LEXINGTON, Ky. – April 23, 2017 – Brooke USA is thrilled to welcome international dressage rider JJ Tate as the newest Brooke USA Ambassador. JJ has trained and competed 26 horses at the FEI levels, including eight at Grand Prix. She is a top competitor whose devotion to the highest standards of horsemanship and integrity make her a wonderful fit for Brooke USA. JJ has been long-listed for the World Equestrian Games and represented the United States in competitions abroad. Tatianna Verswyvel sat down with JJ to talk to her about her involvement with Brooke USA.
How and when did you first become involved with Brooke USA? Why?
I first heard about Brooke USA when my best friend and Brooke USA Ambassador, Ali Brock, gifted me Dorothy’s (founder of Brooke) book on the War Horse Memorial Hospital and her journey towards developing the largest equine welfare organization in the world. I instantly wanted to become involved due to my love for horses and my desire to honor them as war heroes.
What about Brooke USA made you feel a connection to our organization over the others?
The fact that you can really see where Brooke USA’s money is going. You always watch commercials about animals in the shelter and the “10 dollars a month” it takes to help them, but you don’t know where it’s going. With Brooke USA, you see where every cent is going whether it’s the water trough or shots. It’s very personal to me, when we’re in Wellington especially, considering the amount of money we spend on our horses. The $500 we spend on a massage for our horses could change the life and nutrition of a working equine. It’s hard to look at, but it’s the truth: turning your head will not make it go away. It’s easy to judge when you’re not in that position, but it is happening. If your family’s next meal depended on that donkey making it home, you’d whip it too, it’s just a matter of perspective and putting yourself in their shoes. Brooke changes their way of thinking, as well as their bond with the animal–making a sustainable impact for the entire community.
What aspect of our organization are you most passionate about? The equines, the people, global impact?
Education and raising awareness. When we started riding, we all made mistakes and had to be taught the right way to deal with our animals. What I most like about Brooke is that we don’t send farriers, vets, or supplies over; we teach them how to make the tools so they can take care of these animals themselves and become self-sustainable in the long run. As a trainer, I find great value in teaching rather than just doing it for them for the difference and independence it inspires in these communities.
How have you contributed to Brooke USA during your role as ambassador?
I hosted a parlor event at my stable to raise awareness among my clients and friends this season. We catered a dinner, shared our stories, and got everybody involved and interested in the amazing work Brooke does and why we should be getting involved with Brooke USA. I think my biggest role is raising awareness about what is happening and our ability to help, as well as encouraging others to pledge their support. We all spend countless hours and money on our horses for our love for them; why not do the same for equines and the families that need them? My clients and friends know how hard I work on the daily and how little free time I have. The fact that the little free time I have I like to invest in this, makes them see how worthwhile and monumental it is.
What are your hopes for inspiring the younger generations to become involved with our organization?
I think it is important to understand your role as you grow successful in the sport and to find some way to give back. I do train young clients and mentor working students, and being looked upon as an ambassador is a privilege. I think it’s always important as a rider to have a worldview and perspective for what’s going on in the world and how you stand in respect to this. For them to find a medium through which to give back to the community and the world they form a part of is so important to their growth as athletes and global citizens. I hope to be an inspiration to them as well.
Do you plan on visiting one of the projects in the near future? Why or why not?
I was hoping to go to Guatemala this spring, but it will unfortunately fall too close to our national championship. I’m definitely working towards the next one. I think seeing it up close and being able to share my experience will build even more awareness for the people who follow along with me.
What would you say is the most gratifying part about being a part of Brooke USA?
It is inspirational on a lot of levels. You really see your money and your contribution make a difference: you see where it’s going and how it’s being used. It’s a close-knit of ambassadors and representatives who are passionate about the same. Everyone works very cohesively, and everyone keeps you greatly informed.
What goals do you strive for as a rider?
I would like to make it on an international team one day. I’ve come a long way in building my business and bringing along my horses, but I look forward to seeing my string of horses grow internationally as well. Representing my country in an Olympic or a World Equestrian Game is to what I most aspire.
How has helping the greater good contributed to your growth as a rider and a well-rounded individual? Does it motivate you to win for a cause?
Yes. Seeing life from a world view and knowing where you are in relation to the whole, having empathy for people and animals who don’t share your same privileges really puts our own problems into perspective. Going forth in the world with gratitude and love is really important, and this (Brooke USA) helps me channel it. It is easy to get overly involved in our own worlds and preoccupations, but it is so important to step back and ask yourself, “how am I contributing to the world?” I believe that if you have the means and the ability to help somebody, you should. It makes you live every moment in appreciation and gratitude for the things you do have, and empathy for the things you can contribute.
Tatianna Verswyvel is a 17-year old show jumper from Mexico. She’s represented her country all over Central and South America, and has competed in the junior divisions throughout the United States. Tatianna became involved with Brooke USA last winter season as she fell in love with its mission and philosophy. She is thrilled to be working with Brooke USA and combining her passion for the organization with her future goals of becoming a journalist.