Editor’s Note: Over the next several months, Dressage Today will look at some of the key contributors to the success and support of U.S. dressage at every level. These folks include prosperous businesswomen and -men, horse breeders and overall passionate horsepeople who love dressage and are excited to see the sport grow.
How do we ensure that our next generation of riders is learning true horsemanship along with correct riding and training? How can we make dressage more accessible to young riders from all walks of life? What can we do to emphasize sportsmanship, honesty and integrity over winning? These are the questions Kimberly (Kim) Van Kampen is tackling, through her support of national programs across the United States and by directly supporting a few very special riders.
Kim grew up in Wayne, Illinois, riding on the weekends, never really in any particular discipline or with much seriousness. But her love of horses was always present. When her four sons were young, she moved to Fruitport, Michigan, and began building a farm so that she could enjoy having horses and her boys could play outside and have space to ride their dirt bikes. Her focus in her own riding gradually shifted more toward dressage and a horse-shopping trip in the winter of 1998 led her to Wellington, Florida. Blown away by the equestrian community in Wellington, Kim threw herself into horses and dressage full time and began developing Hampton Green Farm in Michigan into a top training facility.
Where It All Began
A trip to Spain in 1999 changed Kim’s life. She went to SICAB, the International PRE Horse Fair that attracts more than 200,000 spectators and showcases thousands of PRE horses. “I just fell in love with Spanish horses and was so impressed with their beauty,” Kim said. “They have extraordinary character, they bond to one rider and they have a very high level of animal-to-human interaction. I was still learning about dressage and I kept hearing about the ideals of roundness, collection and sitting. PREs have an incredible ability for collected movements, and when I saw a really well-ridden Spanish horse, it was so aesthetically pleasing.”
Kim began importing Spanish horses to her farm and immersed herself in learning about bloodlines. “I could think of a hundred reasons why Americans would love these horses,” she remembered. “The amazing thing about a lot of the top PREs is that many of them are also ridden by children in their retirement. They are just very sweet, rideable horses.” Over the past 18 years, Kim has become one of the most respected breeders of PRE horses in the world.
As Kim began her breeding program, she also bought a farm in Wellington and developed it into a top-notch training facility. Today Hampton Green Farm in Wellington serves as the home to the Winter Intensive Training Program (WIT). This program is the brainchild of Lendon Gray, former Olympian and sought-after instructor, long committed to training America’s youth.
A Passion for Youth
Lendon and Kim met in 2008, when Kim sought out Courtney King Dye to ride Grandioso III (Adelante X/Sevillano IX), a PRE stallion Kim had owned since 2002. Grandioso was getting a lot of national attention as an up-and-coming FEI horse. Lendon was Courtney’s trainer for much of her life, and Kim reached out to Lendon to help create this new partnership. Courtney and Grandioso did very well at the Small Tour throughout 2009 and were preparing to enter their first Grand Prix in 2010, when Courtney had a terrible accident and experienced a severe traumatic brain injury. Kim waited for 10 months before Courtney insisted that she send the horse to another trainer so that he might still have a chance at making it to the 2012 Olympics. Daniel Martin Dockx of Spain was a rider Kim had known since 2005. Daniel took over the ride and became successful with Grandioso, competing at the London Olympics in 2012, the WEG in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016.
As Kim got to know Lendon, she was inspired by the passion of the youth in the U.S. and saw the need to help. “In 2008 I was invited to see Lendon’s Youth Festival in New York,” Kim said. The festival impressed Kim not only because of its size and how well it was run, but by the other lessons all the young riders were learning—responsibility, compassion and sportsmanship. When she visited Lendon’s show, Kim was about to bring home her two adopted daughters—one from Russia and another from Nepal. “Here I was, planning on bringing two little girls home from overseas,” remembered Kim, “and I went to this show and saw all these young girls competing in dressage, grooming and schooling their own horses, schooling with good trainers and being so responsible. I thought, That’s the kind of influence I want on my daughters when they come.”
With Grandioso in Spain, Kim felt it was even more important that she contribute to dressage in the U.S. in a major way. “It made the most sense to me to pour myself into the youth programs here,” she said. And that is just what she did, supporting Lendon as she developed her grassroots Dressage4Kids’ TEAM (Training, Education and Mentoring) Program that helps youth riders at all levels. The goal of the program is to find, help, educate and develop talented youth to become the international riders, teachers and trainers of the future. The program organizes clinics in various parts of the U.S. and from these clinics, participants are selected for national Horsemastership clinics given by Courtney and Olympian Robert Dover. Top international coaches nominate riders who they feel have special talent for these clinics.
