Jayven Kilgore: Riding the Difficult Horses


Jayven Kilgore started riding at the age of nine. Now, as a 15 year-old, 10th grader and working student at Meadowthorpe Farm, he is focused on extending his education and knowledge with horses as much as he possibly can. His goal is to have a career with horses as a horse trainer.

Jayven is a minority in our world of equestrian sports. Currently 22.9% of all equestrian athletes in the United States are male. And according to the USEF’s US Equestrian 2021 Diversity Scorecard report, 3.27% of equestrian athletes are People of Color. This is a number the USEF’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee is working hard to change. Even though Jayven does not fit the stereotypical look of an equestrian, the real difference people notice about him is his calm and quiet mannerisms while working with horses, especially difficult ones.

Jayven remembers one of the older horses he rode when he was younger. “Gus” was a retired barrel racing horse and he was known to be extremely grumpy.

“Gus was mean when grooming and tacking up, but when I rode him he was great. After riding, he was always in a better mood. He would recognize me whenever I visited him and put his ears up when I was around- even though he was grumpy a lot.  He liked to work for me and we became good friends. Gus taught me that I like working with different types of horses that may be difficult for other people. I want to work with those types of horses. The one’s others may not want to work with because they are more difficult and need more patience. It is a top goal to continue riding and learning so I can improve my skills and work with horses like Gus, and help those difficult horses learn how to become happier horses who enjoy their work and being around people,” Jayven states.

In 2021 Jayven was selected for the Metropolitan Equestrian Team’s Equine Opportunity Program. The MET Equine Opportunity Program allows riders from across the country to become creative with their involvement in equine educational programs that will help them work towards their goals no matter their riding level or location in the country. Riders who are selected for the EOP program have the drive and ambition to make their dreams a reality.

During the summer of 2022 he completed an equine college course through Clarkson University with the scholarship he received from the Metropolitan Equestrian Opportunity Program. He has also completed the Level 2 Certification Course ​​program sponsored by Global Equestrian. Jayven is dedicated to his educational course work as much as his time in the saddle. 

Ashlee Pigford, Jayven’s riding coach, reflects on his overall performance, dedication and talent with horses, “Jayven is my most advanced level youth rider currently. He is always the first to help, and he will ride anything. He never veers away from a challenge. He is stoic, quiet, calm, and disciplined, but he turns into a fierce competitor when he is on a horse. He has a sixth sense and a feel for every horse he rides. This allows him to ride the tough, hot horses that others find difficult.

Currently Jayven is focused on gaining more horse show experience at mid-south area schooling shows. He has respectfully earned Champion and Reserve Champion the last couple of show seasons. In 2023 he is focused on competing at Hunter/ Jumper and Dressage schooling shows. Jayven said, “Coach Ashlee has taught me tons about caring for horses, understanding how they think, and how to stay calm and focused at shows and on jump courses. I used to get nervous and have a hard time remembering courses. Coach Ashlee has really helped me with that, and I want to keep jumping more courses and be able to compete at more shows.” 

Outside of the barn Jayven’s mom, Jennifer Kilgore, says he enjoys reading and outdoor activities such as camping, hiking and swimming. He is active with the Advent Presbyterian Church youth group and goes on retreats and trips with them every year. As a ninth grader, Jayven volunteered for McKrell and Christain Baier’s Bridge Up Giddy Up program. 

Jayven is currently training with an 18 h Warmblood Appaloosa named Wiley. Wiley has competed in Dressage, Three Day Eventing, and Jumping competitions. Together, the pair is focused on developing a close relationship, learning and riding more Dressage tests, and advancing in jumping. Keep your eyes out for this pair during the 2023 show season.


Lauren Abbott

Lauren is a lifelong equestrian. She was born and raised in Memphis, Tenn. Lauren has worked in Journalism for over 20 years and has served as a staff writer, designer, photographer, audience and business development consultant, & advertising senior executive. She is the Owner & Publisher of MSHR, and CEO of Ford Abbott Media, LLC, the parent company of the Horse Review and Hunt & Field Magazine.

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