Studio VMX is a wonderful community of interesting, diverse, and inspiring individuals. In my effort to create a supportive VMX community and introduce fabulous women to each other who may not come to class on the same day, I will be featuring my incredibly talented clients each month. Please follow along on my blog to meet these incredible, local achievers and to make new connections and friends!
This month we feature the powerhouse women of Rhiannon Equestrian in Brewster - Jennifer Giacopelli (owner & head trainer) and Leanna Keevil (trainer). Rhiannon Equestrian is one of Westchester’s premier equestrian centers, their students have consistently won championships and top ribbons from the local to national levels of competition. They train riders from the beginner divisions up through Grand Prix level show jumpers. Learn more about their program at www.rhiannonequestrian.com. Jenn hails from Ridgefield and is the mother of 12-year-old twins. She enjoys gardening and landscape design and has been a pescatarian for over 30 years. Leanna is originally from Katonah. She is married, has a horse and a French bulldog, and loves designing and decorating cakes.
VMX: So, Jenn, describe your life as a woman entrepreneur.
Jenn: It’s a very full and complex way of life! Each day presents new challenges and growth opportunities. My approach is to try not to compartmentalize each aspect of the business, but to weave all the aspects throughout my day. It has taught me an incredible amount of patience, and my ability to multi-task is an ever-improving essential skill. I have embraced that Jenn the business owner, Jenn the parent, and Jenn the individual have no defined boundaries. I need to transition between all my roles seamlessly without any feeling of resentment, even if at times one role spills into the next in disproportionate degrees. A positive attitude and mental flexibility are my keys to a successful and happy life.
VMX: Leanna, tell us about your career path.
Leanna: I started riding when I was eight years old with Jenn as my trainer! I got the bug and continued riding and showing through the college level at UConn where I was captain of the IHSA Equestrian Team and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science/Equine Business Management. Upon graduation, I joined Rhiannon full time as trainer. My future goals include bringing along my own string of young horses to campaign at the national level.
VMX: You’re both also part of a local community organization, The Agape Project NY. How did it get started and where do you see it going?
Jenn: The Agape Project NY is a volunteer-based group looking to fulfill specific needs of struggling families within the Putnam and Westchester County communities. It was the collaborative efforts of a few women who wanted to both give back and pay it forward as good servants in the local community. My dream for Agape is that it becomes an entity that will outlast the current members and continue to provide aid and services to those in need within our community for years to come. There’s a scripture that resonates with me that says “At Horse Gate, the priests repaired the wall. Each one repaired the section immediately across from his own house.” I genuinely believe that we first need to look where we can help others in our immediate area and build outward from there. I’m looking forward to helping bring the Agape Project NY to a point of being a stand-alone statewide organization.
Leanna: I became involved in The Agape Project NY during the COVID-19 Pandemic where it became abundantly clear that there were many people in our local community struggling and needing support. The Agape Project NY has hosted events to thank first responders, outfit kids with supplies for back-to-school, ensure people in transitional living communities enjoyed a full meal for Thanksgiving, clothed families experiencing uncertain housing, and even given children the experience of summer camp.
VMX: What is your typical week like in terms of physical exercise?
Jenn: I generally ride anywhere between 5 to 10 horses per day six days a week. I also work in at least 3 cardio sessions per week covering about 6 miles per session. I mix it up between hiking, walking, and running to keep my body and mind challenged. Outside of riding, my favorite workout of the week is VMX. I make sure to get that in every week, and only miss it under the most unavoidable of circumstances. The strength training that I get from VMX has absolutely enhanced my capacity as a rider and trainer.
Leanna: I also ride six days a week and usually ride 3-6 horses each day. On my day off from the barn, I enjoy my VMX classes to balance out my riding.
VMX: Your careers are already so physically demanding, why do you exercise?
Jenn: Exercise is a total reset for my body and mind. It’s a great way for me to relieve stress and be the best version of myself for my family, staff, and clients. My exercise program helps me feel physically and mentally capable of accomplishing any challenges that present themselves throughout the week at home and work.
Leanna: Fitness is an absolutely necessary part of being a professional equestrian, it keeps me feeling strong in the saddle and helps me feel secure and able to tackle any ride that I encounter. I also exercise to continue to strengthen myself and develop my core and muscles groups to further my riding. I find my workouts to be a great way to reset and clear my mind.
VMX: Describe your fitness journey and how it has evolved over time.
Jenn: I’m 49 years old and, over the last few years, I have noticed that I need to work harder and longer to maintain my desired level of fitness. I consider my entire body when engaging in activities and focus on maintaining lean muscle and healthy bone mass. My goals are now to be as strong and healthy as possible so that I can fully participate in the activities I love to do with my children and in my career.
Leanna: Coming out of college, I had tried many different types of exercise from running, to swimming, OrangeTheory to Pilates. I felt stronger while doing these different forms of exercise, but it wasn’t until I found VMX that I felt like my body was challenged every time, without feeling defeated.
VMX: What surprises have you had in training with the VMX method?
Jenn: The biggest surprise for me was becoming aware of how relatively weak and disbalanced I actually was with respect to the strength required to complete a class. I’ve always considered myself a strong person, until I took a VMX class. It really highlighted where I needed to become stronger and more symmetrical throughout my entire body.
Leanna: I’m always surprised by how many different movements or exercises there are that can be performed on the machines. VMX has made me feel a strength in my body that I never achieved with any other exercise. It truly works every single muscle fiber in your body! VMX has become something I look forward to every Monday. Given my 6-day work week, I only have one day to focus on self-care and VMX is the #1 component. Missing one class makes the work week so much longer!
VMX: And what is your favorite VMX exercise? Your least favorite?
Jenn: My favorite exercise is Catfish! I love how it gets deep into your abs while still working your lower body and arms. I HATE Dancing Bear! Sheer torture for sure. It takes an enormous amount of mental discipline for me to keep going.
Leanna: I love the strap work, it ties into classic Pilates movements and helps me work on my hip mobility which has always been one of my weaker areas. My least favorite? BEAR!