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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Cheaper by the dozen for showjumper and her travelling family

Louise Hogan

LOTS of squishing. That's how champion showjumper Jennifer Crooks (38) manages to bring her brood of 12 children on the road as she and her husband travel the world to compete in horse shows.

Jennifer -- who has been a key component of Ireland's Nations' Cup team this year -- yesterday revealed how she manages to juggle her career around her dozen children.

"Organisation is key -- I've eight here with me at the show," the Seattle-based showjumper told the Irish Independent.

Although living in the US, she rides for Ireland as both her parents hail from Co Roscommon.

"I've two step-children, two biological and eight adopted from Ethiopia and China," she said as she sat atop her horse SF Uryadi in the beaming sunshine at the RDS.

"It is a very demanding career. It is something I always wanted to do . . . I just didn't mean to adopt so many," she said, adding that she and her husband Mike decided they had the space at their farm in Seattle for all the children.

All of her adopted children have some sort of minor special medical needs, such as a cleft palate or a birthmark on the face, which meant they were often passed over for adoption.

The most recent child Jennifer and Mike adopted earlier this year was Millie (8), from Ethiopia. She went on the road with the entire brood as they travelled to Europe for nine weeks during the spring for competitions.

"One week after leaving Ethiopia she went straight into Europe and loved it," said Jennifer.

The children range in age from two to 25. The two youngest, aged two and three, were adopted in Ethiopia, along with Millie. Five others -- aged seven, eight, nine, 10 and 18 -- were adopted in China while two, aged 12 and 13, are the biological children of Jennifer and Mike. The two eldest -- aged 23 and 25 -- are Mike's children from a former relationship.

The couple both work with horses, buying and selling them on the international market.

They home school their children -- but bring a tutor on the road with them.

Jennifer conceded that bringing the children on the road was expensive.

"We squish into hotel rooms, get lots of frequent miles and we always do it on the cheap," she said.

"Hotels are good to us, they always give us discounts because we've such a large family."

Jennifer has also become good friends with her childhood idol, legendary showjumper Eddie Macken, who is now godfather to their Millie.

"He has been a huge influence and a help to me," she said.

For this lengthy trip her aunt has taken two children to mind and her best friend another two.

"Between kids and horses there is not a lot of time for anything else," she said.

She added that the highlight of her trip to Europe was jumping for Ireland at this week's Nations' Cup.

Irish Independent

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