Anne Gribbons, U.S. Equestrian Federation dressage technical advisor, has announced she won’t renew her contract when it expires Nov. 30.
“I think it’s excellent timing,” said Gribbons. “I have been thinking about it for months, but there was no way I was going to focus on it until after the Olympic [Games, in London]. I put it out of my mind, and I said, ‘I’ll think about that tomorrow.’
“Tomorrow finally came, and I wanted to see what kind of support I’d have from all the athletes,” she continued. “If they’re not completely happy with the program—because it’s really a new program, this technical advisor position—I’d rather use the rest of the time I’ll hopefully have to concentrate on riding. Riding is what I still love and could still do all day.”
Gribbons, 66, began her role as technical advisor in January of 2010, taking over from Klaus Balkenhol, who’d served as team coach for eight years. During her time with the USEF, Gribbons helped institute a new system of coaching. U.S. dressage coaches now include Scott Hassler as national young horse coach, Jeremy Steinberg as youth coach and Debbie McDonald as developing coach.
“When I started this, it was to set up an educational system for the United States, and that is done,” said Gribbons. “I hope they continue on and expand it more and do not let it fall apart. Even more than working with the elite riders, who are a little set in their ways, and the horses, who are what they are after they’ve been in Grand Prix for a while, the important part here is what Debbie McDonald, Scott Hassler and Jeremy Steinberg are doing. That’s the future. They are all very good at what they’re doing and very enthusiastic. I worked very well with them, and I’ll continue to work with them to some degree.”
Gribbons led the U.S. dressage team to fourth at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Ky.), ensuring a team spot at the 2012 Olympic Games. The U.S. team finished sixth in London.
“We did as well as we could have [in London], but I was really proud of all the riders,” said Gribbons. “When push came to shove, they all did their best. The quality in Europe is mind blowing. It’s changed so radically in the last couple of years. We have to find a way to stay in the game and catch up.”
A five-star Fédération Equestre Internationale judge, Gribbons was restricted during her tenure with the USEF from judging any U.S. riders. She can now resume judging all over the country. She also plans to focus largely on riding and training at her Knoll Farm in Chuluota, Fla.
“I just have to get back on the horses and pay attention to our farm here, where no one has seen me,” said Gribbons. “They have been terribly loyal to wait around. And, most of all, it’s about my husband, David. That’s really what made me make the final decision. Neither one of us are spring chickens. This is nothing he needed in his life, that the head trainer of the farm goes off and is never seen again. He never complained, and he went with me wherever he could. This is my job, and he has no opinions, and he’s been a phenomenal support. He deserves for me to come home.
“I plan to go back to what has been on hold for these last few years. I’m totally not whining. It’s been a very, very exciting experience working with those riders and horses, but also very time consuming. It wasn’t just when I was out in the field—I went all over the world and all over the country with them—but it was also a lot of time on the phone and with emails and all this, and that has to count,” she added. “If they contacted me, I wanted to be there for them. I knew most of them from before I took the job; some of them have been my riding colleagues for many years. It’s been really fun to be that up close and personal with them and, of course, their horses, which is really what it’s all about.”