Executive: Jenifer Schembri, a lawyer at Blalock Walters PA in Sarasota who specializes in tax law.
Diversion: Showing appaloosa horses. Member of the family that owns Char-O-Lot Ranch in Myakka City, which breeds, shows and trains appaloosa horses
Family footsteps: Schembri has been riding horses her whole life and grew up in Myakka City from the age of 5 at the family's 50-acre ranch. “When we moved here, it was a field of palmetto bushes that we had to burn off,” she says.
Finding a focus: The family began concentrating on appaloosas in the early 1970s and now breeds 100 to 125 mares a year at the farm and elsewhere. “My parents went to a few appaloosa shows, and they really enjoyed the people who participated, so they started doing that,” says Schembri. “I think that the people in our industry are welcoming. It's a nice community.”
A different path: Since Schembri grew up on the farm, she wanted to try something different for her career. She earned an undergraduate degree in accounting before getting her law degree and chosing taxation as her focus. “I'm very good with numbers,” she says.
A flexible firm: Blalock Walters PA has been accommodating about Schembri's equine endeavors. “With all the technology that we have, it's easy to be flexible,” she says. She works remotely while traveling for horse shows, which is made easier by an app on her phone through which the firm can directly transfer client phone calls. “It's as if I'm at work,” she says. “It's very seamless for people to reach me.”
Dividing the day: Schembri starts her day at the ranch at around 6 a.m., riding or tending to the horses for about two hours. Then she makes her way into the Blalock Walters office, beginning her day there at around 9:30 or 10 a.m.
Practice and prep: Schembri participates in 12 to 15 competitions a year, traveling throughout Florida, Michigan and Texas. She spends most of the year preparing for the shows. “The horses competing are on a very regimented schedule,” she says. “They have the same schedule every day — they eat at the same time, exercise mostly at the same time. I think their routine helps them know what to expect in life.”
Best effort: Much like her taxation work, showing horses requires Schembri to be meticulous. “One of the things that lets you be successful competing with horses is doing complete work,” she says. “If you take shortcuts, you're not going to get anywhere. You might do OK once, but you're not going to have long-lasting results.”
Winning isn't everything: Over the years, Schembri has racked up wins, including the World Championship Appaloosa Show. “Sure, I like to win,” she says. “But if that's all you do it for, you're going to get discouraged and not do it anymore, or figure out that doesn't make all the work worthwhile. I'm always looking for how did the horse do? What do we need to work on? What's the next thing to do in this horse's progression or training? But I do still like to win, don't get me wrong.”
Back at the ranch: Schembri doesn't see a point when she'll stop riding and competing. “I enjoy the horses and competing,” she says. “I enjoy having younger horses and seeing them progress and be successful. Being on the farm helps you be grounded. It keeps you settled.”
Career development: Schembri has found there to be some overlap between her time at the farm and the office. “I deal with a lot of family businesses, and I think that my experience being involved in actually running a business gives me a better understanding of what business owners are coping with,” she says. “The other type of client I deal with a lot is people who have a high net worth. I'm really comfortable in that environment, because I grew up it in; people who have horses have high net worths, so I've been around that type of clientele my whole life.”
Quick connections: Schembri's pastime can be an instant icebreaker. “There are a lot more people who have a horse hobby than you'd think,” she says. “And it has them feel immediately related to you even though you've met them for five minutes.”