OLDSMAR, Fla. — The term “versatile” is applied to lots of horses and riders, but there are few pairings as versatile as that of Janelle Campbell and her 12-year-old chestnut thoroughbred gelding. It’s almost a case of you-name-it-they’ve-done-it, and now they are beginning the horse show chapter of their respective, intertwined careers.
Campbell, 33, of Oldsmar, Fla., got started with horses because her grandmother owned show horses and her aunt, Tammi Piemarini is a jockey, currently the third leading female jockey in the country. In fact, it was her aunt who convinced Campbell to adopt Primal Humor, also known as “Homie,” a son of Distorted Humor, who had sold for $200,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland sale. By the time Campbell met up with him, in 2010, the four year old gelding was not exactly bringing home the bacon in races at New England’s Suffolk Downs, and his owner wanted to rehome him. Piemarini had ridden Homie and was concerned about what might become of the horse.
New Jersey-based racehorse trainer Jeanne Vuyosevich, Farmingdale, N.J. met Campbell and Homie when they spent the summer of 2016 at Monmouth Park. She said Campbell is one of the hardest working, caring, enthusiastic horse people she knows — a good, tough jockey who took one of her winning mounts and made him into a hardworking pony horse, then got a start showing and jumping him and winning ribbons. “She loves him unconditionally,” said Vuyosevich.
Campbell herself was never really interested in becoming a jockey, until Homie came along. He was then her lead pony, and she was working with a trainer who had a horse that wouldn't break from the gate alone, so they sent Homie with work with him. “Well, Homie out broke and out worked the other horse. That's when I realized I wanted to ride, and what better teacher to have than Homie,” she recalled. Her first 20 starts were only with Homie. That summer, he ran second and third several times, then was given the winter off and came back as a runner. That's when Campbell finally won her first race — with Homie.
Her fiancé, Luis A. Garcia, also a jockey, was another big part of her racing career. He is currently riding at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa.
Campbell retired in 2016 with 50 wins from 826 mounts, having earned $914,211 in purses. Homie retired from racing after 56 starts, six wins and $56,000 in earnings.
When asked what she loved about thoroughbreds and what were common misconceptions about the breed, Campbell replies that thoroughbreds are amazing animals, in that they are amazingly smart. “They can pick up any discipline so fast. The biggest misconception people have about thoroughbred is that they are crazy, high-strung horses — which is true to a point,” she said.
Campbell explained they are high- strung horses because they are fed to be on the muscle. However, after some let-down time, they are just like any other horse... but smarter. How smart? Howie was champion in three different divisions at the Run for the Ribbons horse show. Why does that make him smart? He was a working lead pony still at the track that shipped out the morning of the show. He showed and jumped, and then returned to the track to pony.
She also took him off the track on Friday nights to go team sorting. In 2017, he was taken off the track and shipped to Ocala for the Thoroughbred Expo. The pair showed in a reining class, and in a freestyle class where he was ridden bareback with a halter and lead shank. Campbell then dismounted and he continued to follow her around the arena. They placed third.
On Sunday night, he shipped back to the track and ponied on Tuesday. Howie also likes to go on trail rides, and he gives riding lessons to a 9-year-old boy with severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
As for why a hunter/jumper rider should consider a former racehorse as a show prospect, Campbell was unequivocal: “They should consider a thoroughbred because of how smart, versatile, and most of all talented they are. If you give a thoroughbred your heart, they will give you theirs.“Campbell herself has found homes for approximately 25 thoroughbreds within the last five years.
Campbell trains with her old friend, Chrissy Medeiros. “She has an undeniable work ethic with her riding, and Homie is a total showoff,” according to Medeiros. “They are both so talented at everything they do.” This year, they plan to go to HITS in Ocala. While Homie is smaller than a lot of the warmbloods in his classes, at just 15.3 hands, what he lacks in size he makes up for in hard work, because “he sure is an overachiever,” says Medeiros. She adds that he is really coming along over fences now, with Campbell showing in the long stirrup division, and that Campbell and the horse have such a special bond. “I have worked with many thoroughbreds. They are definitely my favorite breed and passion,” said Medeiros.
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