Trainer Profile: Akiko Hamada and Stellar Sport Horses

Akiko Hamada is an accomplished trainer and proud owner of Stellar Sport Horses. Akiko’s first-class training program operates out of French Hill Farm, located in Aurora, Oregon. The oasis sits on a 42-acre equestrian estate close to Portland. After meeting Nancy Jubitz, French Hill Farm’s owner, in 2001, Akiko has called French Hill Farm home since. 

Akiko is modest in regards to her capabilities. Akiko’s clients are incredibly successful and attend many top-rated shows all along the west coast. Stellar Sport Horses is a training program where students of all ages who have their own horse can learn the art of hunter, jumper, and equitation disciplines. Stellar Sport Horses is also a great stepping stone for French Hill’s Riding Academy’s students beginning their riding careers with aspirations to advance into a show atmosphere. Both businesses French Hill and Stellar, support each other. It is not uncommon to see many students participating in both programs simultaneously. The students can join Stellar’s training program, French Hill’s IEA team, and participate in rated shows all under one roof. 

Akiko began her riding career at eighteen years old and was not born into an equestrian family. After high school Akiko studied French while attending Monterey Institute of International Studies. She also studied in Canada at Queen’s University, focusing on Economics with the intention of pursuing hotel management. However, a career with horses called to her more, and she is forever grateful. 

“I actually was watching the movie, International Velvet and I thought riding looked fun,” Akiko said. 

After she stopped by the Portland Outdoor Store, Akiko was recommended to a farm in Hillsboro. After her first lesson, she became infatuated with horses and was hooked immediately. She hasn’t looked back since. 

“I was able to ride and train with such wonderful horseman and horsewomen, and it was great. Grace Karns was my first teacher. She was the first female licensed racehorse trainer in the state of Oregon. I loved riding with her. I rode a saddlebred named Topper, and I was at the barn seven days a week and that is no joke. I would follow everyone around the barn trying to learn what I could from them constantly.” 

Akiko’s past positions in the horse industry include having worked at western and polo farms. She additionally worked during the beginning of her equestrian career at other jobs as well. A hardworking woman with a stellar work ethic, Akiko worked at her family’s restaurant, a production company, and a dog accessory manufacturer company. 

“I was always at the barn first thing in the morning. It was hard, getting home late and then on a horse first thing in the morning. I did it, however, because I love riding and training.” Her superior work ethic led her to ride with many talented trainers in the Hunter, Jumper, and Dressage worlds.

“They were essential in shaping me becoming a horsewoman. I learned a tremendous amount from them.”

Akiko possesses a quality admired by many, and that is empathy to all of her horses. 

“I have had so many horses. I mean, they are like my kids. I had Babe, Mini, Nito, Al Afrique, McKee, and Jessie, my first hunter. I chose the wrong profession, because I love them all so much and I want to do the best I can for each of them. They deserve it, of course,” she says. 

Her empathy is shown by the top-notch care each horse receives under her supervision and training program. She sees that each horse is looked after daily and has staff that cares just as much as she does. All horses in her program are treated as if they were one of her personal horses. Akiko tries to instill the same empathy in her students.

“Great horsemanship is so important, and I do not want that to become lost in this sport. I have so much gratitude for the horses. It is important and I think so essential. Horses are animals and not just a piece of equipment,” she says. 

Stellar and French Hill both employ excellent trainers with such diverse backgrounds. Stellar’s assistant trainer, Nicole Greenwood, is a perfect example of Akiko’s decision to have only the best work with her. A young woman hailing from SoCal, Nicole’s background includes working for top trainer, Mickey Hayden. Nicole is the icing on the cake for Stellar and their students. She is very hardworking and is an excellent teacher, which Akiko saw when she met her. 

French Hill Farm’s head trainer and manager, Leighanne Brocki, is another example of a great trainer Akiko gets to work with. Leighanne has worked for French Hill for nearly eighteen years now. 

“I knew when I came here and interviewed with French Hill that this farm was where I belonged, and where I wanted to call home. I knew flying over Mt. Hood and being at French Hill with Akiko was going to be amazing. I love it, and being able to train with her. I am so glad I came here years ago,” Leighanne said. 

Akiko brings in clinicians from all over the west coast to give weekend clinics with Stellar’s and French Hill’s students. Recently top trainers, Jeff Cook and John Turner came to French Hill to run weekend clinics for students. A real treat for all, clinics taught by top coaches shows the class of training Akiko provides. She proudly is committed to giving only the best to all of her students. 

“I love how everyone at French Hill works together, because we really support each other,” she says. “I am just so grateful for all the opportunities I have had in my life. Meeting Nancy, and her believing in me, and my horses. I have so much gratitude towards them. They all have supported me so much, I really am so fortunate.”

Written by Chris Cervantes

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