It’s amazing how a horse can become the golden thread that intertwines generations of a family. Jennifer Griffith D’Onofrio grew up riding and competing with her horse, Teddy. The pair had a career highlight of taking third at the APHA World Show in 13 & Under Trail in 1988. A little over fifteen years ago, Jennifer placed her three-month-old daughter, Isabella, on his back. The connection was instant, igniting what would become a shared passion and family legacy of success in the show pen.
Bella grew up with Teddy, and the seasoned horse took good care of her in everything from 4-H competitions and leadline classes at the Fairfield County Fair to Showmanship classes when he was 28 and Bella was just eight. Bella recalls, “He was truly a family horse. Both my mom and aunt showed him, and it was so cool that he was my first show partner. His favorite treat was Dairy Queen ice cream, and he lived to be 34.”
Jennifer and her husband, an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Mark D’Onofrio of Upper Arlington, Ohio, believe in supporting and encouraging their children in sports and activities. Jennifer is quick to give her husband credit for embracing a lifestyle that was totally new to him. She says with a grin, “While horses aren’t in Mark’s background, and he’s not completely comfortable around them, he supports us financial and emotionally. He’s learned a lot and now knows what diagonals, two-point, leads, and lead changes are. He does love the Congress, because it’s so close to home, so he’s able to come watch and enjoy the show. He purchased his first pair of boots and hat and is very disappointed that he won’t get to use them this year!”
Despite his non-horsey background, Mark is totally on board with the horse show lifestyle. Jennifer had put her career as a physical therapist on hold to devote her time to her family, but set a positive example for her children by continuing to compete with horses. Jennifer says, “Bella would come to all my shows, and she loved it. My husband purchased Love Matters Most as an anniversary gift to me, and that’s one way I get to enjoy showing with Bella now. When I show, she’s right there with me giving me encouragement and support, and I do the same for her.” Bella agrees, saying, “My mom has inspired me. She gave me my first love of horses, and I’ve always loved how much she cares for her animals and how much she will put forth to do what she loves.”