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Michelle Gibson Dressage Clients Achieve Successful Outing at Gold Coast Opener CDI-W/CDI-Y

Shawna Harding and Come On III Ranked #1 on USEF National Intermediaire I Dressage Championship Rankings

WELLINGTON, FL - January 30, 2008 - Michelle Gibson Dressage clients Amy Bock, Shawna Harding, and Lily Zilo competed at the Gold Coast Opener CDI-W/CDI-Y Presented by Collecting Gaits Farm in West Palm Beach, FL, on January 25-27. The show marked the first qualifying competition for these three contenders who are aiming to qualify for national and international events, including the USEF National Intermediaire I Championships for Bock and Harding, and the 2008 Olympic Games for Zilo.

"There was a super turnout of top caliber competitors at the horse show this weekend, so I was very proud of all of my students competing in this league," said Gibson. "Shawna was the star - she won everything - and my newer students, Amy and Lily, improved their scores each day, so it was a very positive experience for all of us."

Amy Bock of Argyle, TX, competed her own Parcival, an 11-year-old KWPN stallion, in two small tour classes of the CDI. In the FEI Prix St. Georges, Bock and Parcival scored 61.950%. In the FEI Intermediaire, the duo notched 63.500%. Bock and Parcival claimed eighth place in both classes.

Bock regularly trains with Lyndon Rife in her home state and has participated in several clinics with Gibson in Texas. Bock arrived in Florida in mid-December and is stabled at Diamante Farms in Wellington, FL, where Gibson is the head trainer. The 2008 winter show season in Florida is Bock's first opportunity to work with Gibson over an extended period of time. The Gold Coast Opener CDI was Bock's first show in Florida and the first time for Gibson to coach her in competition.

"This was an important show for us," Gibson said. "I needed to see what Amy does in the ring because every rider and every horse changes when they go in the ring. It was important for me to see what changed and also how the judges interpret her and her horse together. It was really about getting to know each other and was a learning experience for both of us. I already had an idea what direction we needed to go and now that I see how the judges perceive her horse, I know exactly what I need to do with this pair. Her goal is to qualify for the I-I Championships, so that's what we're going to try to do."

Shawna Harding of Aiken, SC, competed her own Come On III, a nine-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding, in the small tour at the Gold Coast Opener CDI, and swept the division, claiming victory in all three classes. In the FEI Prix St. Georges, Harding and Come On III scored 69.050%. In the FEI Intermediaire I, the pair earned 70.100% in a tie for the top score, but was awarded the win based on their higher Collective Marks. In the FEI I-I Freestyle, Harding and Come On achieved victory with an outstanding score of 75.300%. Harding is a professional rider/trainer who was coached by Gibson with a former mount in 2004, and with her current mount since the 2007 Florida season.

"Shawna has been doing this for a while now and she knows what we need to do in the warm-up," Gibson said. "She has the freedom to do what she wants to do in the warm-up and then I give her pointers on what to add or what to try. She is a great student in that she listens. She's very easy to work with. She always gives me good feedback. When I tell her something, she figures her way out through it - how it's going to help, or if it's going to help at this moment, or if it's a little bit too much or not enough. She takes what I say and then applies it how she wants to."

Harding notched an impressive hat-trick of victories at the show, and Gibson beamed, "We're very proud of her. She did a great job. She's a great competitor. She rides a beautiful test, very accurate. It's great for the confidence. What else could you ask for? Her horse went really, really well, so for sure she can feel good about the weekend."

Harding and Come On III are currently ranked as #1 on the USEF National Intermediaire I Dressage Championship Rankings.

Lily Zilo of Wellington, FL, competed her own Stradivari 14, a 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding, in the FEI Grand Prix CDI-W, and then rode the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special in the FEI Test of Choice Open in the national segment of the show. Zilo holds a passport from Hong Kong and is aiming to earn a Wild Card to represent Hong Kong at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Zilo began training with Gibson in March 2007 and purchased Stradivari as her Olympic candidate mount this past summer. The Gold Coast Opener CDI was Zilo's second time to show the Grand Prix test and her first time to compete at the Grand Prix level in a CDI.

"We've done schooling shows before, but this is the first show that we've done three days consecutively," Gibson said. "Each day Lily showed a lot of improvement over the day before. It's a lot about Lily getting to know her horse in the ring and also having to really step up a level from what she's ever ridden before. I'm really happy with the progress that we've made over the last three days. Each day was better than the day before, so for me, that's always progress in the right direction."

Gibson acknowledged that there is a lot of pressure in helping a new Grand Prix rider to qualify for the Olympic Games. "Lily is really new to the whole Grand Prix. We're trying to fit in a lot in a short period of time so there's a lot of pressure for everybody involved. Lily is a wonderful lady and very pleasant to work with. She gives 200% all the time," Gibson said.

"Michelle has worked very hard to help me focus," commented Zilo. "At this show, she was not only a coach for my dressage training, but she was also helping me with my psychological thinking to be focused and to do the best I can. She has offered every possible help that could be available to me and I'm very grateful."

Zilo explained that since Hong Kong is the host country for the equestrian Olympic competition, the International Olympic Committee allocated it one Wild Card. China is the official Olympic host and also has a Wild Card for a dressage rider, but does not yet have a horse registered. Currently, in addition to Zilo, there is one other rider that has eligibility as a Hong Kong national. These two riders must first obtain a Certificate of Capability by twice earning a score of 64% in a CDI competition from an 'O' judge, which will give them FEI status to compete in the Olympics. "Then it will be up to each national federation to select the rider they want to send to the Olympics," Zilo said.

Summing up the weekend, Gibson said, "This is a really topnotch group of students who are committed to their goals and I was very pleased to be their coach. I am thrilled with their success at the first CDI of the season. I'm really looking forward to our next show."

Gibson will be competing next at the Wellington Classic Dressage Spring Challenge on February 16-17 at the Jim Brandon Center in West Palm Beach, FL. Gibson will ride Don Angelo, a 16.2-hand, seven-year-old Oldenburg stallion owned by Terri Kane of Diamante Farms. Previously at the Wellington Classic Holiday Challenge in December 2007, Gibson and Don Angelo won the FEI Prix St. Georges and the FEI Intermediaire I.

Gibson is aiming Don Angelo for the 2008 USEF National Intermediaire I Championship. Acknowledging that she is coaching two of her clients to compete against her at the I-I Championship, Gibson said with a beaming grin, "It will be fun!"

Michelle Gibson Dressage

Michelle Gibson, a member of the Bronze Medal Team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, is based in Wellington, Florida. She is head trainer at Diamante Farms - a dressage training, showing, and boarding facility owned by Dick and Terri Kane. Gibson is currently showing two world-class FEI horses - Don Angelo and Lex Barker. Gibson's student, Devon Kane, won the Individual Gold and Team Bronze at the 2007 CN North American Junior/Young Rider Championships. Gibson is currently accepting new horses into her program for training, showing, and sales. Gibson is available for dressage clinics nationwide. For more information, contact Michelle Gibson at 678-575-1201 or visit http://www.michellegibson.com

PHOTO CAPTION (top): Michelle Gibson and her student Lily Zilo, contender for Hong Kong's Wild Card at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mary Hilton/PhelpsSports.com.


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