Shannon Ockfen Hendrickson '90: Jumping for joy

By Beth Herman

Faith and drive made Shannon Ockfen Hendrickson ’90 a top U.S. show jumping competitor at 17. Today, her knack for forming horse-rider partnerships helps her teach Puget Sound students and others.

A Tacoma native who fell off her first horse at 7, Hendrickson chose Puget Sound thanks to a family friend, then-board-chairman Lowry Wyatt. Successfully balancing college life with competition meant showing all summer, then giving her mounts time off when classes started each fall.

In high school, Hendrickson won enough jumper classes to qualify for the Junior Jumper Finals in Harrisburg, Penn., two years in a row. (Only 40 under-18 riders in the country qualify each year–four from the Northwest.) Hendrickson’s second try was in 1986, a month into her freshman year at Puget Sound.

"I was one of the last to go in the speed class. I was nervous, but believed in my horse (the veteran mare "Stage Struck.") I rode hard; I wanted it. We finished second–lost by .02 seconds! I was thrilled." The art major returned from her triumph to a warm welcome from friends in Anderson-Langdon Hall. A month after commencement, Hendrickson and her little mare won the $15,000 Milner Downs, Canada, grand prix.

Now Hendrickson teaches an equestrian course for Puget Sound’s P.E. program at nearby Signature West Farms, which she owns with her husband, Rick. She loves training 10 to 20 Puget Sound students each semester "because they’re so open. I have a few who want to show and win. But most are here to have fun. This sport’s too expensive not to have fun.

"Clients appreciate that I will find them nice horses for less money. I‘m willing to put in the training time to make a good jumper mount. The biggest thrill is taking my clients to big shows where they compete with $50,000 horses–and win."