Cheyenne Mountain High School sophomore Dominic Gibbs is a rising star in the sport of hunter/jumper riding. But he often finds that his classmates — and even his family — know little about what he does.
“I have to do a lot of explaining to people what it is I do,” Gibbs said with a smile. “My classmates ask me, ‘How did your race go?’ or, ‘How was your polo game?’ or, ‘How did the rodeo go?’
“I have to tell them that I compete in equestrian jumping competitions — I’m definitely not a jockey or a rodeo rider.”
Gibbs is, however, one of the top junior riders in the nation in his sport. In late October, he took first-place at the Hamel Foundation 3’3” Equitation Championship at the National Horse Show in Lexington, Ky.
For 85 years, the National Horse Show has hosted the ASPCA Maclay National Championship, the most highly sought-after prize in equitation for the country’s top junior athletes. The 3’3” championship is a stepping stone to the prestigious Maclay, in which Gibbs hopes to compete next year.
In September, he took fourth at the Taylor Harris Equitation Medal Finals in Washington, D.C.
“(Competition) is becoming less stressful for me since I’ve been concentrating on my nerves and my training,” Gibbs said. “And I have a great horse. We have the right chemistry. He understands what I’m asking him to do. We both have a level of trust in each other. Together with my horse, I’m so proud to represent Colorado and Colorado Springs at these events.”
Gibbs’ competition horse is named Limitless, an 8-year-old steel grey warmblood. His nickname in Dutch is “Leuk,” or “Cool.” Limitless is stabled at Forest Edge Farm in Black Forest, where Gibbs trains up to six days a week.
“Like people, horses have moods. There are some days Limitless is playful and tries to buck, or sometimes too lazy,’ Gibbs said. “But we’re in sync most of the time.”
Gibbs always dreamed of being the best, but only started to believe high level competition could be reality last winter. He lived in a camper in Virginia and worked at a barn with a top coach over the summer. He hit all the milestones and qualified for two national finals in the fall (different levels). This fall, he started working with another coach who specializes in equitation — jumping competition judged on the ability and style of the rider.
Gibbs developed his passion for riding from his mother, Erin Gibbs, who grew up in Pueblo and rode competitively until last year when Dominic took over riding her horse.
“They just clicked,” said Erin. “I’m so proud to see my horse and child as a team.
“This has been a big change in my identity to go from rider to mother.”
Dominic has been riding horses since he can remember, but only started riding competitively three years ago on his pony, GF Elliott. His younger sister, Jordan, 11, is also a competitive rider in the pony division, but is hit on his heels with her own achievements and now rides her mom’s horse while Dominic concentrates on equitation and next, jumpers.
Dominic’s busy schedule does not allow him much free time. In fact, he has a modified class schedule in which he gets out of class around noon each day and then heads to Black Forest for four to five hours of training. Dominic takes an online class in the evenings.
Dominic is an academic letter winner and straight A student. He also volunteers with a clinic for migrant workers in Pueblo, is fluent in German, an artist and a runner on top of his heavy travel schedule and training demands.
In addition to his coach, Karen Catov-Goodell in Black Forest, Dominic also works with two specialist trainers: Katie Monahan Prudent in Virginia and Stacia Klein Madden in New Jersey. Dominic plans to advance to the next tier in his sport in 2019, beginning with a 3’6” equitation competition and junior jumpers (judged on speed and accuracy) in Florida in late January.
Until that time, he will focus on our local Interscholastic Equestrian Association competitions (between local school and barn teams). He qualified for the IEA Nationals in eighth and ninth grades and hopes to head to the individual and team finals again in 2019.
Dominic plans to go to college and possibly study medicine. His father, Gordon, is a vascular interventional radiologist.
“But right now, I love what I’m doing and I’m improving all the time,” Dominic said. “I would love to become professional in this sport and someday represent our country in international competition.”
Dominic added that he could not have achieved his level of success without so many helpful people.
“I couldn’t do this alone and I really appreciate the support of my parents, family and school, the guidance from my great coaches, the confidence my riding friends give me and especially my horse — without him, I wouldn’t be in the ring.”