Mill Spring, N.C.—Oct. 16
Ask Dominic Gibbs where he lives currently, and he has to take a second to answer. The 17-year-old originally hails from Colorado Springs, Colorado, but over the last year he’s lived a bit of a nomadic lifestyle.
“I’ve been all over the country living in a camper this year, and I think I’ve lived in the camper more than I have in any house this year,” he said. “I was in Florida for three months, and then I went home for a month during quarantine. And then I’ve been in the camper all summer in Michigan and Kentucky and all over the place, but I’ll go home after these indoor shows in November.”
His lack of a permanent ZIP code stems from his desire to make a strong showing in the major equitation finals this year. He trains with Stacia Madden and the team at Beacon Hill, so he’s been following their schedule all summer. The hard work has paid off so far with a fourth-placed finish in last week’s Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals (North Carolina).
And he’s kept up the momentum, putting in a spectacular flat phase in the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals—East, held this year at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, to lead going into the second day on a score of 94. Cooper Dean sits second on an 89.5, while Grady Lyman is third (89).
“So I know that I have a phenomenal horse on the flat, and he really helps fill me out, so I really took advantage of that,” said Gibbs. “I was really trying to take as many passes in front of the judges as I can and really present myself prominently. I know that both of these judges really like classic equitation and classic form, and so I was really just trying to show a presence and a classic form of riding on the flat. I really tried to show my extensions, and I really just tried to show myself off.”
Judges Lauren Hough and Archie Cox put the riders to the test, having them demonstrate a lengthening of stride at the posting trot, a haunches-in and shoulder-in at the sitting trot, counter canter, a flying change in front of the judges, and a lengthening and collected canter in both directions.
“I thought it was a really good test,” Gibbs said. “I liked the simplicity of it. I loved that they didn’t ask too much and they really wanted you to execute the basic tasks well in order to prepare yourself more for tomorrow.”
Gibbs tacked up Cent 15, a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Carenzo—Sarafina) owned by Mountain King Ranch LLC, for the Talent Search. They’ve been paired together since January 2019 and topped the Palm Beach International Academy North American Junior Equitation Championship (Maryland) last September.
“He is a dream. I don’t know how else to describe him,” said Gibbs. “He’s like riding a cloud on the flat. He does everything that I ask so easily, and he almost feels like he’s connected to my brain rather than to my legs, and it’s just such a nice feeling to have because he almost knows what I’m doing before I do. He used to be a big jumper, so I know that I can trust him with all of these difficult courses because he’s had plenty of experience with that and all I have to do is slow him down.”
The Talent Search continues Saturday, Oct. 17, with the gymnastics phase at 8 a.m.
Get a full analysis of the Dover Saddlery/USEF Medal Final in the Nov. 9 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.