You don’t always find top Grand Prix riders riding baby horses, but Sarah Lockman wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My coach [Scott Hassler] asked if I really wanted to risk being on a 4-year-old,” said Lockman. “But I’ve always loved the young horses. They’re so innocent and only know what you teach them. To have such a clean slate and be able to develop a relationship at such a young age is huge.”
The risk paid off on March 15, with Lyamora , aka “Luna,” scoring 9.44 points in the USEF Young Horse Test for 4-Year-Olds at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. The score included a 10 for the chestnut Dutch Warmblood mare’s canter.
“I’ve never gotten a 10 in a young horse class before,” said Lockman. “But Luna is a freakish mover. Nothing in her gaits is man-made; she offers the 10 canter from a light aid. I’m just sitting up there, and she has it.”
The age group classes can be a lot to ask of young horses, so Lockman decides whether a horse is ready based on how naturally easy it is for him or her. “That’s been my rule of thumb always: If they can do it without putting on any additional unnecessary pressure,” she said.
Luna isn’t just a great mover; she’s got brains too. She took the busy competition environment in stride even though it was her first show. “She’s so easygoing; she really trusted me and said, ‘All right, Mom, what are we going to do?’ Her attitude will make her a star,” Lockman said.
On a trip to the Netherlands in October, Lockman stopped to see the young mare by Ferguson “just for fun” after watching a short video of the horse trotting. “We go see her, and she is the most incredible young horse I’ve ever laid eyes on,” recalled Lockman. “I called [Summit Farms owner Gerry Ibanez] and said she’s a baby ‘Apple’ [referring to her Grand Prix horse First Apple]. We can’t leave without her.”
Lyamora flew straight to Wellington to join Lockman’s team, which has resided there since November. “I have all my horses; the whole barn is here,” said Lockman, who hails from Murrieta, California. She spent 30 days working with Debbie McDonald and then Hassler joined her for more training.
“To be able to get such great training every day has been amazing. It’s really made me a better rider,” she said.
Lockman had her eye on Olympic selection trials with First Apple, and the U.S. Young Horse Championships with Lyamora, but she isn’t sure what will happen given the many worldwide competition cancellations in response to the coronavirus. Right now she plans to stay in Florida to continue training while the situation is in flux.
“We’re in a holding pattern waiting to see what’s next,” she said. “Selfishly, we want to do the Olympics and the championships, but the truth is we all just need to stay safe and healthy and be grateful for our health. For us, as long as we have the horses and dogs we’ll be OK.”