Anne Gribbons: From Glum to Joy on the Rocky Road to Kentucky, Now Can Look to London

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Anne Gribbons, the Technical Advisor for U.S. dressage, a bureaucratic title that in real life means part coach, part judge, part disciplinarian, part psychologist, a lot the go-to person–in other words, the leader, was asked by dressage-news.com to tell her story of the U.S. team’s road to the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

Anne Gribbons. © 2010 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
Anne Gribbons. © 2010 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

A year ago, when I had been appointed to the position as Technical Advisor, I could not wait for WEG to be over.

We had retired or lost our past team horses, and not much was on the horizon. Things became even more glum in the early year with our various disasters befalling Courtney and TipTop. And then Guenter a little later.

We could not partake in the World Cup because there were no qualifying shows offered on the West Coast; and Cadillac , who could have been given a Wild Card, was temporarily out of work.

In the eleventh hour, however, things started to fall into place.

Tina Konyot,who had introduced her horse to Grand Prix in the 2009 season, was awarded a grant to show in Europe by the USEF High Performance Committee. I accompanied her to Fritzens, Austria, and Aachen, Germany, and we had two very good shows with her and her stallion Calecto V.

Tina Konyot and Calecto V at Aachen. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Tina Konyot and Calecto V at Aachen. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Todd Fletterich joined us at Aachen with Margaret Dupree’s gelding Otto. The brief exposure of these two combinations to the European judges and audiences really helped paving their way to a place on the team.

 Todd Flettrich and Otto at Aachen. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Todd Flettrich and Otto at Aachen. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

In May, we received the gift of Nartan from Jane Forbes Clark, and rider Katherine  Bateson- Chandler managed to qualify for our trials within
record time.

Katherine Bateson-Chandler at US selection trials. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Katherine Bateson-Chandler on Nartan at US selection trials. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

In the meantime, Catherine Haddad was doing better at every show with her green but very capable chestnut Wyanmaro as time approached for the trials. In the meantime, we had Ravel waiting in the wings. We deliberately did not send him to Europe this year to avoid risking any injury or harm to our team anchor.

After the trials, I was delighted with the results. No way could I have imagined in the beginning of the year that we would end up with six strong combinations for our pre-Games training camp at Gladstone! And our sixth placing horse, Lucky Tiger, owned and ridden by Pierre St Jacques, later ended up doing three super test rides at the WEG, while Haddad went on to triumph at Devon.

In addtion to daily riding, our program of two weeks at the USET Foundation headquarters included sports psychology sessions, media training, two practice shows judged by our top judges, vet checks and constant veterinary care by our Team Veterinarian, Rick Mitchell. Plus ample opportunity for team building! I designed this new program and with the help of Eva Salomon and Jenny Van Vieren plus all the staff at Gladstone, it appears it has worked out well.

I am extremely pleased with our performance at WEG.

The three “first time” team members managed to support our veteran Steffen Peters well enough to qualify for the Olympics and place fourth of 14 teams, two points away from the Germans. That is a good start toward London, and we should be very proud of them! Steffen’s two individual  bronze medals were a wonderful bonus, and he made history by giving us the only individual dressage medal since 1932 Olympics!

Steffen Peters with one of his two WEG medals. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters with one of his two WEG medals. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

As great as WEG worked out, there are other aspects to our sport than High Performance.

We have to pay close attention to the development and education of our young riders and horses, or we will always panic when looking to establish a new team.

To that end we have just named Jeremy Steinberg to the position of Youth Coach, a brand new USEF title. At WEG our committee chairmen, coaches and staff were treated to an hour of instructional information about the very successful Dutch programs for finding and supporting talented riders, given by Maarten van der Heijden, the Dutch federation’s Director of Sports.

Our Young Horse National Championships are an important cog in the machinery which we hope to expand to include more disciplines and intergrate with the education of riders/trainers of young horses.

As soon as the dust from WEG settles, High Performance will start making plans for both the Pan American Games and the road to the Olympics.

The PanAm preparations will be mainly under the direction of Debbie McDonald, our Developing Coach, and a program for the potential Grand Prix horses will be designed by me in conjunction with the athletes and the HP committee.

As always, finances are a huge issue, but we are optimistc to be able to have a number of Olympic prospects spending part of their 2011 season competing in Europe.