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From horses to hardhats, mother and daughter rein it in

Jackie Chapman and her daughter, Sydney, on the roof of Indianapolis Power & Light Company Harding Street Station.

JACKIE CHAPMAN HAD no idea that her lifelong love of horses would lead her into a career as a Boilermaker. Or, that her daughter, Sydney Chapman, would follow in her footsteps.

Jackie, L-374 (Hobart, Indiana), grew up riding in barrel races and training quarter horses. While working various jobs at a union print shop and helping her dad build pole barns, Jackie took up welding horseshoes into decorative items as a hobby and selling them at the local western store.

Wanting more formal training in her hobby, Jackie enrolled in welding classes. A friend, impressed by Jackie’s handiwork, suggested she check out the Boilermakers as a career. She began her apprenticeship in the fall of 2001 and immediately fell in love with the work.

“It’s a great career,” she says. “I’m not afraid of hard work and getting dirty. I can be creative, and it allows me time off in the summer months to work with my horses.”

Jackie has passed her love of horses and her artistic skills on to Sydney. An avid barrel racer as well, Sydney graduated from high school and went straight to college in 2013. After two semesters at Indiana State University, she realized she didn’t like it very much and decided to check out the career her mother so obviously enjoyed. So, like her mom, Sydney took welding classes and enrolled in the Boilermaker apprenticeship program. She completed the program in March and joined Jackie on the job as a journeyman with L-374.

“I love working with my mom,” she says. “She’s always teaching me about our craft. We enjoy spending time together on and off the job, and I’m very comfortable asking her how to perfect my skills.”

For these talented ladies, being a Boilermaker provides them with the flexibility to ride competitively in National Barrel Horse Association Great Lakes Region contests. “It’s a great family sport,” says Jackie. “Besides Sydney, my older sister and her twin boys and their kids also compete.”

Jackie’s first “really good” horse was named Chito Star. “He got the ball rolling for both my training and competitive riding. As a matter of fact, I sold him to buy my very first horse trailer and haven’t looked back,” she says.

Sydney has been riding since before she could walk. “I remember my first race when I was three years old,” she says. “It was so much fun to ride my little pony around and around the barrels. We get to meet and see so many people who enjoy horses as much as we do—they’ve become family over the years.”

Jackie and Sydney haven’t limited their sport to the United States. They have also trained horses and competed in Panama and Costa Rica. In 2015, Jackie spent eight weeks in Panama riding and training barrel horses while helping conduct barrel racing clinics. In 2018, they traveled to Costa Rica where Sydney represented the United States in The Best Costa Rican Rodeo, held in San Carlos. “It was a great experience,” says Sydney. “Everyone was very friendly. And, since it’s not feasible for us to take our horses out of the country, the riding community was eager to offer us their horses to ride in the contests.”

The mother/daughter duo estimate they each average between 50 to 75 competitions a year—usually at least two events every weekend during the summer. Prizes include cash, clothes and equipment such as saddles and trailers.

When asked how training and riding horses has influenced other aspects of their lives, both women agree: Every horse has a different personality, just like people.

“You need to care, be patient and be able to adapt quickly—just like on the job,” Jackie says. “People have different styles and skill levels. Construction situations are changing all the time. You start with a plan, but many times it doesn’t exactly work out, so you have to be flexible and move ahead to get the job done. Working with horses prepared me for that.”

“Horses have taught me a lot about patience and accountability,” adds Sydney. “You’ll teach a horse something one day, and the next day he may have already forgotten it—so you show him again. Everything takes time—like when I was learning to weld. Even though I’m a journeyman, I still have a lot to learn.

“I’m a more disciplined person and worker because of the demands of training and caring for horses. Some riding events have upwards of 800 participants. There’s a lot of responsibility for yourself, your horse and your fellow riders.”

L-374 BM/ST Dan Sulivan says, “I was so pleased when Sydney joined her mom in the trade. These women are assets on every job. They have a great work ethic and are very reliable. Local 374 is very proud to call them sisters!”

“The Boilermakers have given my family so much,” says Jackie. “It’s not often a mother has the luxury of working side-by-side with a daughter who loves the trade as much as she does. And our careers give us the opportunity to make a good living and pursue our love of horses. You just can’t beat that!”