Sarah Lockman Competes First Apple Successfully in Pair’s First Event of 2021 in Campaign for Place on USA Olympic Squad

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Sarah Lockman on First Apple in first competition of year to launch campaign for a place on US Olympic team short list. © 2021 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Feb. 6, 2021

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Barely two years since their first appearance in competition, Sarah Lockman and First Apple this weekend launched a campaign for a place on the United States Olympic team short list.

With what she calls a coaching “dream team” of Debbie McDonald and Lee Tubman, who competed for Canada, is a FEI 4* judge and engaged to Sarah, the 2019 Pan American Games gold medalist used the coronavirus-imposed down time focused on “every aspect of the fundamentals of dressage.”

The results were apparent in the Grand Prix Special at the Welcome Back to White Fences in Loxahatchee, the community neighboring Wellington, and where the series of popular quality national shows dovetail with the Global Dressage Festival. Competing before a single judge, Sarah and First Apple scored 76.809%, by far the pair’s best result in the handful of national and Big Tour starts in 2020.

Since First Apple was bought by Gerry Ibanez in late 2018 for Sarah to compete, she has been confident in the quality of the KWPN stallion, now 11 years old. First Apple (Vivaldi x T.C.N. Partout), when owned by the Netherlands’ President Stables was trained by Patrik van der Meer, a 2012 Olympic team rider for Holland, and competed successfully from a seven-year-old at the World Young Horse Championships through Small Tour. Gerry died in November, 2019 but his family through their Summit Farm in Murrieta, California pledged continued support for Sarah to the 2024 Olympics in Paris, gestures that Sarah expresses gratitude.

Sarah and First Apple was the standout partnership of the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru in the summer of 2019, placing first in all three Small Tour competitions though the United States placed second to Canada in the team event.

Sarah Lockman warming up First Apple with coaching from U.S. team coach Debbie McDonald early in the chilly morning–for Florida–of the pair’s Grand Prix Special. © 2021 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

With just three weeks away from the second anniversary of their first competition, Sarah, 32 years old, said that First Apple “is showing all the signs of being an international quality Grand Prix horse that just keeps continuing to get stronger and more confident in the work week by week.

The transition from Small Tour to Grand Prix, she said, “has only grown stronger” as a result of what she describes as “such a special connection.”

“He is such an honest and reliable animal that really tries to please 100% of the time,” Sarah told dressage-news.com, “his work ethic is unmatched and it’s such a pleasure to be able to ride and train a horse with this kind of talent and that temperament on a daily basis. 

“Like I have always said, this horse has no weaknesses; it’s just a matter of strength and understanding.”

Since the duo’s Grand Prix starts in 2020, she said, “Everything has changed! The only thing that is the same is Apple and I, and we are still working hard toward our goal with even more focus.

“The long break only helped us. We have spent the summer working very hard with Lee, paying attention to every aspect of the fundamentals of dressage.”

Sarah Lockman and First Apple. © 2021 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Sarah works with Lee on a daily basis with Debbie visiting once or twice a week.

“The two of them work super together,” she said, “I would say I have the dream team!”

The biggest benefit she said she has gotten from working with Lee is that she has to work on the basics, there are no short cuts. And it is also so beneficial to have a coach who also has the eye of a FEI judge along with years of experience training and coaching. 

She jokes by calling Debbie “our marital counselor,” describing the training with Lee: “We are really enjoying working together every day doing something we love, and only want to kill each other every now and then.”

The goal with First Apple is to be back in the CDI arena in about the next month–“it is so amazing to be here in Florida where we have so many options.”

The short term goal is to be successful in the CDI arena enough to “hopefully make the short list for the Olympics.”

Sarah Lockman and First Apple. © 2021 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The Grand Prix Special is the key competition for U.S. selection as the Grand Prix results of the three combinations for each qualified country at the Tokyo Olympics will determine which nations move to the Special that will determine the three medals. The Grand Prix Freestyle decides individual medals.