Swedish Basics

Anne Gribbons

Her lifelong love of horses began as a child in Sweden when she would sit on her grandfather's lap as he painted watercolors of horses and scenes from his life as one of the heads of the Swedish Cavalry. "I knew from watching this that horses were for me. The very first time I saw a horse and smelled it, I must have been about four. I just knew I loved them." Anne's grandfather not only passed on to her his own love of horses, but he was also her first trainer. Anne went from watching his brushstrokes to taking lessons from him when she was six.

Riders in Sweden, like most European countries, are required to learn basic dressage as part of their early training. Anne readily admits that learning dressage for her at the time was merely the prerequisite for her true passion - jumping. "In order for us to be allowed to jump we had to master the horse on the flat. Jumping was the carrot they held out to you, and dressage was like taking your medicine or eating your spinach!"

She attended a riding academy where most of her teachers were military men - cavalry officers who were lifetime professional horsemen. Her parents could not afford to buy a horse for her, but she was never without a mount. "Once I got better, I ended up riding everybody's rogues. I certainly learned how to stay on and how to ride tough horses, because the only ones they would let me ride were the ones nobody else wanted. In the long run, that was a really good education. I never owned my own horse until I got to the United States ."

And while she looks back and says she didn't really appreciate dressage at the time, she came to understand its importance later, when she arrived in the United States in the early 1970s.