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Trainer Spotlight: Amanda Jackson with Vickery Performance Horses

Professional trainer Amanda Jackson currently lives with her family in Tioga, TX and works for Vickery Performance Horses. Mark Katafiasz and Amanda have been together for 13 years, and have a daughter, Scarlett, who is six. Jackson specializes in western pleasure and futurity horses. She also shows in the trail and hunter under saddle. “The young horses have always been my passion. I love riding two and three-year-olds and getting them to the show pen for the first time,” Amanda told us.

Originally from Pensacola, FL, Amanda’s mother grew up riding. “She always loved horses,” Jackson recalls. “She showed Apps some in the 70s. She got me my first horse when I was around eight, and I was hooked.” Jackson started in the open shows and moved into the Quarter Horses. Amanda and her mother drove all over the Southeast to shows when she was a youth.

Amanda graduated high school in 1999 and moved to Tioga, TX in 2001 to go work for John and Kim Dean. “That was my college. I worked for John for three years,” Jackson shared.

GoHorseShow sat down with Amanda to find out more about her background and goals for the future.

GHS: Hi Amanda. Can you tell us what you like about showing?
Jackson: Training and showing horses can be a roller coaster. Your lows can be low, but your highs can be so rewarding. I like it because I’m always trying to make the horse better. Some horses want to be unique from the start, and some turn big corners just when you think they won’t. But, horses can be such a rewarding and satisfying experience. When I worked for John Dean, he told me I had to make my horse if I wanted to show. The first horse I showed as a trainer was a two-year-old A Good Machine gelding we called Mikey (from the movie Monsters, Inc.) because he only had one eye. I didn’t win, but I knew from then on that this was what I wanted to do.

GHS: What have been some of your favorite accomplishments in the show arena?
In 2009, I was the NSBA Intermediate Rider of the Year. That year, I had three great horses to thank for helping me reach that award. A Sensational Zippo, Shes Suddenly Hot and Huntin Cold Cash. Suzy, A Sensational Zippo was a two-year-old I trained, and we won everything that summer at the Tom Powers, Southern Belle, Reichert, and NSBA world. I started her as a two. Mickey, Huntin Cold Cash was four. We had already won quite a bit, but we won the Intermediate Maturity at the NSBA World that year. In 2019, I was Reserve Congress Champion in the Limited Maturity with Cool Breeze. I’d never been 1st or 2nd at the Congress ’till then. Being a Congress Champion is still a goal of mine. I also won the Level 2 Senior Trail at the 2021 AQHA World Show with Im Hott Your Not. This was my first World Show win, and to do it in trail was a huge accomplishment for me.

GHS: What well-known horses have you trained?
I have been blessed with some talented horses that I have gotten to train and show or have a part of their success; A Sensational Zippo, Cool Breeze, Good Southern Gossip, Im Hott Your Nott, Hes Blazin Trouble, Knockin It Out, She’s Suddenly Hot, Huntin Cold Cash, Forever N Ever, Forever My Lady, Lookouthereicome, A Sudden Echo, My Sensational Cookie, Chex Out My Lope, Ms Mae Flash, Call Me Lazy, Littlebitofthebest, KM Win With The Best, Mr Freeze to name a few.

GHS: Who have been some of your biggest mentors?
I’ve worked for or with some great trainers over the years. Scot Kyle and John Dean have to be my biggest mentors. A lot of my training program comes from things I learned from them. I also spent many hours with Shane Pope and Donni Recchuitti. I find myself thinking of different techniques I’ve learned from these guys over the years to help me get through spots with some horses.

GHS: What advice do you have for young trainers?
You have to put in the time and the hours. Showing is the last part, in my opinion. It’s the icing on the cake for all the sweat you have put in. Find a trainer that you feel their program suits you and what you would like to learn and stick with it. Learn to train a horse, not just ride a horse. All those horses the boss gives you that you think are wrong or you are above riding, are the ones that will teach you everything. When they see those horses going around, you will get your opportunity to feel the great ones. It takes time…years!

GHS: How did you come about working with the Vickery crew? What do you like about working for them? 

Jackson: I’ve always respected Bruce. He’s done things in this industry most of us only dream of. He runs a great business and is always successful in the show pen. Mark, Scarlett and I moved from Florida to Tennessee in January 2019. In September 2020, we were getting ready to leave Tennessee and Bruce called me. We didn’t move back to Florida and ended up in Texas. I didn’t know Anthony that well, but now I consider him one of my closest friends. They are getting into the breeding side more, so I have a lot younger stock. I’ve always liked the trail, but they both have pushed me and taught me so much in a year.

GHS: What is one thing people probably don’t know about you?
When I was a kid, I did 3-day Eventing with ponies. I would help my trainer Angela ride them since I was little and teach them to jump and do dressage.

GHS: What would you like to see improved with the industry?
I wish the industry could find a way to up our payouts across western pleasure, hunter under saddle and trail. The horses are so talented these days, we should be able to ride for the kind of money the cutters, reiners and jumpers do. The Masters and Reichert used to pay $100K and were huge. We need that again. 3-year-old Maiden Western Pleasure and Hunter Under Saddle that pay $100K. 3-year-old Trail that pays $100K. I don’t know if it will ever happen again, but owners and trainers need payouts to get excited.

GHS: What are some of your future goals?
I want to win the 2’s or 3’s at the Congress. I’ve been close in the 2’s, but a win is the goal.