JEC Spotlight- Joanne Connell
They say it takes a village, but one contributor to the success of the Jacksonville Equestrian Center, Joanne Connell has practically served as the entire village herself. Joanne has worn just about every hat in her 14+ year volunteer role. Joanne has been on the all-volunteer board of the Northeast Florida Equestrian Society (NFES) since 2004. Joanne was elected as chair in January 2016; she has also served as records historian and Registered Agent for the non-profit corporation. Connell is responsible for the day to day decisions of NFES and is the liaison to the City of Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Equestrian Center Management contract was awarded to the NFES in October 2014. Currently, Joanne volunteers at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center 3-4 days per week administering NFES business and overseeing the board’s directives for the center. Just three years into the five year management contract of the Equestrian Center, the board had exceeded the performance and has recently engaged a major donor. In August of 2017, the City of Jacksonville extended the NFES contract for an additional five years.
Joanne lives on Jacksonville’s Southside and along with serving in several positions on the NFES board she has also served on other civic and community based boards. Joanne was an ACE (Architecture Construction and Engineering) mentor with the Duval County School Board for 5 years. Joanne, an avid equestrian herself, has also has been involved in local horse clubs in several official positions and has managed club horse shows. Currently Joanne is co-owner of a horse that travels to multiple states competing at the Local, State, Regional and National level in Dressage. Joanne’s equestrian passion combined with her civic-minded, “put your money where your mouth is” take charge approach has made Joanne one of the Jacksonville Equestrian Center’s most valuable players! We are happy to shout out our continued thanks to Joanne in this edition of our Spotlight. Thanks for your longevity and commitment to helping make the Jacksonville Equestrian Center what it is!
Friend We've Lost- Debra Stegner
If you called the Jacksonville Equestrian Center for booking an event you most likely got the outgoing voice of Debra Stenger, “Deb”. Deb loved the Jacksonville Equestrian Center and she especially loved working with all the different event managers, and being the first line of communication in helping make their events unique. When her health declined, she still took great pride in coming to work each day, saying her Jacksonville Equestrian Center family was so important to her. Deb was trustworthy and loyal, always seeking to get the job done on time while remaining flexible for last minute changes. She was so excited to see the Jacksonville Equestrian Center growing and expanding, but sadly Deb passed away in December of 2017 and will not get to see the grandeur that is to come. Deb will be remembered always in our hearts for her smile, knowledge, kind words and deep devotion to the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.
JEC Spotlight- Bob Bell
When you say the name Bob Bell, the first thing comes to mind is a big smile and sailors tan. Bell is one of the equestrian worlds most notable show promoters and his Classic Company Hunter Jumper shows are the highlight of countless peoples show seasons. A graduate of Clemson University in 1978, Bell continues to reside in South Carolina and in his "free" time, he can be found on the water and spending time with his dog Ellie. Having managed USEF AA-rated shows nationwide for the last 35 years and counting Bell runs some of the countries most prestigious hunter jumpers shows. Currently Bell has 21 USEF AA rated Horse shows annually. Bell’s calendar includes Gulf Coast Winter Series, Atlanta Spring, Summer and Fall Classics, Jacksonville Spring Classic and Charleston Summer Classics. While Bell did not growing up riding, he has always loved horses, and after college he finally found the chance to get into some equestrian activities. Starting out with the ever classic Fox Hunting at Middleton Hounds in Charleston from 1990- to 2009; Bell has also owned several Steeplechase horses, Racehorses, and Hunter/Jumpers. Bell has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the United States Equestrian Federation from 2005 to 2014, is the chair of USEF’s Administration and Finance Council and Competition Management Committee, as well as a member of the National Breeds and Disciplines Council, Steward-Technical Delegate Committee and Continuing Education Committee. Bell has served as a USEF Steward licensed official since 1987. Bell has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the United States Hunter Jumper Association since 2004. Bell chairs the Competition Management Committee, Zone 4 Hunter Committee and Zone Hunter Council and has also been a member of the Competition Standards Committee and Hunter Working Group. Bell’s equestrian work extends to publications in his role as a partner in Sidelines Magazine, described as the People magazine of the sport.
Friend We've Lost - Charles W. Kelley
Charlie, as he was known to his friends, can only be described as a persistent and unyielding supporter of the recreational aspects of the Cecil Commerce Center. Charlie would never take “no” for an answer. Charlie advocated for use of part of the land at Cecil Filed as an equestrian center and trails long before the city was actually deeded the property by the Navy. He was convinced that a world-class equestrian center would attract people and events from all over the country, and it does! Charlie established relations with and was recognized by the Department of Interior for pursuing the 2000 plus acres conveyed to the City for the recreational parcel. He was a volunteer consultant for the following: the design of the main building, the specifications for the horse barn and parking for the horse trailers. Charlie served on the Better Jacksonville Oversight Committee, the City’s funding mechanism to build the JEC, pool and ballfields.
