Sarah Lockman’s Equestrian Journey from One-Eyed, 32-Year-Old Quarter Horse Pony to Grand Prix on Championship Gold Medal Mount
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Mar. 19, 2020
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Sarah Lockman at the age of three was put on her first horse, a one-eyed 32-year old Quarter horse pony that her father bought from a penny saver magazine for $500 that came with all its Western tack. Sarah’s legs weren’t long enough for the stirrups on Copper so her father jury-rigged wooden blocks, sand paper and rubber banded Sarah’s feet into the stirrups.
She laughs recalling her father “should have been paid to take” Copper that he bought while her mother who knew about riding “English” was away visiting family in South Africa. Her home in Gardnerville, Nevada, what Sarah, “to say it nicely,” calls “a minimal beginning…in a little cow town” between Reno and Tahoe was the start of her equestrian journey.
Twenty-eight years later that journey arrived aboard First Apple, a horse of superb breeding, maintained in the best of health, with the finest tack and top training that put her atop the Pan American Games medals podium and the potential to be on future U.S. Big Tour teams.
All Sarah’s first horses were Quarter horses or off the track Thoroughbreds. She went to Pony Club which gave her a taste of dressage and got her interested in three-day eventing. Her dressage coach pre-teens was from the French style who taught her “super feel.”
“She would take hours and hours and put me on all kinds of horses,” Sarah said, “taught me how to ‘see’ things. I wanted to see what she could see so that was my love of dressage, to be on the ground and see balance and see the horse blink.”
Sarah evented through advanced, including a couple of international CIC competitions in Colorado in 2004, then moved to Southern California to work for David Wilson where she got to ride some premium dressage horses, and to feel what she’d been taught.
“I’d never felt changes except galloping through a field, never felt a real extended trot,” she said. “So after feeling the rush of dressage that really intrigued me; the ‘rush’ of dressage because originally I was jumping five-foot (1.5m) fences and galloping as fast as you can go.”
She had to make a living–“I didn’t come from money and haven’t married money yet.” So dressage was a clear path for Sarah to start a business of developing and selling horses. “I do make a living, better than I ever thought I would.”
From 2013 to 2017 she also competed at international Small Tour in California.
Then in 2018 while on a horse shopping trip to Europe, her life changed dramatically.
She found by chance First Apple, a Dutch-bred stallion (Vivaldi x T.C.N. Partout) that had been trained to Small tour by Patrick van der Meer, who rode at the 2012 Olympics for the Netherlands and was training horses for President Dressage Stables. He had ridden First Apple in the 2017 World Young Horse Championships, placing fourth.
“From the moment I sat on him,” Sarah recounts, “he was just mine. It’s been amazing from the beginning.”
Sarah called Gerry Ibanez, who sponsored Sarah at Summit Farm in Murietta, California. He took her recommendation and bought First Apple.
Before Gerry died late last year, Sarah had ridden First Apple to eight unbeaten starts at Small Tour, including three at the Pan Ams in Lima, Peru that resulted in team silver for America and individual gold. The Ibanez family are maintaining support for Sarah for at least the next four years.
She declared herself and First Apple, now 10 years old, prospects for the American team to go to the Olympics at Tokyo in summer and spent the winter circuit at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida.
There, she continued working with Scott Hassler, the former U.S. young horse coach she had ridden with for the last six years.
“He stuck with me when I had 50 horses of all different sizes and shapes and colors and when nobody else wanted to come to my farm and go in the trenches with me. Scott saw a glimmer of stardom and has been with me from being a nobody to this point, his loyalty and his help is incredible.”
Tokyo was not really the goal, but developing First Apple to Big Tour and to make a squad of up to eight combinations to go to Europe to compete, something she had never done but would be the “kind of atmosphere where my horse and I would thrive.” The coronavirus pandemic may have sidetracked those plans for now.
“The sky’s the limit but only time will tell,” she said after her first international Grand Prix rides at Global. “We’re just taking it one day at a time.
“I’m so happy that we’ve gotten to this point so quickly. He’s the first super quality Grand Prix horse I’ve ever ridden, the first horse I’ve ever had that could really go on a world stage and hold his own.”
Wellington, she said, was a whole different league than Pan Ams, “a lot of pressure that to be honest is self-induced.
“To come from such a high of the Pan Ams, I had really high expectations of myself, just knowing the quality of the horse I’m sitting on, just trying to do him justice and to kind of prove to myself and everyone and even the horse what we’re really cut out to be in the big league, that I’m for real, not a one-horse wonder.
“I have other horses that I’m personally developing and bringing along in the ring that are top, top horses. I feel I have a long way to go.”
Among them is Lyamora, a Dutch mare that their debut competition was scored at 9.44 points in a national qualifier for the U.S. finals.
Lyamora (Ferguson x Contango) was bought by Gerry Ibanez after Sarah declared “for sure she was the best young horse I had ever sat on.”
Sarah also qualified Balia and Dehavilland for the final of the Summit Farm Developing Prix St. Georges that will be staged in Wellington the first week of 2021 after the last week of this year’s Global circuit was canceled.