead!