January 7, 2016
Last month I was fortunate and had an opportunity to not only participate in a fantastic clinic but interview the clinician/trainer as well for our readers.
We were so lucky to be the last 2 day clinic in the Northeast for the 2015 season. It was a sunny cool December day, at Ridgeway Stables, located in Dover NH and was hosted by Madison Show Stables. This quaint New England barn is nestled off Route 16 and is 20 minutes North of Portsmouth NH from Route 95 North and approximately 10 minutes from the Maine border. This location is a quite the gem and is a hunter jumper showing facility. It is located on a 42 acres spread of fine rich pastures and fields, has a beautiful indoor and many outdoor riding spaces to jump, and just hack the wooded trials for fun. While you can be a boarder or take lessons at Ridgeway, this barn has many styles of riding and lots to offer the Equestrian rider.
Everyone at the barn was buzzing around including the horses. They all knew something big was up that day. We were having company, a famous elite rider!
That day when I was tacking up and getting ready, you could see my horse’s breath it was so cold. This month however has gone on record to be very warm in New Hampshire. But as we in the north east know it is inevitable and the cold weather will come. We all know that the winter painful cold is coming to New Hampshire and soon.
We all waited with anticipation for the clinic all week. Cleaning and preparing our horses, and getting the barn ready. It was exciting to know an Olympic rider was coming for the weekend.
When people here the name Nona Garson, they know this is an Olympic rider who has represented the United States. Her career has spanned the US Olympics, Pan Am Games, and the World Equestrian Games.
After the clinic was over, I had a chance to sit down with this most delightful woman, to interview her for you all. I cannot say enough, that she was so very humble about all her accomplishments and I found it refreshing? I felt very privileged to sit with her for over an hour discussing what we all love the most our passion for horses.
So here is how my conversation went with Nona.
I asked her what she loves most about her job and she replied that she feels” she has the best job in the world.” Being with and working with horses all the time. Lot of people have to work with people, well I have horses as a partners, and that’s the best.
I was curious she is so good at all of it. What did she like the most? Riding, teaching, and competing?She said she always loved competing, but to be a great competitor you have to have a great partner. (This means horse partner). Sometimes our great horses have to retire and we have to move on and get another one. I love riding and competing and its fun to work with riders as well. Riding on a day to day basis and moving forward and getting on a horse and getting confident with your horse.
Nona, do you ever get tired of this business of horses?No I never get tired of it. I have grown up with it since I was a little girl. I used to go to Madison Square Garden with my father, in my Maryjane shoes, and we would get all dressed up. I would go down to the edge of the ring and watch the horses jump up close. It was a big, big deal to go into New York City and I always wanted to jump horses. I said to my father “one day, I will go and jump at the garden someday, I am going to do this”. He would say “yes Nona” and be very supportive. For whatever reason I was obsessed with horses and I have never looked back.
What advice can you give to young people starting out? That this is a long sport road, you have to be patient and have to do a lot of work. Many people have not developed the work ethic for this sport, and be tough and take it on the chin and try not to be emotional. Most of all be careful not to be married to the wrong horse.
Do you have a favorite horse that you have competed with in the past? Tell us a little something about him or her? I have been able to have the privilege to ride several great horses. I guess my favorite horse would have to be Rhythmical, my Olympic mount. He was an amazing horse he came from and amazing beginning. He was the horse that was traded for 150 used washing machines. He came out of Russia when everything was changing. He was a horse that came from nothing and turned out to be a great horse. He was tiny and he tried and tried and tried. He was the most exciting horse I ever dealt with.
Do you have a horse now that you compete with? Right now I am competing on horses that are the sons and daughters of my last very great grand prix horse named “Languster”. They are almost all the get from that stallion, Languster. They are 5, 4 and 3 year olds. Sometimes I get to ride my client’s horses and show them around a bit and get them ready before they come on the weekends.
If you could give the readers one piece of advice about show jumping in the competition world what would it be? I would say to stay calm and stay focused and not get distracted by all that is happening around the ring. To pretend like when you go around the ring you’re the only one there.
What will you do this winter? Head south? I am already set up in Florida. I am now running a lot of horse shows in Florida. The Ridge at Wellington Church Tour. The series that goes around Wellington Equestrian venues. We have added a week so it goes on for 13 weeks. Plus we run horse shows at the farm.
At your Wellington farm what can you tell me about it? My farm in Wellington is the Ridge at Wellington, on Palm Beach Point Blvd. It is a beautiful facility with a barn, 2 rings, and a grand Prix field. It has paddocks and lunging rings and surrounded by water on 2 sides. We have had it for 10 years and developing the property ever since.
