Courtesy of Equestrian Quarterly Magazine.
If you were lucky enough to have been in Kentucky for the World Equestrian Games, or at virtually any other major show-jumping competition for that matter, and said "Wow - those jumps are amazing," chances are you have seen the work of Brody Robertson.
Robertson grew up around horses. When he was about 15, he would go home from the horse shows and recreate the jumps he had seen. Before long, the word was out and people began asking him to build jumps for them. And, he says,"Things just took off from there."
Now Robertson can boast of having built jumps at some of the most prestigious competition venues, and for the biggest names in show jumping.
Along with his business of building jumps, Brody Robertson is also a top-ranked Grand Prix rider, trainer, judge, course designer, and member of the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) and U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) jumper committees. Brody is also a third generation equestrian; his father, Bill Robertson captures the United States' first Nations Cup win, alongside teammates George Morris and Frank Chapot, under coach Bert de Nemethy. That's why he understands so well what horse-show managers need to accommodate top-level horses and riders.
Brody and his wife, Jen, built their Altamonte Show Stables near the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. The 360-acre farm is where they live, ride, and train, and also where the jump creation takes place. Himself a master carpenter, Robertson works closely with a team of artists and other craftsmen in the state-of-the-art workshop. The team uses computers to assure accuracy of design, and artists, working with oil paints and airbrushes, add detailed, realistic touches to the finished products.
Brody speaks fondly of his team members, how close they've become, and how talented they are, "If someone has an idea, no matter how unusual, we can figure out how to design and build it." He describes some of the unusual requests they've had, such as a jump in the shape of a Dachshund: one standard was the head and front legs, the other the rear legs and tail, with an over-sized body, carefully painted and air-brushed to realistically duplicate the owner's pet.
Having learned trial and error what works best, and what is safest, Brody's jumps are built to stand up to hard use. While all are constructed from strong wood, more intricate jumps may include metal frames. Some are adorned with fiberglass figures or features such as birds or boulders.
Many of the jumps represent sponsors and so reflect their logos and products. In recent years, these elaborate sponsored jumps have become a great addition to the arena, adding a creative departure from the familiar standards and rails. Today's large decorated pillars and gates can include anything from shoes to trains, adding a festive feel for spectators and new challenges for horses and riders.
"What's my favorite jump?" Robertson says. "It was probably the hardest one to build."
Brody says he is often asked to build duplicates of some of the difficult jumps that riders and trainers know they will face at major competition so they can practice the jumps at home.
Besides the jumps, when walking around the show grounds you will also see beautiful vendor signs, tack room displays, or sponsor areas, many of which have been designed and built by Robertson.
There is no question that Brody Robertson's work enhances the visual excitement and competitive challenge of today's shows, while at the same time raising the bar for all equestrian venues.