Rais­ing the Bar for U.S. Dres­sage

Kim­berly Van Kam­pen is in­spir­ing, sup­port­ing and push­ing the next gen­er­a­tion to strive for ex­cel­lence.

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Kim­berly Van Kam­pen is in­spir­ing and sup­port­ing the next gen­er­a­tion

How do we en­sure that our next gen­er­a­tion of riders is learn­ing true horse­man­ship along with cor­rect rid­ing and train­ing? How can we make dres­sage more ac­ces­si­ble to young riders from all walks of life? What can we do to em­pha­size sports­man­ship, hon­esty and in­tegrity over win­ning? These are the ques­tions Kim­berly (Kim) Van Kam­pen is tack­ling, through her sup­port of na­tional pro­grams across the United States and by di­rectly sup­port­ing a few very spe­cial riders.

Kim grew up in Wayne, Illi­nois, rid­ing on the week­ends, never re­ally in any par­tic­u­lar dis­ci­pline or with much se­ri­ous­ness. But her love of horses was al­ways present. When her four sons were young, she moved to Fruit­port, Michi­gan, and be­gan build­ing a farm so that she could en­joy hav­ing horses and her boys could play out­side and have space to ride their dirt bikes. Her fo­cus in her own rid­ing grad­u­ally shifted more to­ward dres­sage and a horse-shop­ping trip in the win­ter of 1998 led her to Welling­ton, Florida. Blown away by the eques­trian com­mu­nity in

Welling­ton, Kim threw her­self into horses and dres­sage full time and be­gan de­vel­op­ing Hamp­ton Green Farm in Michi­gan into a top train­ing fa­cil­ity.

Where It All Be­gan

A trip to Spain in 1999 changed Kim’s life. She went to SICAB, the In­ter­na­tional PRE Horse Fair that at­tracts more than 200,000 spec­ta­tors and show­cases thou­sands of PRE horses. “I just fell in love with Span­ish horses and was so im­pressed with their beauty,” Kim said. “They have ex­tra­or­di­nary char­ac­ter, they bond to one rider and they have a very high level of an­i­mal-to-hu­man in­ter­ac­tion. I was still learn­ing about dres­sage and I kept hear­ing about the ideals of round­ness, col­lec- tion and sit­ting. PREs have an in­cred­i­ble abil­ity for col­lected move­ments, and when I saw a re­ally well-rid­den Span­ish horse, it was so aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing.”

Kim be­gan im­port­ing Span­ish horses to her farm and im­mersed her­self in learn­ing about blood­lines. “I could think of a hun­dred rea­sons why Amer­i­cans would love these horses,” she re­mem­bered. “The amaz­ing thing about a lot of the top PREs is that many of them are also rid­den by chil­dren in their re­tire­ment. They are just very sweet, ride­able horses.” Over the past 18 years, Kim has be­come one of the most re­spected breed­ers of PRE horses in the world.

As Kim be­gan her breed­ing pro­gram, she also bought a farm in Welling­ton and de­vel­oped it into a top-notch train­ing fa­cil­ity. To­day Hamp­ton Green Farm in Welling­ton serves as the home to the Win­ter In­ten­sive Train­ing Pro­gram (WIT). This pro­gram is the brain­child of Len­don Gray, for­mer Olympian and sought-af­ter in­struc­tor, long com­mit­ted to train­ing Amer­ica’s youth.

A Pas­sion for Youth

Len­don and Kim met in 2008, when Kim sought out Court­ney King Dye to ride Gran­dioso III (Ade­lante X/Sevil­lano IX), a PRE stal­lion Kim had owned since 2002. Gran­dioso was get­ting a lot of na­tional at­ten­tion as an up-and-com­ing FEI horse. Len­don was Court­ney’s trainer for much of her life, and Kim reached out to Len­don to help cre­ate this new part­ner­ship. Court­ney and Gran­dioso did very well at the Small Tour through­out 2009 and were pre­par­ing to en­ter their first Grand Prix in 2010, when Court­ney had a ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent and ex­pe­ri­enced a se­vere trau­matic brain in­jury. Kim waited for 10 months be­fore Court­ney in­sisted that

she send the horse to an­other trainer so that he might still have a chance at mak­ing it to the 2012 Olympics. Daniel Martin Dockx of Spain was a rider Kim had known since 2005. Daniel took over the ride and be­came suc­cess­ful with Gran­dioso, com­pet­ing at the Lon­don Olympics in 2012, the WEG in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016.

