Michelle Gibson, 34, of Wellington, Florida, riding Lex Barker earned 72.111% today, which proved to be the High Score for Third Level at the Zada Enterprises, LLC Florida Dressage Classic. Gibson topped a class of 14 entries in Third Level Test 3 aboard the striking 17.2-hand, chestnut seven-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Longchamp x Werther, owned by Elite European Sport Horses, Inc. to clinch the award. “Wow, cool, that’s awesome!” Gibson said. “I was not expecting it. My whole goal was to get him here and see how he was going to be in the ring – that was the whole point of the horse show. That award is the icing on the cake. I’m very proud of Barker.”
Gibson has had the ride on Lex Barker for almost two years and has trained him from a green Training Level horse through Fourth Level, but she has not competed the youngster in a year. She started ‘Barker’ as she calls him in Third Level Test 2 yesterday, where they earned 68.571% for second place, and then contested Fourth Level Test 1, earning 65.581% for fourth place. “They were good rides. I was very pleased with our Third Level class – he was a good boy. The Fourth level test, he was a little bit nervous in the walk, but he was a good boy.”
Gibson said she clicks personality-wise with Barker, “He’s very cool.” And though owner Elite is a company that is in the business of selling horses, Gibson intends to continue with this one. “The plan is to keep him and just do whatever we do.”
Olympic Goals on Hold
Gibson, the Team Bronze Medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics aboard Peron, had been working towards the 2004 Athens Olympics with her stallion World of Dreams. ‘Indy’ is now in training in Germany with Rudolph Zeilinger, Gibson’s coach at the1996 Games. Gibson last competed World of Dreams in Germany in autumn 2003. “He is there because of my back,” explained Gibson. “I’ve had to make a few choices about my riding because I’m very limited as to which horses as well as the number of horses I can ride in a day, and so I have chosen to leave him there and to sell him.”
Gibson underwent back surgery 18 months ago for a ruptured disc. “It’s chronic pain. It’ll never be the way it was before. My back will never be healed so I have to manage my lifestyle a little differently, and that is, I ride one or two horses a day, no more young horses, no more problem horses, I have to be very careful. ‘Indy’ – World of Dreams – he’s such a big powerful mover, it’s hard on my back.”
Gibson has now ruled out Athens. “I would rather be able to walk tomorrow and know that I can walk in five years and not live on painkillers than go to the Olympics. I ride the horses that I can ride and I do pilates and yoga. I go to the gym and I do everything I can to be comfortable.”
Life Goes On.... Somehow
Adding one more challenge to Gibson’s life, her beloved father Marshall Gibson died last month. He was always with her at every show and she is coping daily with the loss. “The days are relentless and they don’t stop. So what do you do? You can’t make the days stop, so you get up and you go to the barn and you ride your horses and do what you have to do.”
Gibson got the ride on Barker and three other Elite horses at the same time – Wendell, Chimon (now owned by Cheryl Meisner), whom she showed at the Regional Championships before he was sold; and San Remo who competed in all the young horse championships including the Bundeschampionat in Germany. “He is another big mover so after my surgery we decided to leave him in Germany as well,” Gibson explained.
And so it is Lex Barker that has evolved into Gibson’s main mount. “He’s very comfortable to sit on, very comfortable.” She noted that even after a year away from the show grounds, Barker “was a star. He just has a fun personality. He has a great work ethic.”
Gibson Become Year-Round Wellington Resident
Now residing full time in Wellington operating Diamonte Farms for the Kanes, Gibson has adjusted to her new life path. “I’m happy to be able to ride the horses that I can and I’m very fortunate to have people like the Kanes that own Diamonte and Mike and Scott from Elite European because they support me no matter what happens.
With everything going on with my back, they’ve been there and said whatever you need to do is what you need to do, and that’s fine with us. You can ride one horse or you can ride 20 horses. We’re here and we’re with you. I’m fortunate to have people like them around me.”