August 2016 - CPHA Spotlight: Beverly Jovais & Chestnut Hill, LLC
Written by Kim F. Miller
Sunday, 31 July 2016 17:35
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Top NorCal hunter/jumper program offers classic horsemanship and more.

by Kim F. Miller

When East Coaster Beverly Jovais relocated to the West Coast with her husband and three young girls in 1994, she quickly plugged into the Bay Area equestrian community by answering Bitsy Shields’ ad for a one-day-a-week riding instructor. That Friday gig planted the seed for what would become one of Northern California’s top hunter/jumper programs, Chestnut Hill, and enabled Beverly to put her impressive East Coast equestrian education to work in her new location.

The Jovais family: Chris, Emily, Olivia, Alicia and trainer/mom Beverly.

With 25 horses on average, it’s boutique in size but offers the serious rider—of any age—everything they could hope for, and then some.

That’s the assessment of Teresa Aubert, whose 14-year-old daughter Lauren joined Beverly’s program three years ago. Since then, Lauren has gone from an A-circuit newbie to top of the regional pony hunter and equitation ranks. Every detail of her riding position was “rebuilt” on arrival, but in a way that inspired the young equestrian, versus discouraging her, the happy mom observes.

As a horsewoman and a teacher, Beverly has a knack for bringing out the best in all her riders. Teresa appreciates Lauren’s progress as an athlete, and she really appreciates Lauren’s development as a person under Chestnut Hill’s watch. “When things go wrong, she takes the responsibility herself,” Teresa says. “Beverly is very motivating. She really helps the younger kids go from that initial disappointment when they don’t win to understanding that it’s not about winning, it’s about succeeding on your horse, which is an animal, a living being, and that it’s always on the rider to be the best they can be.”

Located at Joey Pedroni’s Edgemont Farms in Petaluma, Chestnut Hill is an A-circuit oriented barn that encompasses all levels from first-time pony riders to seasoned amateur competitors. Importing hunter and jumper sales prospects is a relatively new venture, while an emphasis on education has been a constant throughout the last 22 years. Recent visiting clinicians have included hunter/jumper legend Karen Healey, and veterans Jeff Cook and Mike Henaghan, along with dressage trainer Sue Curry.

Assistant trainer Shannon Beck and Calendar Girl at Thermal. Photo: ESI Photgraphy

Beverly and her oldest daughter, Alicia, still an active A circuit competitor. Photo: Gail Morey

Education is a big reason that Beverly went through the arduous process of earning her R judging card. Her clients’ show schedule keeps her too busy to officiate more than a few weekends a year at the moment, but the knowledge and perspective judging adds to her tool kit benefits students and horses in big ways. “It’s something that I want to do more in the future,” she says. “Travelling outside of our area and getting that new exposure helps keep me current and up to date, and that’s great for my students.” It’s also a labor of love. “Everybody should try sitting in that booth for 12 hours!”

East Coast Upbringing

Beverly began riding at 8, and moved up through the pony, junior hunter and equitation divisions, just as the majority of her students have. Her coaches during that time are a who’s who list of some of the sport’s best: former junior star and renowned judge Cynthia Hankins; multiple National Horse Of The Year Award winner, Jack Trainor; former USET member Debbie Shaffner; Major Jeremy Beale, a British Olympian and U.S. dressage champion; and Ben Guanciale, another many-time national award winner in the hunter/jumper world.

All contributed to a classic horsemanship education that she applies to students at all levels, while adding polish and refinement for those who aspire to succeed at the very top.

She loves bringing riders along from the beginning and believes that the barn environment remains one of the most healthy places to raise good human beings. She admits to bias from the influence horses had on her three grown daughters. All competed on the circuit and Alicia still does. They won a lot, but more importantly they learned the connection between hard work and results and experienced the genuine ups and downs of life with horses. “I know how good horses can be for kids and I love the opportunity to bring someone along from their first lesson.”

Although her own girls are grown and off on their own, Beverly is proud to keep Chestnut Hill a place where the next generation is encouraged to spend long days. Academic and other demands make that harder to do these days, Beverly acknowledges, but there are still kids and families who see the value of the opportunity.

Student Gwen McLaughlin & Chateau. Photo: Deb Dawson Photography

“One of my students spends whole days here and I send her mom pictures of her lifting water buckets and doing other barn chores,” Beverly relays. “The girl loves it and her mom is so thankful for her teenager to have the opportunity to combine physical labor with something she is passionate about.”

Ideally, Beverly adds, the barn is a place for each rider to disconnect and focus solely on the unique individual journey that horsemanship should be. Constant connectivity through social media and cell phones makes it too tempting to compare our journey with another’s and measure ourselves by another’s standards. “All of this bombardment of what everybody else is doing takes away from that focus, and I think that can take a toll on kids’ bonds with their horses.”