As Kim got to know Len­don, she was in­spired by the pas­sion of the youth in the U.S. and saw the need to help. “In 2008 I was in­vited to see Len­don’s Youth Fes­ti­val in New York,” Kim said. The fes­ti­val im­pressed Kim not only be­cause of its size and how well it was run, but by the other lessons all the young riders were learn­ing—re­spon­si­bil­ity, com­pas­sion and sports­man­ship. When she vis­ited Len­don’s show, Kim was about to bring home her two adopted daugh­ters— one from Rus­sia and an­other from Nepal.

“Here I was, plan­ning on bring­ing two lit­tle girls home from over­seas,” re­mem­bered Kim, “and I went to this show and saw all these young girls com­pet­ing in dres­sage, groom­ing and school­ing their own horses, school­ing with good train­ers and be­ing so re­spon­si­ble. I thought, That’s the kind of in­flu­ence I want on my daugh­ters when they come.”

With Gran­dioso in Spain, Kim felt it was even more im­por­tant that she con­trib­ute to dres­sage in the U.S. in a ma­jor way. “It made the most sense to me to pour my­self into the youth pro­grams here,” she said. And that is just what she did, sup­port­ing Len­don as she de­vel­oped her grass­roots Dres­sage4Kids’ TEAM (Train­ing, Ed­u­ca­tion and Men­tor­ing) Pro­gram that helps youth riders at all lev­els. The goal of the pro­gram is to find, help, ed­u­cate and de­velop tal­ented youth to be­come the in­ter­na­tional riders, teach­ers and train­ers of the fu­ture. The pro­gram or­ga­nizes clin­ics in var­i­ous parts of the U.S. and from these clin­ics, par­tic­i­pants are se­lected for na­tional Horse­mas­ter­ship clin­ics given by Court­ney and Olympian Robert Dover. Top in­ter­na­tional coaches nom­i­nate riders who they feel have spe­cial tal­ent for these clin­ics.

When Kim be­gan spon­sor­ing this pro­gram, there was noth­ing like it in the U.S. “The USDF holds clin­ics, but they are fo­cused on FEI riders. As far as clin­ics that would go out and spot young tal­ent, at the age that tal­ent needs to be spot­ted and de­vel­oped, this was the first of its kind. I loved the idea and Len­don’s sys­tem, so I started to sup­port that pro­gram.”

Len­don needed a home base in Florida for her WIT pro­gram. Kim gra­ciously of­fered her fa­cil­ity in Welling­ton and all the horses and riders are now based there for the win­ter sea­son. “This pro­gram takes de­ter­mi­na­tion, drive and pas­sion,” said Len­don. “The par­tic­i­pants have a full sched­ule of learn­ing that in­cludes fit­ness, the­ory, tests, rid­ing lessons, field trips and lec­tures on many per­ti­nent sub­jects. It in­volves three months (Jan­uary through March) of pure growth and first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence to open the young riders’ eyes to what it’s like to be the best dres­sage rider they can be.”

Len­don is grate­ful to Kim for her gen­eros­ity. “We could not run this pro­gram with­out all she does,” Len­don said. “Her fa­cil­ity is ex­quis­ite and she is wel­com­ing to each and ev­ery kid.”

These pro­grams, spear­headed by Len­don, lead nicely into the USEF Dres­sage Emerg­ing Ath­lete Pro­gram, which Kim sup­ports both through spon­sor­ship and by serv­ing on the com­mit­tee. Kim’s or­ga­ni­za­tion, Dis­cover Dres­sage, proudly spon­sors the Dres­sage Emerg­ing Ath­lete Pro­gram, whose aim is to pro­vide strate­gic guid­ance and ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties to se­lected ath­letes un­der the age of 25. USEF Dres­sage Youth Coach Ge­orge Wil­liams and As­sis­tant Youth Coach Charlotte Bredahl pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion and com­pe­ti­tion plan­ning for qual­i­fied ath­letes.

The Next Gen­er­a­tion

Kim’s sup­port of these pro­grams in­evitably led her to meet some very spe­cial young dres­sage riders. Ker­ri­gan Gluch was only 13 years old when she first went to a clinic at Hamp­ton Green Farm in Michi­gan, about three hours from where she grew up. She re­mem­bers be­ing blown away by the beauty of the fa­cil­ity and Kim’s gor­geous PRE horses. But she never imag­ined what a big role Kim would even­tu­ally play in her life and the lives of so many ded­i­cated young dres­sage riders in the U.S. Nine years later, Ker­ri­gan is still in­spired by Kim’s facilities and she now gets the in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to ride and train those same gor­geous PRE horses she first saw so many years ago.

