Return to saddle brings big win, Jolene Wadds
By Basil Gist
Life has taken a lot of turns for Jolene Wadds.
A former top youth exhibitor and American Quarter Horse Association point leader, Wadds spent 10 years out of the saddle, only to charge back into the arena with ever increasing success.
“I was reserve in the nation as far as points go, earned a $10,000 scholarship, and reserve at the world show,” Wadds said. “I went to the world cup for this, and our team won as a whole.”
Her hiatus, spurred on by poor treatment from the trainers she tried to work under while going to school here in Texas after moving from her home state of Michigan, saw her find a career at Cigna insurance and have a little girl.
“The second job I got, he was mean,” Wadds said. “We were at a 10-day horse show working 14-16 hour days, and we got home on a Saturday. He wanted me to come in on Sunday. I was like, ‘Can I get a day off?’ and he fired me right on the spot. I came to
Texas wanting to learn more. I wanted to expand my knowledge and then just got burnt; I decided I needed a break.”
After dropping the lifestyle, Wadds had trouble finding her way back, especially without access to the facilities, equipment and animals she’d had access to back home working under her father, a successful horse trainer himself.
“All of a sudden I didn’t have that, so I just didn’t know how to make it work,” Wadds said.
It didn’t take long, however, to find a way back into the saddle, even if only in a more limited capacity.
“I started riding my mom’s horses here in Pilot Point,” Wadds said. “I needed it in my life, it’s who I am. I was breaking inside because I wasn’t working with horses.”
Wadds earned a lucky break when another trainer saw her riding and gave her a horse.
“By the grace of God and a really generous horse trainer here, I was able to get back into showing horses again,” Wadds said.
“He was a little bit of a problem horse, but we turned him around and made a really nice prospect out of him.”
That was three horses ago now, and Wadds has since seen a swift ascent back into the equestrian spotlight.
“The current horse I have now is my fourth horse back into showing; what I feel is really special about it is I am the only one that rides him,” Wadds said. “I started him from a baby to a finished show horse; to be able to do that is really special.”
The horse in question, sired by Ionlylookformoney, is named Puturmoneyonthetable after his father. The four-year-old gelding’s stable name, less a mouthful for certain, is Willy.
“He’s only four, so he’s a baby; he might have 10, 12 shows under his belt,” Wadds said. “We hit up a couple of small shows for practice because we can’t afford to go to all of them, and then we’ll hit a couple of the big ones.”
Not yet having a rig of her own, Wadds has to rely on the generosity of her neighbors and peers to get her to shows and supply her craft.
“In the world of showing horses, you’ve got to pay to play,” Wadds’ husband Beau Foster said. “It helps a lot if you’ve got your own facility. She does everything and has shown she can win.”
After the recent American Paint Horse Association World Show in Houston, Wadds and Willy have made some hearty ripples from their place as underdogs in a vast equestrian pool.
“He’s now a three-time world champion, two-time reserve world champion and that alone is like the biggest title you could put on,” Wadds said.
One of those world titles is an all-around, a uniquely important accolade.
“An all-around horse is pretty special, … because he’s not just a one trick pony, he can do anything and compete at a high level doing it,” Foster said. “Some people have shown paint horses their entire life and never won a world title.”
Though it could be years down the road, Wadds has thought about how she could move forward, turning what is ostensibly the ‘full-time' hobby she’s balancing with a full-time job into a career of its own. One method of doing so is becoming a horse trainer herself, taking on clients.
“If I do that, I’m losing but gaining,” Wadds said. “Once I start accepting money for training [other people’s] horses, I can’t be an amateur anymore.”
Dropping her amateur card could bear more downsides than benefits, Wadds explained.
“What I would like to do eventually is have two or three of my own and keep doing this,” Wadds said. “I feel like I might make more money that way versus having a training barn.”
Additionally, taking on clients means working on others’ schedules and with others’ horses, something she’s been spoiled not having to do since making her return to the industry.
“I would love to eventually have five or six, where I don’t have to work, and I’ll still be able to flip enough horses to where they could all still be mine,” Wadds said. “That’s the ideal goal.”
Thanks to a recent change in the rules for equestrians with amateur cards, sponsorships aren’t off the table, which creates another avenue to turning her current course into the dream.
Wadds wanted to offer thanks to the friends who have helped her rediscover her calling, those who tote her to shows, make equipment and attire accessible and affordable and, especially, the individual who gave her the chance to jump back in.
“I tell him every time I see him ‘thank you’ because I don’t know how I would have been able to do what I’m doing without him,” Wadds said.
On the rise again, and looking to the future, Wadds will be at the National Snaffle Bit Association World Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which begins on Aug. 11.
“Once I started getting back into it, I was like, this is what I’m supposed to be doing; this is who I am,” Wadds said. “This is my art.”