NORTH SALEM, N.Y. -- Lainie Wimberly believes training and riding horses are integrated skills. The owner and head trainer at North Salem’s Brigadoon Show Stables has nearly 30 years of success at each to back her up.
Wimberly, a Ridgefield, Conn., resident, started riding at age 9, and by age 11, she was the youngest rider at the time to qualify for the Maclay Finals at the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden. She went on to become a nationally acclaimed Junior rider, and opened Brigadoon in 1987.
Wimberly is now one of the premier Hunter rider trainers in the country and has earned a reputation for finding young horses and developing them into champions.
“I think training and competing go hand-in-hand,’’ Wimberly said. “I find it easy to balance. Training makes you a better competitor. It keeps you current. A lot of trainers don’t compete. It’s better to demonstrate what you’re pontificating about. What I say becomes truer.”
Wimberly has trained riders as young as four years old at Brigadoon, and some of them have gone on to compete in some of the nation’s most challenging events. She also teaches adults of all ages, including one woman who is 73, at the North Salem facility.
“It’s like working with a raw piece of clay that you can mold,’’ Wimberly said. “They are little sponges. The most important thing I try to tell them is to go forward. If they can go forward and not be afraid, that’s the key. Going forward corrects a lot of bad habits. It creates confidence in their skills.”
Wimberly said young riders are natural or mechanical. “Young natural riders have a good feel for what they’re doing,’’ Wimberly said. “The mechanical rider learns to become technical. I find it fulfilling to take a mechanical rider to a national level. It’s not an easy thing to do.”
Wimberly said it can take young riders up to a year to trust their riding ability. “Once they get past that fear of a loss of control, then it’s easy,’’ she said. “It’s like the first time you learn how to dive into the deep end of the pool. Once you get it, it’s all smooth sailing from there. I was scared the first time I jumped, but once I did it there was no turning back.”
Wimberly has balanced the teaching and competing dynamic for a long time. Even when she was a teenager, she was working with other riders.
“For my parents to afford the sport and compete, we took our horses home and housed them at home,’’ she said. “Training evolved when I was 14. I competed on other people’s horses and got them qualified for national finals. I knew what I wanted to do at a young age. I was very ambitious and driven. My parents held me to a high standard as far as my schoolwork. At a young age I learned the value of responsibility and hard work.”
She has retained her passion for competition. In July, she rode Choco Mousse to the first Hunter Derby victory of the horses’ career at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, Vt.
“It was really thrilling,’’ said Wimberly, who was riding the horse in the competition. “When I compete, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I thought we had a chance to win, and if I say I’m going to do something, I feel like I have to do it. I’ve always performed better under pressure.”