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Horse Book Excerpt: How Good Riders Get Good

An Olympic eventer explains how your success as a rider correlates to the choices you make.

Anne Gribbons

Rider Profile: Anne Gribbons
Anne rode Metallic for the US team that won a silver medal at the 1995 Pan American Games. Medical issues prevented her trying out for the 1996 Olympic team, but her horse--who she had trained from the beginning up to Grand Prix--went to the Olympics with Robert Dover and helped win a team bronze.

After earning her USDF (United States Dressage Federation) gold medal with the Thoroughbred ex-racehorse Tappan Zee, Anne schooled a succession of other horses up to Grand Prix, showing some of them at elite European venues such as Aachen and Falsterbo while training abroad. She has become a renowned teacher and an FEI "O" judge, as well as a popular writer. In 2009, she was appointed as technical advisor for the USET dressage squad from the 2010 World Equestrian Games through the 2012 Olympics.

Life circumstances:
I grew up with horses in my genes. My grandfather was a head of Swedish cavalry, and I used to sit on his lap as he painted watercolor scenes from his cavalry days.

Hooked on horses when:
I think one of the first things I said was "horse."

I think I got good because:
I couldn't have a horse of my own (my parents and four children--including me-- lived in an apartment in Gothenburg, Sweden), but I religiously took lessons at the nearby riding school, where I got good enough to be trusted with some of the greener school horses, and eventually exercised some of the boarders' horses.

Then they started giving me rogues that no one else wanted to, or could, ride. I hit the ground often but I learned to stay on. And I got help from the wonderful teachers there.

After I switched to dressage from my first love, eventing, in the 1970s, I was lucky enough--through a sheer accident of timing--to work with some of the masters. Colonel Bengt Ljungquist was my foundation and my mentor for eight years until his unexpected death in 1979. That was upsetting; when I finally pulled myself together, I was able to arrange training tours in Europe with Harry Boldt, Herbert Rehbein, and Dr. Volker Moritz.

Here Anne celebrates a happy moment on Alazan, one of her own horses.
Photo By Anne Gribbons

I bond with my horses. They've stayed with me, and I have trained most of them up from the beginning, or at least from a very early stage. It really makes a difference when a rider has a strong relationship with a horse; I can tell if there's that kind of bond when I'm judging.

My most important advice:
If you're serious, first of all get a trainer you can trust-not necessarily a genius or the biggest name, but someone you know can get the job done, is interested in you and wants to promote you, and who will tell you the truth and stick by you when the going gets rough. Then, ride every single horse you have the opportunity to ride. Anybody can learn to ride one horse. Riding a multitude of horses and figuring them all out--that's what makes you a rider and a trainer.

To read another excerpt from How Good Riders Get Good, see "Dealing with the Cards You Hold" in the February 2011 issue of Practical Horseman magazine. To purchase a copy of the book, which is published by Trafalgar Square Books, go to

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