Only a lucky few know exactly what they want to be when they “grow up,” but most figure it out mid-way through college. When Jimmy Sardelli enrolled in SUNY Morrisville’s equine science program, he was still trying to find his path in life.
Sardelli was born and raised in Gloversville, New York, about two hours east of Syracuse. His stepfather moved the family to Ohio when Sardelli was a teenager. After high school, he enrolled in The Ohio State University’s pre-veterinary program, thinking careers in the industry were limited to medical care or training. Immediately, he knew it wasn’t for him and quit.
He went back to working at a stable, riding and doing chores. Every time he talked to his cousins back home in New York, they raved about SUNY Morrisville’s dairy science program. Ready for a change, he investigated the equine science program. The day he started class, he was the only male and the oldest new student at age 22. Neither attribute bothered him.
“What appealed the most to me about the program was the philosophy for learning to do it all,” he said. “Some schools focus on riding, but not necessarily learning why we wrap legs, or why we give that supplement or why use we that technique. At Morrisville, students are expected to learn the why behind everything.”
In 2006, Sardelli completed his associate degree in equine science & management and, a year later, earned his bachelor's degree in equine science. He spent a few years riding privately owned horses for well-known figures in the industry and founded his own farm, Springbrook Sporthorses in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
While riding and showing for private clients, a sales position opened at elite saddlemaker Hermes USA and Sardelli applied. He quickly became the company’s number one salesperson worldwide. Never forgetting his alma mater, he orchestrated the donation of 10 saddles, valued at nearly $100,000, and provided a free saddle fitting clinic for SUNY Morrisville’s equine programs.
In August 2019, he had six job offers from other well-known equestrian brands. Ultimately, he accepted a position with Lugano Diamonds, a prestigious, international diamond and jewelry company.
“I thought, if you’re going to do something, make it a bold move,” Sardelli said.
It was through SUNY Morrisville that Sardelli found a true calling as a salesperson for high-end brands serving some of the wealthiest hunter/jumper riders in the industry. His jobs have taken him to prestigious shows across the United States, Canada and France.
Sardelli’s success comes as no surprise to Lisa Eklund, SUNY Morrisville professor emeritus, who remembers he never passed up an opportunity to get involved in her class. He traveled with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Hunt Seat team as an alumni rider (as a transfer student, he was ineligible to compete). And, he was always the first to volunteer.
“I had to do an emergency trip to Cornell with a horse. He went along and was so helpful,” she said. “We had a great conversation on that trip and it seemed to help him find more direction as to what he wanted to do.”
His desire to learn and do more gave him access to some of the English riding industry’s top trainers. For two years, he was a working student under Marcia Kulak, who has successfully competed on the world's biggest stages and was short-listed for the Olympics twice.
“She’s tough and has quite high standards and I ate it up,” he said. “I got to ride some really nice horses.”
Perhaps more than Sardelli’s work ethic and willingness to go above and beyond, Eklund attributes much of his success to his sense of humor, ability to lead people, and communication skills.
At Morrisville, students are expected to learn the 'why' behind everything.
“His dynamic personality makes him instantly likeable and trustworthy — critical traits for any salesperson, especially for someone specializing in luxury products,” she said. “He has a tremendous ability to think outside the box and use critical thinking skills in every situation.”
Shelia Marshman, associate professor of agricultural business, remembers that in addition to being an excellent student, Sardelli was always concerned about his classmates and sought out ways to ensure their success.
Even after graduating, he’s continued to make sure current students have access to what they need to succeed. He helped negotiate the donation of Mr. Bojangles, a horse used in Morrisville’s equestrian program, from a client for whom he once rode.
“He was a team player and always willing to help his classmates,” Marshman said.
At Morrisville, Sardelli's commitment to the program allowed him to learn about horses and horse care, as well as to hone his management, leadership, organizational, business and people skills. He took the reins on every opportunity to grow and learn and connect with professionals in the horse industry, reasons Eklund attributes to his success.
“He has become very well-known and trusted in the horse industry, but he has not forgotten his roots at Morrisville,” she said. “He has helped to give back to the program and he is a great representative of and for the Hunt Seat program.”