Amber Gipp

Being obsessed with horses is not an easy thing and in the small town of Cullom, Illinois, where I was raised.  There wasn’t much to suffice for a girl keen on big animals that were purely hobby entertainment. Yet my wonderful parents were understanding and I was able to ride sporadically when any opportunity arose. After high school, I enrolled in an equine college that offered internships. I had not developed an interest in a specific discipline, so I was game to try anything so long as it was with horses. I’ve dabbled in everything from western pleasure, gaited horses, hunters, barrel racing, and now, dressage.

I came to the Barteaus in January 2012 as a blank canvas ready to be painted. As I look back on my first interview with Kim, Yvonne and the crew, I remember being overwhelmed with all the information, having a tad bit of anxiety about the unknown, but mostly, experiencing pure excitement running through my veins. What an unbelievable opportunity, I told myself and anyone else who would listen, my head reeling with ideas about what I could do becoming part of the team at KYB Dressage.

I packed up what little dressage riding clothes I had, and moved into the Barteaus’ welcoming household! As I  adapted to the busy working style of the barn and the comfort of the crew, I quickly admitted to Kim all I knew about dressage was that you were to use black tack, rode with a longer stirrup, and did something called tests? He chuckled and on the inside, I’m sure he was secretly glad Yvonne was in Florida for the winter so she wouldn’t have to deal with this backyard greenie who didn’t have a clue.

Through faithful dedication, Kim patiently taught me the basics and the theory behind the schooling of dressage. I really did have no idea what it was all about, yet as the weeks went on, through the frustration of constantly losing my stirrups not being able to correctly ride an impossibly simple twenty meter circle, I began to realize what it was that I loved seeing in those pictures of horses in all those books. It was the way the horses used their bodies and carried this presence around with them. I wanted to have that feeling under saddle! Through Kim’s instruction, I began to grasp the vague idea that all we are trying to do here, is teach the horses to use their bodies to the best of their abilities and that the horses find peace and understanding in that moment to create a series of beautiful movements that look effortless. I was sold!

A short three months later, Yvonne Barteau came back from training and competing in Florida for the winter, and after a brisk greeting, everything began to fall into place like clockwork. The intensity and pace around the barn tripled, and through nervous excitement, I kept up, eager to prove my worth on the team. I began going to every show to groom for the KYB competitors and Kim gave me my first hauling lessons, which I picked up instantly and now love it! My knowledge of the sport and how to help keep a large farm running vastly improved and the winter of that year, I went to Florida with Yvonne to continue learning and to experience first hand the next level of competition. There I was, so little knowledge of what it is that can be possible, and Yvonne guided me on the path to earning my bronze and silver medals that winter. It was an amazing opportunity that will forever be engrained in me.

Almost four years later, I am now an assistant trainer to the Barteaus and in June 2015, I earned my gold medal in dressage. What a dream come true! What I never knew possible, is happening, and it’s the most strange and wonderful feeling.

The double-edged sword to it all? There is so much left to learn and you can never be good enough! I am up to the challenge because what I love the most is seeing a beautiful horse carrying his rider through harmonious movements and not a soul can see a wrinkle in the partnership. That is what I am trying to accomplish and what I hope to provide those readers who care to join me, is the chance to follow my journey from here forward. Maybe watch my road to the grand prix or simply keep up with me in a tricky training project. It’s all up to you but I simply thank you for reading my part of this amazing journey!