“Len­don rec­om­mended Ker­ri­gan one sum­mer to be a work­ing stu­dent,” said Kim. “She came down with her suit­cases and never went home.” Ker­ri­gan worked hard to learn as much as she could and take ad­van­tage of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and over the years she has com­peted at the North Amer­i­can Ju­nior Young Rider Cham­pi­onships, the U25 Cham­pi­onships and was se­lected for the Euro­pean Young Rider Tour. She is now rid­ing three of Kim’s Grand Prix horses.

“She’s a won­der­ful young woman,” said Kim. “My boys see her as a sis­ter. She’s hard­work­ing, takes ad­van­tage of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity that is given to her and doesn’t take any­thing for granted. She’s been won­der­ful to my daugh­ters, and I’m com­mit­ted to her through­out her ca­reer.” Kim also sup­ports two other young women who ride at her barn—Sophia Schults and Sarah Roda. She helps spon­sor their train­ing, and Sophia is rid­ing one of Kim’s older school­mas­ters.

Kim owns many horses cur­rently com­pet­ing in dres­sage, from young horses to Grand Prix. Her many ex­pe­ri­ences as a suc­cess­ful owner led her to join the Dres­sage Own­ers Task Force (DOTF). The mis­sion of the DOTF is to work in con­junc­tion with the USEF to de­velop and im­ple­ment a sus­tain­able sys­tem which en­cour­ages and sup­ports cur­rent and po­ten­tial in­di­vid­ual/ cor­po­rate own­ers or own­er­ship groups/ syn­di­cates to en­sure the USA’s Elite and Emerg­ing riders are mounted on the finest horses in the world. Their ul­ti­mate goal is to help the U.S. earn medals at in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions and be­come the num­ber-one na­tion in the world of dres­sage.

A Larger Vi­sion

Kim does all she does for the dres­sage youth of Amer­ica be­cause she be­lieves that horses in the lives of young peo­ple can do amaz­ing things. “I want to see all the good things about the horse world per­pet­u­ated in the next gen­er­a­tion of young women and men,” said Kim. “Horses teach com­pas­sion and re­spon­si­bil­ity and young peo­ple learn that this big an­i­mal is de­pen­dent on them for ev­ery­thing! Dres­sage calls for the very best kind of rider. Only the strong­est, quick­est, smartest horses can make it and get to the top.

“So many qual­i­fied young peo­ple can’t af­ford to do the sport if they don’t have a wealthy par­ent or spon­sor,” Kim con­tin­ued. “Through the pipeline that Len­don and Robert have cre­ated, there are now ways for young peo­ple to be iden­ti­fied, paired with horses and spon­sors and brought up the lev­els to even­tu­ally rep­re­sent the U.S. on var­i­ous teams. I’ve seen it hap­pen with Ker­ri­gan. The best I can do is bring young peo­ple in who want to be a part of the sport and make this sport available to any­one who wants to work hard.”

Kim is clearly thrilled to be the host each win­ter for the WIT pro­gram. “It is so in­spir­ing to see Len­don’s barn with kids from all over the coun­try. They bring Ap­paloosas, fancy warm­bloods, off-the-track Thor­ough­breds. It’s so inclusive.”

Kim’s sup­port of all the pro­grams of­fered through Dres­sage4Kids, the USEF Dres­sage Emerg­ing Ath­lete Pro­gram, the USPRE or­ga­ni­za­tion and her per­sonal sup­port of some tal­ented young riders is cre­at­ing a le­gacy of ed­u­cat­ing our next gen­er­a­tion of horse­men and -women. “The horse world is the world I’ve cho­sen,” she said. “It’s the world I love and I want to open it up to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.”

Sophia rides Idolo Amer­i­cano HGF, a 2003 PRE geld­ing by Idilio II, out of Es­capada III.

ABOVE, FROM LEFT: Ker­ri­gan, Sara and Sophia in front of the sta­bles and house in Welling­ton

LEFT: Ker­ri­gan rides HGF Brio, a 2005 PRE stal­lion owned by Kim. ABOVE, FROM LEFT: Sara, Sophia, Ker­ri­gan and Kim with Va­quero HGF.

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