photo by Lauren Bleecher
It's been a long road for Sarah Lockman and First Apple to make it from a barn burned to the ground to USEF International Horse of the Year Nominee. If this isn't a story of hard work and perseverance, we don't know what is!
First Apple, the 2010 Dutch Warmblood stallion, has been nominated for USEF International Horse of the Year. With no other dressage athletes nominated, First Apple is the only dressage horse nominated for their achievements in 2019.
Rider Sarah Lockman, of Wildomar, California, and First Apple began their journey in the fall of 2018 when Gerry Ibanez, Lockman’s sponsor and supporter, purchased him from Carolyn Kooiman’s President Dressage Stables for Lockman to compete in the FEI levels. Lockman knew from just one lap around the ring that the possibilities were endless with this horse.
From a young age, Sarah Lockman had always envisioned herself as an equestrian champion, even as she rode her first horse, a 32-year-old, one-eyed pony. To achieve her equine aspirations, Lockman was willing to do whatever it took to make them happen. This included being homeschooled during her childhood to allow her time to work for trainers so she could pay for lessons without depending on others’ help.
Lockman’s focus paid off and by 2016 she had one of the largest sales and training businesses on the west coast. In 2017, however, her barn burned to the ground in one of California’s wildfires, leaving Sarah’s business in shambles stretched between three different facilities in the Orange County area. Gerry Ibanez, who had been Sarah’s client for years ,with his Friesian gelding Taling, (who Sarah trained from second level and is now at the FEI levels himself), decided to sponsor Lockman in her dreams of making the US Team.
With the unwavering support of her sponsor Gerry Ibanez, the Ibanez family and Lockman’s team, Sarah and First Apple made their international debut early this year at Small Tour in California. They had strong outings in CDI competition where they were undefeated and had nationwide high scores for their performances in the FEI Prix St. Georges, FEI Intermediate I, and FEI Intermediate I Freestyle. They later attended the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru representing the United States and won individual gold and team silver medals—with their personal high score of 78.980 percent in only their second international Freestyle together.
With the 2019 show season coming to a close, the pair rode to 10 consecutive wins, but just days after his birthday celebration and the send off of First Apple and Sarah to Florida, Gerry Ibanez passed away unexpectedly. Heartbroken, but forever grateful to Gerry, Lockman credits Ibanez for supporting her with unbelievable opportunities. His family will honor his dreams by continuing to support Lockman and First Appple as they continue to compete in the CDI’s in Wellington Florida this year and prepare for the Olympic trials.
Lockman and First Apple have defied all odds this year with their newly developed partnership and Sarah’s dedication to riding the stallion in Gerry’s memory. This remarkable stallion has been on an amazing journey with the Ibanez family and Lockman, and hopes to continue to represent the United States internationally.
The USEF Horse of the Year Winner will be decided based on online voting that is open now until January 2nd at midnight. Voting is open to both USEF and non USEF members HERE. Please note you must verify your vote with the email for it to be counted.