Sep 11, 2023

In Memoriam: Jessie Aikman

Jessie Aikman and Hidden Treasure. Brant Gamma photo

The USEA shares its condolences with the friends and family of Area I Adult Rider Jessie Aikman. Aikman passed on September 3, 2023, from injuries received as a result of a fall at a USEA-recognized/US Equestrian licensed competition. Several of Aikman's friends came forward to share their words of love for Aikman after her passing.

Amy Winnen, USEA Adult Rider Committee Co-Chair and Area I Adult Rider Program representative shared the following: "Jessie was an active Adult Rider Program member and always demonstrated care and support of her fellow equestrians, she always cheered on her own Virtual Team Challenge team but also celebrated everyone's success. Even from her hospital bed, she was making sure her team got points even though she wouldn't be able to ride at GMHA in September and didn't want to scratch her entry for a refund because she knew GMHA needed the money. She loved the eventing community and we loved her. She will be missed."

In addition, Jordan Bader, her dear friend and barn family member at Green Acres Stables in New Hampshire stated, "Jessie lives in our hearts forever- in every gallop, every beautiful Green Acres Stable sunset, every rainbow across the cross-country field, and every hug we give to our horses. We are all changed by her light and love. I will never forget her saying 'Every day is a great one when you’re with a horse!' We will continue to ride, smile, enjoy our horses, and love one another in her honor. We love you, Jessie, forever and always."

Julia Leblanc, friend and owner of the horse, Hidden Treasure, which Aikman competed, stated: "Jessie used to say to me at every show, 'thank you for letting me live my childhood dreams.' I always giggled and said you're welcome, but she was the one who had me starry-eyed with her level of constant dedication. She jumped into everything she did, without hesitation. She learned how to properly condition a horse so that she was being fair to Treasure at every venue. She worked tirelessly on her flatwork to always best her last score. Even when she was nervous, we always said together, you can do this. What she didn't know, is she lit a spark in me that had been missing for some time, a flame that will never go out, it stays eternal between us. The bond we shared went beyond horses. My son was like a grandchild to her, his excitement for dinners at her house, adventures while fruit picking, learning to cook new things, taking her horses for trail rides, and sledding. My son will miss every moment of the bond they had. Jessie had a way of guiding with a firm but gentle hand, that somehow just worked for my son. We talked every day, no matter the subject. Life without her will no doubt be different, but I am different because of her, I am better because of her. I love you, Jessie."

Aikman's official obituary is as follows:

On September 3, 2023, Jessie Aikman died from injuries she received while pursuing her lifelong dream of competitive horseback riding. She was born on July 29, 1957, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Robin and Walter Aikman and lived most of her life on the family farm in Rollinsford, New Hampshire. The oldest of six, her siblings referred to her as “The Warden” due to assertive leadership style. She was an absolute badass whose unique blend of kindness, sass, and spirited stick-to-itiveness were present throughout her life.

She loved animals from an early age. By the age of ten, when she wasn’t riding real horses, she and her sisters practiced trick riding on their bicycles, tying twine to the handlebars to use as reins. She competed in equestrian eventing in high school and worked on the family dairy farm. She attended the University of New Hampshire where she graduated with a degree in Animal Science. As an adult, she loved her many dogs and horses wholeheartedly.

Jessie had many skills and hobbies, and she excelled in all of them. Jessie was the owner of Back Channel Canvas Shop in Eliot, Maine, and was known by many to be a genius when it came to designing and crafting custom awnings, boat tops, and other structures out of canvas. She began collecting and riding antique motorcycles in the 1980s, and was the president of the Yankee Chapter of the American Antique Motorcycle Association for several years. She was a skilled knitter and pursued many other creative passions including baking quilting, photography, ceramics, and playing the flute. She was fiercely competitive and always loved to win, whether that be in a quilt show, a dog agility competition, or just a “friendly game of Cribbage.”

When she was in her mid-fifties, after a life-changing trail ride in the mountains near Telluride, Colorado and in the midst of a decades-long battle with rheumatoid arthritis, Jessie decided to bring horses back into her life and pursue her childhood dream of competitive equine eventing in earnest. She dedicated many hours to practicing, and found success both in competitions and in achieving her goals as an athlete. She became known in the horse world as a rockstar and was admired by teammates and competitors alike for her “balls,” her determination, and great sense of humor.

Jessie will be sorely missed by her husband Mike Lingley, her mother, and her siblings Lucy Putnam, William Aikman and Sophie Aikman all of Rollinsford, NH; Lorna Mehta of New York, NY and Robert Aikman of Fairbanks, AK, her beloved stepson, her extended family and her many niblings, grandchildren, and friends. We will never forget her indefatigable generosity, her miraculous ability to incorporate the “f bomb” into any sentence, or her “mile high apple pie.”

A celebration of life will be held at a later date in the future. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the following organizations:

US Eventing Association: A memorial fund has been set up in Jessie’s honor through the Area 1 USEA Adult Rider Program. Donations to the fund can be made here.

Donations to the New Hampshire SPCA in Stratham for their dog and horse rescue programs in Aikman's memory can be made here.

The USEA would like to remind members of the US Equestrian Grief Hotline that is available to the eventing community impacted by this loss. Having partnered with the McLaughlin Young Group, US Equestrian offers free, confidential counseling services for mental health first aid with state-licensed practitioners who hold a graduate degree and at least five years of post-graduate clinical experience. You may contact these professional clinicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Members may reach a counselor by calling 1-800-633-3353.

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