Welcome to WEF 2022! To kick off this year’s Rider Spotlights, we chatted with national equitation champion, Dominic Gibbs! Read below to find out about this accomplished rider, and how his childhood passion led him to found the Mountain King Ranch Equitation Grant and to launch his professional riding career!
You’ve started a grant to give young riders a head start by receiving a week of lessons at WEF; what inspired you to create this grant?
After winning the 2021 WEC Premier Cup with the prize of a new Chevy Blazer – I was so excited! My car was a wreck and needed a lot of repairs so I thought winning a new car was an accomplishment and could replace my old one. But when I thought of how much I could do with the money/value of the car – I decided to sell it and make some financial decisions. I fixed my old car and my parents’ hail-damaged car, and I started an investment account and set aside some to start The Mountain King Ranch Equitation Grant. The last four years of my life have been a whirlwind, with every year going faster and feeling more important. It was very hard for me and my family to get to WEF in the beginning – and the first time was just for a week of lessons ending in a .85 jumper class. It was only through the kindness and generosity of a lot of supporters, and a lot of sacrifices from my parents and family, that I’ve made it this far. It just felt right to give back to my roots and to help another young rider feel the excitement of coming to WEF for the first time. I was thoroughly inspired as I watched the international top of the sport in person for the first time, alongside every level it takes to get there. That one week made the impossible feel possible – and I recognized that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes many years to become the very best.
How do you feel growing up around horses has affected who you are as a horseman today?
I have always been around horses – but I am not sure there was ever a plan for me to get into equitation and show jumping. My mom was an amateur eventer and lifelong rider. She says she would dream of someday having kids with her at the barn so you could say my spirit has always been with horses. We moved to a ranch in Colorado when I was four years old – and as anyone with horses at home knows – there is never-ending work to do. Growing up around horses taught me how to have fun because I was a serious kid. Horses also taught me a relentless work ethic that fed right into my type-A perfectionist personality. I would say horses have brought out the person I was meant to be, and I continue to grow into who I want to become as a horseman. I am so lucky.
You’ve won some major equitation and jumper classes already as a junior. What are some goals you have for the future?
I now want to focus on my long-term goals, most important being on a team to represent my country at the highest levels of international sport. I plan to earn a college degree and over my lifetime I want to learn more about teaching and training, course design, judging, and governance. I’m all in. So often people say, “just work hard,” and that’s true. But it’s not enough – it takes so much more.
This is your first WEF as a pro. Tell us about your transition and how you’re approaching the season differently.
This is my first season as a pro, but I think it should be clarified – I am a young professional and just starting out under the guidance of seasoned trainers, coaches, and industry professionals. I still have everything ahead of me to learn. The transition didn’t hit me until I watched my sister ride in an equitation class – and I wasn’t in it! It hasn’t been hard, though. I am working for my longtime coaches, Katie and Henri Prudent. The difference is that I have sale horses to bring along, and I am part of a team responsible for barn chores, horse management, supply chain, and logistics. Now as a professional, I have exposure, involvement, and accountability in all the behind-the-scenes work that it takes to run a top competition and sales barn.
What advice would you give to young riders with big dreams like yours?
The best advice I can offer is to foremost – believe in yourself. Then, find coaches and a team who believe in you too. Be patient, and don’t let yourself get deflated, demoralized, depressed, or derailed by the ups and downs of this sport. Believe in yourself and you will achieve your goals.
If you had to compete in another sport, what would you choose?
If I could compete in another sport, there’s no question – professional racecar driver. Although, I do like ski racing, too!
Thank you, Dominic! We can’t wait to cheer you on this WEF 2022 season. Best of luck!