August 2018 - Sarah Lockman Dressage
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Friday, 27 July 2018 18:00
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Hard work, talent and a little good luck position young professional to fulfill international dreams.

by Kim F. Miller

Sarah Lockman was raised to treat everybody with equal kindness and respect. That’s why the FEI dressage trainer and rider didn’t hang up when a total stranger who knew nothing about the discipline called to ask if she would take on his new Friesian.

Balia - 6 year old Bellissimo X Florestan mare, ridden by Sarah Lockman. Photo: Terri Miller Photography

Sarah initially misunderstood, thinking Gerry Ibanez was asking her advice about whether to buy the horse he’d only seen on a video. “I politely tried to convince him not to buy the horse,” she recalls.

“He was nice and let me tell him what I thought.” Equally polite, Gerry informed Sarah he’d already bought the horse.

An equal opportunity trainer when it comes to breeds, Sarah said yes to giving it a whirl and the Friesian was sent to her previous base at a public stable in Orange County. Fast-forward three years to June, when Sarah and that Friesian, Taling Van De Oostwal, earned a 73 percent at Prix St. Georges at the Temecula Valley Classic.

Sarah Lockman on Dehavilland. Photo: Terri Miller Photography

Sarah Lockman on Calimero. Photo: Terri Miller Photography

Taling was Sarah’s first clue that the newbie had a knack for knowing a good horse when he saw one. It’s a trait the semi-retired, successful businessman has for people, too.

Sarah’s “yes” and Gerry’s knack led to what is now a dressage partnership with serious international potential. Under the Summit Farm banner and with Gerry’s backing, Sarah adds horses, coaching and financial support to talent and a James Brown-like work ethic to launch a realistic run at the sport’s elite levels.

The partnership evolved over time. As Sarah progressed with Taling, Gerry periodically asked about her goals, a common inquiry from clients. “I specifically remember one conversation in which he said, ‘Let me know if I can ever do anything to help you meet your goals.’” She’d heard that before and always appreciated her clients’ help and support. “Then we talked more about how I should position myself in order to meet those goals,” Sarah recalls.

As he came to understand and appreciate Sarah’s talent, dedication and work ethic, Gerry’s vision grew from pursuing his own horsemanship goals to also sponsoring Sarah in her long-standing dream to represent the United States in international competition. As a businessman, Gerry understood that, even with abundant talent and hard work, achieving Sarah-scale dreams requires a multi-tiered approach. The right training base, the right coach and the right horses are equally necessary.

Sarah Lockman on Taling van de Oostwal. Photo: Terri Miller Photography

Sarah Lockman winning the FEI 4 year olds at Del Mar National on Jupiter. Photo: Terri Miller Photography

“Gerry has opened a door that I have only ever dreamed of,” says Sarah, who turns 30 this month. Her past modus operandi had been running a large and successful training barn, in which schooling seven horses before 10 a.m. began normal, long days. “I pride myself on that,” Sarah says. She loved coaching students, but notes, “If a client needed an hour, that often meant my own horses got 20 minutes.”

She’s still pinching herself on daily arrival at Summit Farm, in Riverside County’s La Cresta. Gerry purchased the 22-acre, already dressage-outfitted property last year to be Sarah’s new base. The hilltop facility has irrigated grass pastures and new arena footing, plus a few tweaks to an already very nice horse-keeping and training set-up.

Time may be Sarah’s greatest new luxury and it goes beyond training sessions. Trail rides and hand grazing sessions are now part of her daily routine with each horse, along with the chance to individualize every detail of their care.

She’s also tending to her own needs, working with a personal trainer and taking yoga classes.

Sarah Lockman, Scott Hassler, Gerry Ibanez and client and Jenny Wettereau.

The unusual opportunity to focus on her own riding is a dream realized. “I know top trainers who wait their entire life for a sponsor like Gerry.” Yet, gaining one great thing often means letting go of another. Sarah’s new situation mandated a difficult goodbye to her clients, many of whom had been with her since she turned professional in 2012. Early this year, she informed them of her new direction and promised to “make sure they were situated with an equal or better trainer in the same barn they were in.” She reached out to several top trainers, and was happy to reach an agreement with Thomas Walker and Ryan Torkeli, who relocated from the Paso Robles area to Orange County in order to take on the majority of Sarah’s clientele.

“They run a super program that is very similar to mine, with competition, sales and a social atmosphere among clients,” Sarah says. “I’ve heard that my clients are happy and that was my goal: to make sure those who helped make me who I am now were happy.”

Jenny Wetterau - Sarah Lockman’s client, partner in sales and owner of Dressage Horse Source. Photo: Terri Miller Photography

Sarah’s Horses & Sales Prospects

The original plan was to find a going Grand Prix horse with whom Sarah could form a banner partnership for the Summit Farm endeavor. Sarah sat on several “incredible” horses, but “none of them were my horses,” she wound up telling her coach Scott Hassler. With Gerry’s blessing, Sarah and Scott decided to look for young horses. They don’t rule out the possibility that an established Grand Prix mount might be found, “but I think I need to make the horse myself,” Sarah explains.

