Horse & Rider Talks with Anne Gribbons

Thursday, May 21, 2015
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Anne Gribbons (Photo: Michael Bradtke)
Anne Gribbons (Photo: Michael Bradtke)

Anne Gribbons has worn a variety of hats in the dressage world including rider, teacher, trainer, coach and judge. She was the USEF dressage team coach and technical advisor from 2010-2012 and has trained and shown 16 of her own horses to the Grand Prix level, nine of which were U.S. Equestrian Team long listed. She is a licensed USEF Senior Judge and an FEI 5* judge. She and her husband David own Knoll Dressage in Chuluota, Florida, outside of Orlando. In 1995, she was a member of the U.S. Silver Medal Pan American Team on Metallic. Horse & Rider Boutique caught up with Anne, to ask her a bit about herself. We think you will love getting to know her.

H & R: Tell me something about your teaching and your students, past and present.
Anne: Although I am first and foremost a rider and trainer of horses, teaching has been part of the journey all along. I have worked with some students for as long as 20 years, and a few are still around. We have developed one horse after the other, taking them from green to Grand Prix, and it is the process that is so exciting when you look back at the combination they were and see what they have accomplished.


Some of the more notable past students include Linda Smith, who came from the hunter/jumper world but brought her 3-year-old Cyrus, whom I found for her in Sweden, to a great Grand Prix and became a strong contender for the WEG. Unfortunately, the horse went lame at the trials. Never have I worked with a horse with more natural talent for piaffe and passage!

Lesley Eden I met as a 15-year-old and we brought her 5-year old Picasso to Grand Prix. He earned Lesley her USDF Gold Medal and she was the individual and team Young Rider Gold medalist in 2002.

Karen Rohlf arrived at 12 with Brave Tom, a Thoroughbred off the track with a bowed tendon. Karen is a natural on a horse, and had great success showing Tom through Intermediaire II on the Northeast circuit. She now runs a very successful business called "Dressage Naturally," combining her dressage with natural horsemanship. Karen is also a gifted artist and she illustrated my book, "Collective Remarks," with insight and humor.

Laura Graves spent more than three years with me and my assistant Tamra Brown while getting help to bring her very special horse, Verdades, from Second Level to Grand Prix. Tamra, by the way, has been with me for 20 years and has developed several rather difficult horses to remarkable success in the FEI levels.

Lisa Giltner has a barn only about 10 minutes from us. We have a relationship as student/teacher as well as a friendship lasting more than 20 years. During that time, we have been through several horses together while Lisa learned to bring one youngster after another up the levels. Lisa loves the process of training and is bravely leaping upon the 3-year-olds while I point out that perhaps somebody else can do that starting process, since Lisa is now too valuable as a trainer to risk her body on the barely backed babies. I’m not making much headway so far. . .

Kasey Perry enjoys her DeNiro boots from the Horse and Rider Boutique. Photo: Susan J Stickle
Kasey Perry enjoys her DeNiro boots from the Horse and Rider Boutique. Photo: Susan J Stickle

I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing Kasey Perry with her trainer Christophe Theallet. That girl is a comer, has all it takes in ability, concentration, superb horses and support from her family. Plus she is a truly nice person and a lady at all times!

While I was working as Technical Advisor for the USEF, I worked with all the elite riders, especially intensely right before the Games when the team was preparing. All these riders were, of course, already fully and only needed some input from a judge's point of view and personal support. I enjoyed working with them all, and as a trainer I have all the respect in the world for their accomplishments! The only team member I worked with privately was Tina Konyot before the Olympics, and I think she agrees our efforts together were helpful to put her on the team.

