Wildcat Tracks: Jillian Klein ’17

You might say Jillian Klein has a hobby that differs from most of her college-age peers at Mizzou. This past August, Jillian, along with her horse, Fred, won a national title in Western Pleasure Riding at the 2019 National Clydesdale Show the Iowa Stare Fair.

An interest in horses started early for Klein, “I have been working with horses since I was six years old. My mom arranged for me to start taking riding lessons at a friend’s house. They owned a few horses and one small pony named Patches. Patches was a wicked little pony who sparked my love even though he would often bite me or try to buck me off. I don’t really know what made getting picked on by a pony so much fun to my six-year-old self, but I fell in love!”

Klein continued her love of all things equestrian while a student at Westminster, where she says leadership and hard work were some of the most important lessons she learned. “Teachers like Mr. Hughes, Mrs. Eichelberger, Mr. Burke, and so many others made going to school worth it, just to be in their classrooms!”

t was during high school that Jillian first started working with draft horses. “When I was a sophomore, I got my Clydesdale, Fred,” she said. “When I purchased Fred, I had experience owning light/normal-sized horses but had never owned a draft horse and had no experience in training horses. Upon my purchase, it was promised to me that he was well broke and a good starter horse for a first-time draft owner. But that was quickly proven untrue once I started working with Fred. So, I was in a bit of a pickle! I had convinced my parents to invest in a 2,000-pound giant and I wasn’t even able to enjoy him because he wasn’t broken. But being the stubborn girl I am, never one to accept failure, I made the choice to try and break this horse. This was a huge learning opportunity for me as an equestrian. Fred learned a lot and eventually became broke enough to handle the show ring, I think I learned as much from him as he did from me! There were many days where I felt like it was impossible, but over time Fred and I became a really good team.”

Became a good team they did, culminating in their big win this summer.

“Winning the National Championship this past year was amazing! I honestly was sick to my stomach for weeks before the show because I hadn’t seen or ridden Fred in five months. I am currently leasing him out to a professional showing team called Highpoint Clydesdales in Hooper, Utah. Highpoint Clydesdales are the current World Champions in the Clydesdale 6 horse hitch and 8 horse hitch classes. Being a full-time student is hard enough on its own, trying to be a student while caring and feeding a one-ton eating machine is near to impossible!” she explained.

“So, to help ease my workload and save money I reached out to the draft horse community asking if anyone had a desire in leasing Fred. He left for Utah the week of fall final exams my sophomore year. I was heartbroken to see him go 17 hours away, but I knew Fred would receive great care plus get some experience as their new lead horse on the 6 and 8 horse hitches. When I made plans to show Fred at the national show it was because Highpoint was also going to be competing and this would be the closest my Freddy would have been to me in five months.”

Competing at a national level is a huge undertaking, but Jillian stayed level headed, “The nerves I felt were not only about being in the show ring for the first time in over a year. I was also worried Fred wouldn’t remember how to do the class or who I was. But being the rockstar he is, Fred remembered everything and performed perfectly. I was so incredibly proud of him! It really made me look back on all the hard work and countless hours spent at the barn years before that lead us to our national title. The moment we won my heart was so full.”

As for future plans, Jillian has no intention of kicking back or taking it easy.

“My next goal is to go for the World Championship Title at the World Clydesdale Show in Manitoba, Canada in 2021. I plan to graduate in December 2020 with an agriculture degree with emphasis areas of agriculture business, plant science, and leadership management,” she said. “I hope to use my degree to pursue a career in seed sales or production management.”

“As for Fred and my passion for horses, I am eagerly waiting for my graduation so he can come home, and we can work on qualifying for the World Championship. I am so incredibly blessed to have so many people who love and support my passion for horses and for agriculture. I am so excited to see when the next chapter of my life takes me, and I am thankful for everyone who has helped me accomplish my goals.”

This alumni spotlight was originally featured in the December 2019 issue of our alumni newsletter, Wildcat Tracks.

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