Fortunately, programs like the USHJA’s Emerging Athletes Program and the Interscholastic Equestrian Association stand sentinel against such trends, Beverly asserts. In their emphasis on horsemanship and/or team bonding, they incorporate the best and most character-shaping aspects of the horse world.

Those and other programs are great, Beverly continues, but it’s individual trainers who are needed to promote old-school horsemanship principles and practices. Sometimes that means explaining to parents why their child is preparing their own horse even when they’re paying for full care and grooming. “The student has to have the work ethic and desire, and mostly it’s the individual trainers have to be the ones trying to motivate the kids and give them an opportunity if they want it.”

Giving Back

Beverly is longtime active member of the Nor Cal Hunter Jumper Association and is enjoying her first year serving on the California Professional Horsemen’s Association board of directors. “I’m enjoying it and feel that the CPHA has made great strides in helping horsemen in need through the CPHA Foundation. That is a big part of why it’s so important for professionals to join the CPHA.” The organization’s long-standing medal finals for juniors and amateurs are important and the new Style of Riding Award is a valuable addition, Beverly notes.

Having worked at or based Chestnut Hill at several of the Bay Area’s familiar equestrian centers over the years, Beverly has been happily located at Edgemont Farm for close to three years. She and owner Joey Pedroni have compatible programs and priorities as horsewomen.

Longtime assistant trainer Shannon Beck enables Chestnut Hill to provide riders and horses with continuity of care and training, regardless of home and away schedules.

Alicia Jovais and Ciao. Photo: Deb Dawson Photography

Shannon’s 25-year career includes being a top catch rider as a junior, riding and learning in Europe and working with several of the Bay Area’s top trainers before settling in with Chestnut Hill in 2013. She teaches, campaigns horses and thrives on finding just the right veterinary care, nutrition and conditioning program to help each horse excel.

Space, beauty and proximity to San Francisco have always made the Napa and Sonoma valleys great places to enjoy horses, and the Sonoma Horse Park has significantly upped the region’s appeal for the hunter/jumper set. Since it began staging shows seven years ago, the Park has become a favorite of Chestnut Hill clients who appreciate the chance to compete at a top quality show without leaving home.

Southern California, Paso Robles and sometimes Oregon are Chestnut Hill itinerary stops as clients’ desires dictate.

Fourteen-year-old Lauren Aubert and Lakeview Pickpocket. Photo: Deb Dawson Photography

The Chestnut Hill team has enjoyed getting into the import business. It started with a client who moved to France and suggested a visit for horse-shopping in Germany. The first two horses they imported are now being leased happily: one as a hunter in Hope and Ned Glynn’s Sonoma Valley Stables and the other as a jumper at Jill Prieto’s Freestyling Farms. Shannon was heading back to Germany this summer to shop for three more, two that would likely stay with clients and a third as an investment horse. “It’s fun and risky and a new dimension!” Beverly says.

Getting to Chestnut Hill regularly is not easy for the Aubert family, but it’s well worth the often 45-minute to one-hour drive, says Teresa. The quality of care and training for horses and students justifies the many-times-a-week trip. And it’s more than that. “Beverly is a great motivator. She relates to everybody in a way that makes them want to improve themselves all the time.”      

This is the seventh profile in our new CPHA Spotlight, in which we’ll feature a professional member of the organization each month. The CPHA provides a forum, voice, and many valuable programs and benefits for equine industry professionals throughout the region, including those who live elsewhere but compete and/or work within it regularly. Members can be trainers and anyone else who earns at least half their income from working with horses. CPHA also hosts prestigious medal classes and finals for juniors and amateur members. For more information on the organization’s good works and getting involved, visit

Healthy Horses

Beverly and her team are sticklers about keeping their horses comfortable and in peak form. “I really believe that keeping the horses healthy and feeling good is one of the most important parts of my job.” As athletes, horses are going to get injured and have aches and pains and they deserve the same thoughtful care human athletes get, she adds.

Chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, ultrasound and electrical therapies are all part of the care routine at Chestnut Hill. They are big on cold therapy and fans of Game Ready’s Equine’s dry-cold equipment. Magnetic therapy through a variety of Centurion’s products: blankets and pads for the neck and hoof, are another favorite. In lieu of nearby hills on which to condition horses, Chestnut Hill incorporates regular treadmill work.

Typically, a healthy horse works twice a week, at an incline, in 20-minute sessions. In different doses, it’s also a great for helping horses rebuild strength during rehab for various injuries.

The stable is a SmartPak subscriber for joint, hoof and other supplements and most horses get equine omega oil on a regular basis.