Meet Jen Warner- a Bed and Breakfast owner and Centered Riding instructor in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
After growing up on an Indiana farm and earning a college degree, Jen took a job in Kentucky. Several decades later, tired of office politics in government and corporate PR, she discovered the book called ‘Wishcraft’ by Barbara Sher and went about making her ideal day into a lifestyle. Her research, marriage and a late-in-life baby pushed her plan to have a horse farm, financed by a bed and breakfast. It was only after 3 years of searching that she discovered a 150-year-old house and barns on 21 acres just south of Cincinnati. When her guests asked her to ride the rescued ‘give-away horses, she researched and learned about riding instruction techniques and began teaching Centered Riding.
Talking about what led her to her own venture, she says, “After graduating from Purdue, I moved to Lexington, Kentucky hoping to work for a horse magazine but ended up working in state and local government, education and natural resources. Then I moved to St. Louis to write, design and photograph for an art magazine. A corporate job in central Illinois introduced me to my husband. We married late and then had a baby. Wanting to be closer to family, since I’d grown up across the road from my grandparents, we began looking for a property near Cincinnati.”
Back in St. Louis. Jen spent years in an office chair looking out at a brick wall while brainstorming article ideas, often putting cracker crumbs on the windowsill to attract pigeons just to see something living. Today, she chooses how to spend each day, much of it outdoors with her animals and gardens. Her horses greet her with knickers or stampede to the barn when she calls them, to guests’ amazement. She finds herself much more fit at the age of 60 than she was at 30.
“For me, every riding lesson is different, based on the needs I observe in potential riders. Explaining the differences between human predators and equine prey animals, how they think, see, hear, socialize and feel is the beginning of every lesson. I teach ‘why’ before ‘how’. Educating people about how their bodies work in conjunction with a horse’s hopefully helps them understand the value of core strength, balance and thinking of their interactions from another’s perspective. An estimated 12,000 riding lessons that we offer also include translated versions into Arabic, Hindi, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, and more,” she says.
First Farm Inn is a historic farmhouse filled with vintage antiques and original art and offers an environmentally responsible experience surrounded by friendly rescued animals. It has gardens that bloom from March through November surrounding the house. The 90 solar panels on their 1870s barn provide electricity to power the farm. All appliances are water-saving and energy efficient. The breakfasts provided by them feature healthy versions of their old favorites as well as updated items, including vegetarian and vegan options. Furthermore, all the animals are a colorful assortment of rescues, give-aways and walk-ins and the horses are a variety of personalities, colors, sizes and breeds.
For Jen, getting finances to buy the property was her biggest initial challenge- “Having attended many Small Business Administration seminars and writing an extremely comprehensive business plan, I sent my business plan to all of the local banks to which not a single one responded. Frustrated, I called a bank and was connected to a vice president. ‘I remember your business plan. It was the best one I’ve ever seen, but my directors won’t give you any money.’ While he wouldn’t admit it outrightly, I soon realized I’d struck out 3 times because 1. I wasn’t a local. 2. I was a woman. 3. The bank directors didn’t know what a bed and breakfast was and didn’t think they belonged in their county,” she says. She adds, “After months of struggle, a call from the Indiana bank where my dad was a director asked for the address of the vacation property he was buying. The good old Kentucky boys had refused to help me, but one honestly good old Hoosier came through! None of my parents’ money went into the property, but my dad’s name enabled the sale to go through. They quit-claimed it to us within a few months.”
Jen’s current challenge remains aging. Being the primary cook, shopper, housecleaner, landscaper, mower, horse care giver, horse trainer, barn cleaner, riding instructor, veterinary assistant and diagnostician, pasture maintenance employee, bookkeeper and more, it isn’t as easy as it used to be for her. However, what keeps her going is this very statement: “If you define your wants and needs the universe will conspire to help you bring it about.”