What do you offer there? I train riders, have horses for sale, and have a variety of horse shows.
Today’s clinic was show jumping, here at Ridgeway in Dover NH. Can you tell me what the focus was with your students today? Our focus was just getting everyone in the right position, and the horses in the right rhythm and getting everyone confident, and more determined and working on general good riding.
How high did they jump? A variety of heights over the weekend but I think our last group was about 3’9”.
What advice do you have for those who wish to compete in higher levels? I think you have to stick to it and I think you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Often when people ask me, “What does it take to be a Grand Prix rider”? The first thing you have to do is keep showing up and not to give up. And just get to where your confidant and where you can jump around. Obviously you have to have a horse that can jump bigger, that’s a requirement and you most of all have to stay calm and keep working your way up. Most people, many people don’t have the perseverance to make it to the top. They get scared or they get frustrated or flustered too early. Training a horse in very small increments and you have to build that horse confidence a little at a time. And you have to be calm about it and a lot of people lack the patience to get to the end.
Is there anything you can tell me about yourself that your readers do not know about you? I have a really good sense of humor and lately I have become a tennis player and I like to play tennis, two or three days a week.
Are you taking on any new projects or students this year? I certainly have room to take on some new students although, I don’t run a huge commercial business I have reduced my clientele. But for a couple of people I would have a spot.
What does the year 2016 bring for you Nona Garson? The Ridge at Wellington Church tour is coming back bigger and better than ever. We have added a 13th week to the series and prize money. I have an AA rated show at The Ridge at River View at my farm in New Jersey. I have some really nice young horses that are coming up, that I am hoping to find my next Grand Prix horse in that group.
Is it safe to ask, are you planning on riding for the United Sates in the next Olympic Games? I would love to do that, but at this moment I do not have a horse that would be suitable for them. So if anyone would like to help me find that horse I am ready to go.
Is it hard to juggle your personal life with your professional life all these years? I bet you have had to give up a lot to be able to focus and achieve all your accomplishments. Can you tell the readers a little about this? Well I spent month and months and years of my life never unpacking my suitcase. When I use to show all over, I was on the US teams in addition to doing the Olympics and the World Championships. I showed in nation cups in 25 countries so I would never change it. I should say but I have had times when I had not unpacked for months and years at a time.
What do you think is best part about being Nona Garson? I think it is getting up every day and be with the horses and having people pay me to do it.
Are you married, any children? I am engaged to somebody who is very patient who is also a horseman and his name is George D’Ambrosio. He comes from a longtime horse family his brother is a famous dress designer, Anthony D’Ambrosio. He is a rider himself, George has ridden in the Grand Prix and has helped me along in the horse business. And no, I do not have any children.
Do you do anything for fun that is not equestrian related? As I had already told you earlier, I play tennis. I go out to dinner with my friends. I don’t know I have fun every day.
Again Nona I want to thank you for your time today. I am excited about what you taught us during the clinic and I appreciate you sitting down and chatting with me so I could share your thoughts and aspirations with our readers.
I just want to say what and exciting weekend it was at Ridgeway Stables having Nona Garson with us. She is truly a worldly person that we in the Equestrian field can look up to and use as an example that hard work and determination pays off.
Before I sign off, I want to give acknowledgement to trainer Meredith Stimson- O’Connell and her assistant Heather Calligandes of Madison Show Stables, for making all the arrangements and hosting a great event. Also to Julie Fall the barn owner, of Ridgeway Stables in Dover NH and her staff who made it possible to have the event here.
The clinic also had a few sponsors come this weekend, “Cavalor Feeds” the New England representative is Andrea Manley
and “County Saddlery” representative, Maribeth Thomas were on hand to give out there information and answer any questions
and Smart Pak sent some goodies.
If you’re ever in the area I can’t say enough that you should stop by and say hello at Ridgeway Stables and check it out. It is a top notch facility with many beautiful horses and determined riders.
For more information visit:
Facebook Madison show stables LLC
*Please note the information obtained here was from the writers experience and discussion with Nona. Any and all photos were submitted with the owner’s permission or from facebook/websites.
Until next time,
P.S. I am heading south for a bit, it’s too cold here, going to massage some horses in Florida. I will tell you all about it next time.
Cassie Ball ESMT, CCMT,
Beary Good Massage LLC
Specializing in Equine & Canine Sports Massage Therapy
Stubben North America, Certified Saddle Fitter
NHVTA Continuing Education