How is life in Paso Robles?
My husband and I fell in love with the Central Coast of California, while getting our degrees at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I love the beautiful hills, and this time of year in particular. It is so green everywhere! I love that there is lots of open space here, and no traffic, and that we are halfway between San Francisco and L.A. It is a great place to train horses, and all through college I would do my gallops on the beach. The hills I used to train are invaluable for conditioning. It is also a great place to raise a family. We can keep a horse in our yard, so it feels very “country,” and yet with the increasing popularity of the wine region, there are great restaurants and wine bars for a taste of the city.
How old were you when you started riding? How did that come about?
I started riding when I was seven, at Happy Horse Riding School, in Davis. Both my parents were “non horsey,” but I begged for lessons, and they finally relented. It was a great riding school, with a Saturday program that included horse management and vaulting, as well as riding. From there, we attended the 1984 Olympics, in L.A. when I was ten years old, and I discovered eventing. When I saw those horses galloping by, I was hooked and knew I wanted to ride in the Olympics in eventing.
What was it like to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics? What were some of your favorite memories?
Competing in the Olympics is such an incredible experience. It is hard to take in at the time that you have actually achieved this goal that you have been working towards for more than 20 years. It really is pretty overwhelming. The honor and pride I felt to stand on the podium, and watch the American flag go up, still chokes me up. As I stood there, I had a flood of memories of all of the ups and downs along the way, and all of the support of the many people that helped me get there. I really felt like all of my friends and family and supporters were there with me.
Can you tell us how that experience has affected you?
Because of the Olympic games, I have been able to share my sport with people who have never heard of eventing. I was invited to talk to so many groups, because they understand what an Olympic medal means, even if they know nothing about horses. Hopefully after learning about it, they will now be fans. Back home at the barn, I am back focused on the process of bringing new horses along. I love starting young ones out and going through the process with them. Of course, reaching the goal is exciting, but it really is the day-to-day process that I love. It can be at times frustrating when there are setbacks, or when things take longer than you want, but I think that is what makes the success so satisfying. I have a young Trakehner Gelding that I am working with, Sunsprite Patronus, and he is a perfect example of this. he is spending more time at Preliminary than I expected, but that is the way it goes with horses; you have to go on their time, not yours.
Your new horse, Chanel, is beautiful. Please tell us more about her.
Knowing that McKinlaigh would retire after The Olympics, I began looking for a new horse on my way home from China. I kept searching, and looked all over the United States, as well as in Europe, and I finally found Chanel, in Denmark, last Fall. McKinlaigh left behind very big shoes to fill, and I think that is partly why it took me so long to find her. So far she is exceeding my expectations, and I have very high hopes for her. She is a nine year old, 17 hands tall, Danish Warmblood mare, with plenty of Thoroughbred blood. She is a very classy mover with a lot of scope, and absolutely LOVES cross-country, and to gallop. Should be a good recipe for an event horse!
How does Chanel compare with your last horse, McKinlaigh?
What first got my attention on the video of her was how much she looks like him! She has a very big way of going that is similar, and has lots of scope and athleticism. She also has a very good work ethic, and is very sound. McKinlaigh proved himself by being so consistent in top competition; this, Chanel will hopefully show us too.
Can you give us a sneak peek into how the training process has been going?
Chanel is naturally very supple and forward thinking, so t hat makes her a lot of fun to train. I have been focusing on her canter work, and getting her to carry more weight behind and have more push. She really likes to show off in the ring, so my warm up strategy has to be to keep her calm and focused so that her enthusiasm doesn’t turn in to tension. We have started to do a lot of conditioning in the hills, and she is very quick to get in shape. She sees a big hill, and digs in and just powers up it. After the Intermediate, last week at Twin Rivers, she was hardly winded. We spent a week at Thermal, working on the show jumping, and playing around with some different ways to ride her. At the end of the week, I think I was starting to figure her out. She is naturally a careful horse, and has a good technique, and plenty of scope; and that is a real bonus.
Gina’s Product Picks
• Ariat Pro Circuit Breeches
• Monaco Line Half Chaps, and Tall Boots.
• Brossard Tall Boots(available in stores)
• Ariat sandals
• Tek Grip Gloves
• Stable Collection of Jackets and Polos.