Antioch man one step closer to dream

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 2, 2014

Antioch’s Joseph Jernigan will embark on a new journey that will take him thousands of miles away from his home, but it’s a trip he hopes will further his career by leaps and bounds.

Jernigan, who owns Willow Creek Stables, specializes in show jumping and is a full-time trainer, said he will travel to Germany to work with Paul Schockemöhle, who was a bronze medalist at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and a silver medalist at the 1976 games in Montreal.

“My friend told me about a job opportunity,” he said. “Basically I had so much going on and I’m running in so many different directions, I said, ‘I can’t go to Germany.’ Everything has opened up to allow it to happen. I’ve closed the stables for a year and sold all the horses.”

Jernigan said Schockemöhle’s facility has 200 trainers on site and some 12 different veterinarians.

“It’s called the Stud Farm, and all the horses are the highest quality,” he said. “All their breeding stallions are Olympic quality.”

Jernigan said he will be starting out horses.

“I’ll be riding up to 6-year-olds,” he said. “Be in charge of eight to 10 horses. The pay level could increase if my skill level is higher.”

Jernigan explained that he feels his skill level is higher, but wanted to get his foot in the door to better himself in his career.

“If I can move up the ladder, I can go to the other facility, where they show horses and they have a show circuit,” he said. “This is a dream that I never ever thought would happen – to ride internationally. It will help me so much in my future.”

Jernigan said he plans to stay a minimum of a year.

It’s a big step for a Covington County native, who began riding any kind of horse he could get his hands on at the age of 18 or 19.

“I worked under several different trainers,” he said. “Most people start out with a full-time trainer, but I had to create things for myself. I became a professional trainer 14 years ago. My students and I do double-A rated shows.”

Jernigan has been riding horses more than 20 years, and has competed in equestrian competitions everywhere from California to Ireland.

Jernigan and his students have traveled from South Florida to Kentucky competing.

His students come from all over, including Milton, Fla., and Pensacola, Fla.

“I have one student from Opp – Jessica Elmore,” he said. “She is really exceeding.”

The experience he gains in Germany is something he plans to bring home to his students.

“I had to cut down on students and only do more advanced students,” he said. “When I come back, I’ll open it back up for all stages of riders.”

Jernigan said it’s “scary” picking up, but that he has faith that it’s the right thing to do.

“This is to further my education,” he said. “I take it as if I’m going to college. It will be something else. I’m so blessed and thrilled to have this opportunity. I don’t want to be stuck in that rut. I want to be proactive and make a change.

“My dear friend, Jo Vickers from England, brought me to where I am now,” he said. “She was absolutely supportive of this, if I could make it happen. This experience is going to benefit everyone else.”