Sometimes it takes a little while to get perfectly synced with a new dance partner, but Sarah Lockman and her stallion First Apple look like they’ve been together forever. Watching them go undefeated across three days at the 2019 Pan American Games held in Lima, Peru, in July, you’d never know that Lockman and First Apple had only a handful of competitions in the books. The pair earned a personal best of 78.89 percent in the Intermediaire I freestyle to secure the gold medal.
We visited Sarah Lockman at Summit Farm in Murrieta, California, to find out more about the handsome 10-year-old chestnut Dutch Warmblood stallion (Vivaldi—Oogappel, T.C.N. Partout).
Lockman met First Apple in the fall of 2018 in Holland, and it was love at first ride. “I sat on him, and after two rounds around the ring I started crying. He is totally my horse and my ride. There is something about horses, like another form of communication without getting too fluffy about it… but he and I definitely speak the same language, and it was just right there from the beginning.”
First Apple was previously ridden by Dutch Olympic rider Patrick Van Der Meer, and Lockman credits him with making the big stallion extremely rideable. “He’s 17.2, and you would think maybe he should be ridden by a 6’5″ man, which I’m not, but Patrick trained him so classically, you can ride him with two fingers, and he is just super willing and happy in his job.”
Other things you need to know about First Apple:
- First Apple is so named because his breeder was an apple farmer. Two of his siblings are named Big Apple and Golden Apple.
- He’s a simple guy with simple tastes. He loves apples, but no cookies or candy. “We finally just recently got him to start eating carrots,” said Lockman.
- He free feeds orchard grass hay with some alfalfa mixed in, plus rice bran and Platinum Performance supplements. “He’s easygoing with his food; he doesn’t like anything extra. When we’ve traveled, I’ve tried to put apple sauce or something in there to make him like it more, but then he won’t touch it. He wants it simple.”
- Even though he’s a stallion, he’s a gentleman. “He’s never inappropriate,” said Lockman. “I don’t think he’s even looked sideways at a mare. He can stand in the crossties with a mare, and he hauls in the six-horse trailer with multiple mares. I don’t think he knows he’s a stallion, and that makes him very easy to handle.”
- He enjoys company. “At horse shows, sometimes they’ll give me a stallion stall, but a lot of times I’ll move him. He wants to be able to see what’s going on and see the other horses,” Lockman said.
- First Apple is a real workhorse. “He is completely focused, and I have never had him say no. We have to be the voice for him because he’ll just keep going and trying harder and harder,” Lockman said. “He’s the A+ student. He’d be the guy who wears the same suit every day and has them hanging in order.”
- However, he knows how to put on jeans and a t-shirt, too. “I can get on a long rein and go on a trail ride, and you wouldn’t know he’s a top FEI horse,” said Lockman. First Apple gets to hack around the beautiful trails near his farm almost every day. “Most of the time he goes out alone, and he’s super confident. We’ve run into deer, bobcats and coyotes, and he’s not spooky or worried about anything. We have a good relationship, and he is always just happy to be out there with me.”
- Top-level dressage can be hard on horse both mentally and physically, but First Apple makes it easy on himself. “He doesn’t need a lot of intense work,” said Lockman. “He’s so talented, it’s easy for him. We only do 20 or 30 minutes a day. He’s just really reliable, and I think that’s been a big part of our success. He just shows up the same every day whether we’re about to go in the ring at the Pan Ams or whether we’re going on a trail ride.”
- What’s next for the talented duo? “Hopefully we will do the selection trials for 2020 [Olympics],” said Lockman. “As long as everything goes the right way, and it’s the right thing for his well-being and his brain and his body.”