A cowboy himself, Charlie was determined to have trails opened to the public for use by not only equestrians, but hikers, cyclists and nature observers alike. To fully reach this dream, at the ripe young age of 80, Charlie took on a new project – to improve the trails and make them ADA compliant so everyone could enjoy them. He recruited volunteers and donors to refurbish an existing pavilion out on the trails. The pavilion was later named in his honor.
In 2009, Mr. Kelley received recognition for a lifetime of community service in which The Jacksonville City Council officially, by resolution 2009-639, named the Charles Kelley Pavilion in his honor.
He also volunteered countless hours for the Baldwin Rails to Trails project. In 2004 Charlie was awarded the First Coast Envirothon Anchor for Outstanding Leadership and Support. In 2007, he was the recipient of the Mayor’s Summit Award. Charlie served on the NFES board of Directors from the beginning, and astutely kept all the historical records of JEC. We are so grateful to Charlie, because without him, there would truly not be a Jacksonville Equestrian Center. Charlie’s family, the City and NFES will work together to hold a memorial trail ride in his honor and fundraise for additional trail improvements. Check our events calendar for the Charles Kelley Memorial Trail Ride in the future.
Spotlight: Savy Dobbs JEC Official Photographer
From behind her camera, Jacksonville University senior Savannah (Savy) L. Dobbs has been capturing America’s horses and heritage, and finding both her subjects and her own talent in the spotlight. The JU senior, who graduates in May with a major in photography and minor in film and education, has been named an exhibiting finalist in the Jacksonville Historical Photo Contest and will be displaying her work at Jacksonville’s Main Library downtown.
“Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is,” says the 22 year-old Jacksonville native, who has won five photography awards since launching SDPhotography in 2010, as well as participating in JU Art Walk 2017, doing photography for the Bob Ballard event dedicated to the discovery of the Titanic, and being named head photographer for the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.
Much of her work centers on her other passion: horses. A black-and-white photo of a horse entitled ‘Blaze in the Dark,’ won Best of Show in a college-wide contest hosted by Florida State College that spurred her interest in depicting horse/human bonds like those forged at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center during the nationally acclaimed Extreme Mustang Makeover, that promotes training and homing formerly wild horses adopted through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
“I had the greatest experience getting hired to photograph the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Jacksonville,” said Dobbs, “but it didn't end there. Soon after, its organizers asked if I would be interested in photographing Extreme Mustang Makeovers in West Springfield, Massachusetts and Lexington, Kentucky. Of course I couldn't pass up such an awesome experience. They flew me to both locations and it was so cool to see and meet so many amazing trainers and photograph such amazing events.” She photographed three of the six Extreme Mustang Makeover Events held in 2017.
Dobbs began photographing events at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center three and a half years ago. “My favorites were the barrel racing shows, since I was a barrel racer myself.”
“I got into photography ten years ago, when I had a small point-and-shoot camera and got my first horse. I would be out at the barn with my brother and he would show me different angles to photograph. Since then, I’ve been told I ‘have an eye for photography’ and have been in love with the process ever since. Equine and wedding photography are my favorite subjects.”
When I’m not taking photos, my favorite thing is riding my horses. I have always been blessed to have horses of my own.” Dobbs has been riding since age six and is as versatile in the saddle as she is behind a lens. “I ride Western and English. I have two amazing horses. Bonnie Blue, 14 year-old, blue-eyed Paint (my favorite breed) that we rescued nearly ten years ago, and she is my world. I used to show her All-Around but not as much anymore. Then there’s Jake, a 13 year-old Appendix Quarter Horse that I have owned for almost nine years. I do barrels, jumping and obstacle challenges with him.”
Photography, horses and Florida will continue to play equally important roles in this enterprising entrepreneur’s life. She plans to obtain a Masters in Photography and use her education to become a photography professor. In the meantime, SDPhotography continues to hit its stride, shooting parties, reunions, dances, engagements and weddings, and portraits of people and/or animals.
“My business has grown so much that, for now,” Dobbs said with a smile as photogenic as any model, “I am planning to stay in Florida.”
Learn more about this JEC head photographer, horsewoman and Jacksonville Dolphins fan at www.SDPhotographyJAX.com or call/text (904) 233-3934.