Early in the new plan, Scott insisted that Sarah fly to Florida to try Balia, a 6-year-old imported from Helgstrand Dressage. “I cried the first time I rode her,” Sarah recounts. “She’s a worker, she’s a ‘yes, mam!’ type. She has so much positive emotion, it’s a really cool experience...” The Bellisimo/Florestan mare is #3 nationally in the FEI 6-year-old standings, and will be one of Sarah’s rides in her first appearance at this month’s Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse Championships at Lamplight Equestrian in the Chicago area.

Four year old Jupiter (Jazz/Freestyle) is also going to Chicago for the Championships, and was leading his age bracket heading into the Championships.

Next up age-wise is Sarah’s “special child,” Dehavilland, the 7-year-old she bought from Red Hawk Ranch as a yearling. Although his development milestones have not yet aligned with qualifications for national championships, his 78 percent at Fourth Level at the Temecula Classic in June indicates his talent.

With Intermediare I scores consistently in the 73 range, the Holsteiner Calimero is likely closest to reaching the Grand Prix ranks. And, with his natural talent for piaffe and passage, Taling may be next into that arena.

Along with identifying and developing horses to fulfill her own goals, Sarah is excited to continue scouting equine talent as sales prospects. By the end of June, she’d already made five buying trips to Europe this year. The plan for the Summit Farm sales enterprise is to have between three and five high quality horses in house at all times, with a pipeline in Europe to resupply as needed. That boutique size should enable her to focus on her competition horses, while also bringing a steady stream of horses to the American market she knows well.

The priority is “super quality, soundness and great temperaments” at reasonable prices for the competitive amateur market, she explains. Sarah is also open to American-bred horses, like her own Dehavilland, but explains that geography makes European shopping trips more efficient. “The cost of going across the country to look at two horses is the same as going to Europe to see 50 to 70 horses in four days. And that’s the kind of quantity you need to find the quality we are looking for. It’s a numbers game, but we are open to buying quality horses wherever they are.”

Summit Farm also includes a smaller scale jumper development and sales division, supervised by Cassie Frost.

Jenny Wetterau, Scott Hassler, Marya Jefferson - (Ibanez assistant), Sarah Lockman, Gerry Ibanez and super groom Octovio Rocha at the end of a successful Del Mar National 2018.

Meaningful Milestones

Sarah’s gift for developing young horses is what caught Scott Hassler’s attention when he was the USEF’s Young Horse Coach about 10 years ago.  The highly regarded trainer, rider and coach has watched and worked with thousands of riders over the years and Sarah stood out. “She had a great feel and she never gets in their way,” he notes. “She’s effective without being restrictive and she works with their spirit.” He saw similarities in their training approaches and enjoyed helping her periodically over the years. Since Gerry began supporting Sarah, it’s become a regular occurrence, with Scott traveling from his Maryland and Florida bases regularly to coach Sarah privately on each of her horses.

Personal coaching is another luxury that Sarah is making the most of. “I get to ride for eight hours a day with a great coach. Already in the four months we’ve been doing this, it’s made a huge difference in our show results.”

Gerry got a basketful of those results during the Del Mar National Horse Show in April. Sarah competed six horses there and sent Gerry to the office to collect their many ribbons. “I was almost embarrassed,” he confesses. “I almost felt guilty. People have been doing this for a long time and I am probably the greenest owner at the events right now.”

He’s happy to carry ribbons, but they’re not what he’s in this for.  At a life stage where his personal and professional commitments, time-wise, have been mostly fulfilled, he decided horses would be the best way to fill his newly available free time. Not just having horses, but “to really get to know a horse.” He spent his first year as Taling’s owner learning to groom him properly and to provide as much hands-on care as his schedule allowed.

A glimpse of Summit Farm, located in Murrieta, CAA glimpse of Summit Farm, located in Murrieta, CA

A glimpse of Summit Farm, located in Murrieta, CA

It was Taling’s talent for dressage that led him to Sarah.  His path back to horses began with identifying the Friesian as an ideal type for him. “I read about their nature and strengths and they seem to be very solid horses, calm in nature and not delicate in body or mind, to the point where I’m not easily going to be able to screw him up,” he laughs gently. “I thought it would be a forgiving horse and a great type for me to learn with.”

Taling’s clear talent for dressage triggered the happily fateful phone call that began a dressage odyssey Gerry is fully enjoying.

“I hope get become mildly competitive as a rider, but what’s already extremely rewarding to me is the whole process, from seeing the horse come off the trailer to getting to know them and bringing them along. I believe a horse is happier if they are performing at their best. If you have the right training partner, as I do in Sarah, the whole process is very exciting.”

Watching Sarah schooling at Summit Farm or in competition illustrates the end goal and every aspect of the journey toward it is addicting. “I get great satisfaction out of the entire process.” The fact that Gerry’s young adult grandson and three young grandchildren seem to share his passion for horses is a plus.

Sarah and Gerry are grateful for the good luck that brought them together, which brings to mind an adage that could headline both their life stories: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”


Visit www.sldressage.com for more information on Sarah.