Colorado Hunter Jumper Association: For The People

Rachael Stern and her mount, Isabella, at the Colorado Horse Park with Hilary Carrel, Rachael’s
mentor through the CHJA mentorship program - Photo: Brent Allen

Fostering strong relationships with their members and local professionals to grow a more educated community

BY April Bilodeau

Across the country, state organizations offer riders the opportunity to grow their riding and enhance their competition experience. While most may focus on year-end awards and scholarships, the Colorado Hunter Jumper Association (CHJA) aims to give back even more to their local members.

CHJA is the official hunter/jumper state affiliate organization of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and the United State Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA). The organization aims to serve its members through their four cornerstones: educational programs, awards and recognition, communication, and rules.

“The Colorado Hunter Jumper Association strives to not only provide high quality horse shows to our members but also educational opportunities to help develop the future of the equestrian sport from juniors through the professional level,” Jill Pelzel, CHJA president, tells The Plaid Horse.

The organization hosts and participates in a range of programs, but their two biggest and most widely-recognized are the mentor program and their annual member benefits clinic.

Professional Development

Lisa Munro, Julie Winkel, Tonya Johnston, Jody Marken, and Linnea Throckmorton – Photo: Allisen Patel Photography

CHJA is committed to assisting young professionals as they develop their careers in the equine business. Started by Pelzel and Lisa Munro, treasurer and chair of the marketing committee and education committee of CHJA, the mentor program is designed to pair the organization’s professional members with seasoned professionals from around the country with a goal of creating a long-term professional relationship.

“I think the only way this sport will continue to flourish and bring in new people is by connecting people who have integrity and horsemanship with others and show them how to build and grow their businesses,” says Hope Glynn, professional hunter rider and CHJA mentor. “We need to show them the way we have created successful businesses while still keeping the health of the horses and safety of riders as a top priority.”

Scenes from the 2023 CHJA Member Benefits Clinic with clinicians Julie Winkel, Jody Marken, and Tonya Johnston where members rode, learned new groundwork techniques, strengthened their mental skills
 – Photos: Allisen Patel Photography

The organization receives approximately 25-30 applications for the program. From there, the education committee selects five deserving applicants who are then paired up with a recognized professional. These professionals consist of Olympic riders, top equitation trainers, sales and importing experts, clinicians, and more.

Each chosen applicant receives a $1,000 travel grant to visit their mentor for hands-on experience, no matter where they live.

“We are really thankful for our mentors who donate their time to this development program,” says Munro. “Some really strong relationships have formed from this program.”

Rachael Stern, a professional in Colorado, was paired up with Hilary and Charlie Carrel of Colts Unlimited.

“The pairing with Hilary and Charlie Carrel of Colts Unlimited for the CHJA mentorship program opened up more opportunities for me than I could have ever imagined,” says Stern.

Rachael Stern and her mount, Isabella, at the Colorado Horse Park – Photo: Brent Allen

“I tagged along with them at horse shows throughout the 2022 show season, grooming and riding and learning, and in turn they helped me with the mare I was currently competing with,” she says. “Their coaching was an integral part of my success with her, which included competing at the biggest show I’ve ever attended in my first ever mini prix at the Split Rock show in Fort Worth, and a win in a 1.20 m class at a rated show in Tucson—the highest I’ve competed in.”

“The mentorship and encouragement from Hilary and Charlie has boosted my confidence, skills, and entire career in immeasurable ways, and I cherish their friendship and support. Having them as a professional and personal resource has made a massive positive impact in my life.”

For The Members

Scenes from the 2023 CHJA Member Benefits Clinic with clinicians Julie Winkel, Jody Marken, and Tonya Johnston where members rode, learned new groundwork techniques, strengthened their mental skills
 – Photos: Allisen Patel Photography

In addition to their programs for professionals, the association also holds an annual weekend-long clinic. The clinic was formerly just a standard riding clinic, but this year’s event was expanded and included everything from riding to practicum opportunities, such as teaching members how to braid, to basic veterinary and first aid.

The clinic used to run between the two weeks of the organization’s annual horse show series, the Copper Penny Horse Show.

“The problem we found with that was it was only servicing members that chose to show at the Copper Penny Horse Show,” says Munro. “The new format is a really valuable way to include everyone and create a more inclusive environment. Members now don’t even need a horse to participate!”

The 2023 clinic, which took place in November, featured well known clinicians Julie Winkel, Jody Marken, and Tonya Johnston.

“I really enjoyed being part of this great weekend,” says Winkel. “It was great to see the strong turn-out as well as to mingle with the other clinicians and awesome vendors! I commend the organization for developing and producing a fun-filled experience for all of us.”

Careers In The Industry

Scenes from the 2023 CHJA Member Benefits Clinic with clinicians Julie Winkel, Jody Marken, and Tonya Johnston where members rode, learned new groundwork techniques, strengthened their mental skills
 – Photo: Allisen Patel Photography

Aside from the riding, members were able to sit in on thirty-minute practicum courses that ran all day long.

“This portion of the clinic shows that there are so many avenues to be a professional in the horse show without needing to be a trainer,” says Munro. “With so many young equine professionals, our goal is to guide those relationships so they are able to learn and succeed in any section of the industry.” 

For more information on the Colorado Hunter Jumper Association, or to become a member and attend their events, visit www.chja.org.