When you're passionate about your work, it becomes more than just a job.

That's a lesson Jessica Mattes has learned early in life. She's combined a lifetime of experience in equestrian with a keen business sense to open J. Corrine Enterprise at Hickory Valley Stables in Lehighton. Mattes, 18, is a recent graduate of Palmerton Area High School.

"I started riding when I was 5 years old," said Mattes, who believes that age shouldn't stop you from pursuing your dream career.

"I've been in the business for 13 years, and I started teaching when I was 16 years old. I knew this was what I wanted to do."

Mattes began preparing for an equestrian career during high school, taking business management and accounting classes and joining the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).

She also credits her experience with the Palmerton Girl Scouts, where she gained leadership skills and also attended riding camp each summer.

After building a list of clients and working with students at other barns while still in high school, Mattes began searching for her own business location. When the barn at Hickory Valley Stables became available, she knew it was perfect timing.

"We offer a great lesson program for beginner through advanced riders," she said. Mattes noted that she was greatly influenced by her own trainers, and hopes to pass on that same passion for horses in her youth and adult students.

In addition to lessons on site in the barn's indoor arena, she also offers boarding, pony parties, and off-site lessons and training.

Mattes will also offer a summer camp for younger students this summer, and has clients showing at A-rated shows and competitions.

"Doing the A circuit gives you the ability to qualify for other, higher-ranked shows," she added, noting that competitions are a good way for students to test their skills and learn more about the equestrian field.

In addition to being a great form of exercise, riding and caring for horses can teach you important life skills.

"It teaches you respect both for others and for animals. You can carry that into your everyday life, having respect for others," she said. "Not every horse is going to be the same. You have to adapt yourself to fit the horse.

"This is my only job, so I make it personal," added Mattes, who prides herself on the quality of care she provides her horses and clients. "I'm always here and I'm taking care of the horses all day."

While she is launching her first business at a young age, Mattes encourages others to look beyond age and discover their own passions in life regardless of their own age and personal hobbies and dreams.

"I don't think it matters that I'm so young," she added.

"No matter what you're passionate about, you need to find a way to make it your own. To me, this is not a job. It's coming in to work and sharing my knowledge. It's not work when you enjoy what you do, and I love what I do."

For more information about J. Corrine Enterprise, contact Mattes at (484) 629-5287.