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By Jessica DiCostanzo
As I drove into Blenheim Equine Rehabilitation to meet with Jennifer Clarke, DVM, for this interview, my mouth was wide open. Maybe even a little drool, if I’m being honest. There is an impressive covered arena adjacent to the huge outdoor ring with manicured grass, and then I see the most stunning barns I have ever seen. Beautiful grass pastures surround the barn. And then there are what I would call horse toys—a water treadmill, a saltwater spa, a eurosizer. Any horse would be very happy to have a spa day here and recover from their injuries. Only in a true horse community like San Juan Capistrano, Kentucky, Florida or South Carolina would you find a business that is dedicated to putting horses back together.
Equine rehab, you say? To a non-equestrian, that may sound ridiculous, but the truth is, horses are athletes just like professional basketball players. They get injured during work and need proper rehabilitation to return to work—just like us!
This is Clarke’s dream for as long as she can remember. Helping horses is her passion. Clarke found horses at the early age of 7 through a local horse camp. She came from a family without an equestrian background, who wanted to nourish Clarke’s love for the outdoors, science, and animals. Horses immediately became her thing. Since her family didn’t own a horse or know much about them, she began going around the neighborhood to see which homes had horses and went knocking on their doors. Some neighbors agreed, and off Clarke went, bareback and usually without shoes. Clarke admits she didn’t learn how to put on a saddle until her late teens.
As a teenager, Clarke joined Pony Club—a national organization dedicated to teaching horsemanship and teamwork in progressive levels (think horsey Boy Scouts). Pony Club really opened her eyes to the care of horses, and she decided she would be a veterinarian. Upon graduating from veterinary school, she completed an internship at San Luis Rey Equine Hospital and then landed a job in an equine practice here in Orange County. A few weeks later, she met her now husband, professional Grand Prix show jumper Lane Clarke.
Lane Clarke has a serious horse family pedigree. His mother and brother are farriers (the people who put shoes on horses). His father is a well-known show jumper and horsemanship trainer. Lane’s brother, Lyn, is also a stuntman in Hollywood movies and was the stunt double for The Lone Ranger. Lyn’s wife, Niki, is a professional Grand Prix Dressage rider (horses that dance). The Clarke family is going into its next generation of horse professionals, as the kids learn to ride and take care of horses.
As Dr. Jennifer became a part of the Clarke family, she discovered there were so many ways to be involved with horses. There are a lot of great programs out there, both on and off the horse, that even have the potential to turn into a career (like PonyClub did for Jennifer!).
Clarke has seen the positive influence horses have on her kids.
“Kids have so much structure these days, and the horses seem to simplify everything. They can relate on a different level,” said Clarke.
One of her daughters is constantly on the go, and when she arrives at the barn, she just relaxes.
“Horses are just good for people,” Clarke says.
Jessica DiCostanzo is a San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition Board Member, lifelong equestrian, and co-founder of equivont.com.