WN Johara Aljassimya: Defying All Odds


By Allyssa Baird

She was a pretty dark grey filly when little “JoJo” was born in the beautiful hills and sanctuary of Aljassimya Farm in Santa Ynez, California. Upon being tested as a weanling, she tested positive for CA/CA, a genotype that will have cerebellar abiotrophy. They waited for her to show typical signs of CA, such as tremors, wobbling, and poor balance, at which point she would euthanized.

Since JoJo wasn’t a “sellable” horse, she was rehomed to Lilia Lucero as a three-year-old after Aljassimya retrieved two successful embryos by Al Ayal AA. “After they told me about her condition, I told them that I wanted her even if she just ended up in my backyard as a trail horse,” Lilia recalls. She worked with JoJo started under saddle, and eight years later, she still has no signs of CA.

“My goal with her was endurance if she wasn’t affected,” Lillia explains. “We made our journey into the endurance world, and we’ve been competing for the last four and a half years. It’s a very challenging sport, and we’re tested by vets from the beginning to the end.”

JoJo, officially named WN Johara Aljassimya, is sired by WH Justice and out of WN Miss Liberty, a WN Ultimate Star granddaughter from the world-famous Wayne Newton breeding program. She is the first Aljassimya Farm horse to compete in endurance. “I’ve taken extra care with JoJo. I haven’t rushed her, and she hasn’t had any injuries,” Lilia says. “She is perfectly healthy and has continued to hold her own against horses and riders with much more sport experience.”

In 2023, Lilia and JoJo completed all eight rides they attempted, including winning a 55-mile race and a rocky hill terrain race. This has secured qualifications and their next goal of the 2024 Tevis Cup in July. “We have been fortunate to be noticed by some big names and companies in the sport. EasyCare Inc. has even donated a full set of boots for Tevis.” Lilia has secured a crew and has the support of her mentor, Laurie Birch, who is no stranger to the grueling 100-mile Tevis Cup ride.

Competing in the Tevis is not inexpensive. Lilia estimates the total cost to be around $7,500. She is vigorously training herself and JoJo to be in their best shape in just a few months and is looking for donations and sponsorships to bring her dream to fruition. An attempt at Tevis would be a miraculous accomplishment for a mare that has already defied so many odds.

If you would like to help Lilia and JoJo get to the Tevis in July, please click HERE.