Center Pointe: the love of riding a horse

Nov. 5, 2007

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

For some, horses are just like any other animal, but for others, they are a hobby, an avenue for stress relief, a sport, a way of life.

For Judy Jensen, co-owner with Todd Perkins of Center Pointe Training Stable, horses are her life.

Jensen has grown up with horses her whole life.

“I don’t even remember not being in horses. I knew when I was 10 years old that I wanted to be a horse trainer,” said Jensen.

Jensen went to grade school in Edina and to Holy Angels High School. She began training horses when she was only fourteen years old. At age 18, she started training professionally.

Jensen trained at a number of horse barns, but it was not until 1990 that she moved her dream into Delano, along with business partner Perkins, who started working with Jensen when he was 14 years old. At 39, Perkins is now the head trainer and full partner with Jensen.

Although the location was beautiful out in the countryside of Delano, Jensen soon realized that the barn and the house needed more work than they had thought.

“We’ve done just a tremendous amount of work. It’s just unbelievable to see the difference today,” she said. Every once in a while, they pull out the CD of photographs taken the day they took possession, just to remind themselves how much Centre Pointe has changed.

From pulling out carpet in the house and having to replace even the subfloor, to adding windows to the barn, the place needed some serious remodeling.

“It was a real nightmare when we first came here, but we love the place and the area,” said Jensen.

Jensen and Perkins also took it upon themselves to ensure that more trees were grown on the property. Also, obtaining electricity and phone lines was not an easy task.

Jensen continued, “It wasn’t easy. We ate macaroni and cheese for two years. Thank God we had an existing business. If we wouldn’t of had an existing business, we wouldn’t have survived.”

With all the work that went into pulling the place together, let alone taking care of the horses, it’s not hard for a person to recognize the love Jensen feels for her business.

“You just got to have a love for them,” Jensen said. “I don’t know how or why, but I personally have just always loved them since I was a little kid.”

Now as an adult, Jensen loves watching her student riders.

“It’s fun for me to watch the kids do what I did and to enjoy what I did. I had a great show career. I showed English, Western, hunt seat, show seat. I’ve shown almost every breed of horse. I like them all, but I gravitate more towards the saddlebreds,” she said.

Unlike many who prefer riding either English or Western, Jensen enjoys both. However, in her business, she specializes her training in English riding saddle seat.

“I just think it’s really important for people to learn how to ride correctly,” added Jensen. “I love sharing the joy of the most wonder sport in the world. It’s very exciting.”

However, in their business, Jensen and Perkins do not carry all the training and teaching duties themselves. They share their training and teaching duties with three assistant trainers – Amy Hutchinson, Marie Bouvet, and Winstead Kirkpatrick.

“They all have a special way of teaching that is very important to Center Pointe,” Jensen said. “Dawn DeHart is the head of the riding school division of Center Pointe, and has been a welcome addition to our Center Pointe family.”

Although many might mistake riding to be a sport one learns at a young age, Jensen begs to differ. Not only are there many children eager to “get up on that horse,” there are also many first-time adults hitting the saddles.

“I’d say 60 percent of our adults didn’t start riding until their forties and fifties,” Jensen said.

Often, parents will begin riding once their children head off to college. Or, spouses will become involved with riding because of their spouses.

“I think they end up riding in self defense. It’s something that just kind of escalates,” said Jensen.

Jensen feels the horse and its rider also form a bond with one another.

“It’s a partnership with the animal. It’s hard to explain because you have this animal who has it’s own agenda, and, of course, you have your own agenda. Your job is to make it the same. These horses want to please. It’s a totally indescribable feeling. It’s powerful,” she explained.

As exciting as horses can be to some, there’s no denying the work that horses take in order to maintain them.

Center Pointe has 70 horses on the property. Twenty-seven of those horses are used for lessons. The rest are owned by clients and are trained and prepared for their owners by the staff.

“Horses depend on us to be fed twice a day and watered two to three times a day,” she said.

Jensen shared a fun fact that each horse poops 11.5 tons each year.

“It’s extremely labor intensive work,” said Jensen. “It’s something that you do for them because of what they do for you. It’s totally indescribably. I cannot, cannot, cannot imagine doing anything else. I wouldn’t give it up for Mel Gibson and that’s really saying something for me.”

Jensen confessed, “I struggled in the beginning. I wasn’t what you would call a ‘natural rider.’ I had to learn the hard way and learn exactly what everything felt like, but I wasn’t going to give up. It’s a constant field of learning. You can learn some from everybody.”

More than anybody, Jensen has learned from her clients. “You learn personalities. You learn patience. You learn 7,000 different ways of saying ‘get your heel down’ and ‘don’t pull on the horse’s mouth.’ I figure if I had a nickle for every time I said, ‘Don’t pull on the horse’s mouth,’ I’d never have to work another day,” said Jensen.

“It is an ongoing thing. I don’t see any stopping. I’m sure I’ll be teaching in a wheelchair at some point,” Jensen said with a laugh.

“Our customers are wonderful. Over the years they’ve been very loyal,” Jensen concluded. “Without the customers, we wouldn’t be here.”

For more information about riding, taking lessons, leasing a horse, or boarding at Center Pointe stables, call (763) 972-6397.

“Remember,” Jensen said. “No experience necessary.”