Anne Gribbons teaching in her covered arena at Knoll Dressage, near Orlando, Florida
Anne Gribbons teaching in her covered arena at Knoll Dressage, near Orlando, Florida

Today I have considerably cut down on my teaching and, with the exception of riders at our stable, I usually exclusively help professionals. Exciting students at the present are Katie Poag and her lovely stallion on the brink of Grand Prix. Louisa Eadie is a focused and ambitious rider who, with my help, brought her horse Vegas from green to Grand Prix, but she is in need of a more talented horse to complement her ability. I inherited Anna Marek from her long time mentor Belinda Nairn. During the last couple of years, Anna has polished her Dutch Warmblood Nico into a very legitimate Grand Prix horse and she has a wonderful string of top quality youngsters coming on. Anna has a core of iron and never ending energy for riding, and no doubt she will work her way to the top! Because she trains her own horses, she will be ahead of the game when she arrives there.

I never believed in buying ready-made, except for schoolmasters. The journey with the horse is the whole point of dressage. Look back at the past medals in any game and see who ends up on top: the combinations who trained their way there together!
I do a great deal of work in clinics during the summer/fall and one of my favorite repeat students on the West Coast is Alyssa Pitts, another capable young woman with nice horses on the way. She just had her second child but I am sure to hear she is back riding any day now.

One of the barns at Knoll Dressage near Orlando, Florida
One of the barns at Knoll Dressage near Orlando, Florida

H & R: And your own riding, how is that
Anne: As for my own riding, it had to take a back seat while I was the coach. I lost my Grand Prix horse Alazan in August of 2011, and Lesley Eden was starting my 3-year-old. No point having horses at home if you cannot ride them consistently. Since 2013, I have been on my horse now turning 8-years-old, Let's Dance, and he makes my day, every day! His intelligence, ability and superb attitude are second to none, and when I am on him, I am reminded of why I am in this game. What extreme luck to have a lovely animal like that one when you have the experience and at least some time to enjoy working with him!

I get to ride in very few shows because of my judging and clinic schedule, but we did make it to the Region Three finals and he won both the PSG and the Intermediaire I. I wish I could give him more time in the show ring but, of course, my real aim is to train him to Grand Prix. And I am looking for one more horse for myself. The problem is, I enjoy Dance so much it is difficult to find another one living up to his standard.

H & R: I know you are also a judge, how does that dovetail with competing?
Anne: No FEI judge is allowed to compete and judge CDIs in the same season on the same continent, so that takes care of any International conflict. Nationally, it works quite well, although as far as I know I am the only 5* judge actively competing. That is no problem with our American riders and judges. Our pool of experts is limited and the borders between judging and showing have always been floating. Many of our American judges show as well as judge, and the riders here can appreciate that judges are willing and able to show up in public on a horse. How many times, as a competitor, have you been tempted to hand your horse to the judge ands ay, ‘Here, Show me!’ While showing you put yourself on the spot, and when you both judge and show you are very aware of the other side of the coin, which makes you more sympathetic with some of the misfortunes that can occur in the arena. I like to compete, mostly because I need to get some knowledgeable input on our progress and my horse needs to understand the process. But, I do not have the grand passion for it anymore. These days it is much more about the fascinating journey of training!

H & R: And you had time to write a book, which was published last fall?


Anne: Well, actually it is a selection of my 20 years of writing the dressage column for the “Chronicle Of The Horse.” Thanks to the enthusiasm and wonderful professional support of Trafalgar Square Publishers and with the kind permission of the Chronicle, I could preserve some of the of American dressage for the future. I have had some very encouraging comments on the book which is named "Collective Remarks" and that keeps me writing, which is actually what I consider a hobby.

H & R: What do you think about the changes in rider's attire over the last five or so years?
Anne: Lots of things are changing in the competition ring, and each season the interest in trends and fashions become more intense here in Florida. The quality of the horses and the riding is constantly on the rise, and so is the outbid of equipment, decorations and accessories for horses and riders.

As a woman, I cannot resist a little bling, but as a judge I am sometimes a bit overwhelmed by the glitter. In small portions, however, it can add a touch of fun to a combination. The new lightweight coats are delightful and well fitted, and the boots of many colors can put the finishing touch to an outfit. You are always on the leading edge of tasteful innovations, Barbara, and I cannot believe you talked me into a coat with crystal buttons! Well, I guess better late than never!