Junior Jillian Zaun shares her passion for horses


Photo Courtesy of Jillian Zaun

Junior Jillian Zaun poses with her horses.

Having a pet at home is common, and many throughout the BSM community have a dog or a cat, but not many can say that they have a horse, let alone 17 horses. Junior Jillian Zaun has devoted herself to horses and horseback riding for years. This passion for horses takes a great deal of patience, time, and commitment to foster.

Horses have always been a big part of Zaun’s life–her love of horses began at a very young age. After watching her cousins take riding lessons, Zaun, who was four at the time, thought that it would be fun and asked her parents if she could start riding too. Little did she know that this event would mark the beginning of her journey as a horseback rider. “I always had an obsession with horses and begged to start riding,” Zaun said.

Zaun went from taking beginner lessons to competing with horses at a high level. At first, she did English riding which included show jumping for a few years. Then her focus changed to barrel riding, which is a form of Western riding that she currently competes in today.

Hockey players have may multiple sticks and and baseball players may have multiple bats and you would think that a horseback rider would have one or two horses, but that is not the case. Zaun has 17 different horses, five of them which she competes with. In recent years, Zaun has started to train her own horses along with breeding them. Having this many horses takes up much of Zaun’s time, but in the end it is all worth it. “It’s honestly a lot of work, but it’s worth it all,”  Zaun said.

To be a competitive horse rider, it takes many hours of work. For competitions during the winter, Zaun will miss a week of school here and there to go down South and in the spring and fall she misses three fourths of Fridays. She spends about four hours a night riding on three of the five days during the school week, and she spends close to seven hours a day on the weekends. Most weekends, Zaun gets up at 5 am to haul her young horses to competitions and get them ready for summer. In the summer, she lives at her farm, which is an hour away. There, she will ride around 8 horses a day.

As you can imagine, missing that much school might result in a struggle to keep up with everything, but Zaun knows how to manage it. Because she has being doing this for five to six years, she has gotten good at making up school work. “It is hard, but as long as you can stay on top of it, it isn’t too bad,”  Zaun said. 

Zaun travels all over the country for competitions and in a year she will be taking a year to barrel race around the country and try for the National Finals Rodeo, which to her is the biggest accomplishment available to barrel racers. Along with that, she hopes to one day make a career of riding and training horses.

Although Zaun has given much of her life towards horseback riding, she can’t imagine it any other way. “I honestly don’t know what I would do without horses, this is what makes me happy,” Zaun said.