When Kim began sponsoring this program, there was nothing like it in the U.S. “The USDF holds clinics, but they are focused on FEI riders. As far as clinics that would go out and spot young talent, at the age that talent needs to be spotted and developed, this was the first of its kind. I loved the idea and Lendon’s system, so I started to support that program.”
Lendon needed a home base in Florida for her WIT program. Kim graciously offered her facility in Wellington and all the horses and riders are now based there for the winter season. “This program takes determination, drive and passion,” said Lendon. “The participants have a full schedule of learning that includes fitness, theory, tests, riding lessons, field trips and lectures on many pertinent subjects. It involves three months (January through March) of pure growth and firsthand experience to open the young riders’ eyes to what it’s like to be the best dressage rider they can be.”
Lendon is grateful to Kim for her generosity. “We could not run this program without all she does,” Lendon said. “Her facility is exquisite and she is welcoming to each and every kid.”
These programs, spearheaded by Lendon, lead nicely into the USEF Dressage Emerging Athlete Program, which Kim supports both through sponsorship and by serving on the committee. Kim’s organization, Discover Dressage, proudly sponsors the Dressage Emerging Athlete Program, whose aim is to provide strategic guidance and educational opportunities to selected athletes under the age of 25. USEF Dressage Youth Coach George Williams and Assistant Youth Coach Charlotte Bredahl provide education and competition planning for qualified athletes.
The Next Generation
Kim’s support of these programs inevitably led her to meet some very special young dressage riders. Kerrigan Gluch was only 13 years old when she first went to a clinic at Hampton Green Farm in Michigan, about three hours from where she grew up. She remembers being blown away by the beauty of the facility and Kim’s gorgeous PRE horses. But she never imagined what a big role Kim would eventually play in her life and the lives of so many dedicated young dressage riders in the U.S. Nine years later, Kerrigan is still inspired by Kim’s facilities and she now gets the incredible opportunity to ride and train those same gorgeous PRE horses she first saw so many years ago.
“Lendon recommended Kerrigan one summer to be a working student,” said Kim. “She came down with her suitcases and never went home.” Kerrigan worked hard to learn as much as she could and take advantage of every opportunity and over the years she has competed at the North American Junior Young Rider Championships, the U25 Championships and was selected for the European Young Rider Tour. She is now riding three of Kim’s Grand Prix horses.
“She’s a wonderful young woman,” said Kim. “My boys see her as a sister. She’s hardworking, takes advantage of every opportunity that is given to her and doesn’t take anything for granted. She’s been wonderful to my daughters, and I’m committed to her throughout her career.” Kim also supports two other young women who ride at her barn—Sophia Schults and Sarah Roda. She helps sponsor their training, and Sophia is riding one of Kim’s older schoolmasters.
Kim owns many horses currently competing in dressage, from young horses to Grand Prix. Her many experiences as a successful owner led her to join the Dressage Owners Task Force (DOTF). The mission of the DOTF is to work in conjunction with the USEF to develop and implement a sustainable system which encourages and supports current and potential individual/corporate owners or ownership groups/syndicates to ensure the USA’s Elite and Emerging riders are mounted on the finest horses in the world. Their ultimate goal is to help the U.S. earn medals at international competitions and become the number-one nation in the world of dressage.
A Larger Vision
Kim does all she does for the dressage youth of America because she believes that horses in the lives of young people can do amazing things. “I want to see all the good things about the horse world perpetuated in the next generation of young women and men,” said Kim. “Horses teach compassion and responsibility and young people learn that this big animal is dependent on them for everything! Dressage calls for the very best kind of rider. Only the strongest, quickest, smartest horses can make it and get to the top.
“So many qualified young people can’t afford to do the sport if they don’t have a wealthy parent or sponsor,” Kim continued. “Through the pipeline that Lendon and Robert have created, there are now ways for young people to be identified, paired with horses and sponsors and brought up the levels to eventually represent the U.S. on various teams. I’ve seen it happen with Kerrigan. The best I can do is bring young people in who want to be a part of the sport and make this sport available to anyone who wants to work hard.”
Kim is clearly thrilled to be the host each winter for the WIT program. “It is so inspiring to see Lendon’s barn with kids from all over the country. They bring Appaloosas, fancy warmbloods, off-the-track Thoroughbreds. It’s so inclusive.”
Kim’s support of all the programs offered through Dressage4Kids, the USEF Dressage Emerging Athlete Program, the USPRE organization and her personal support of some talented young riders is creating a legacy of educating our next generation of horsemen and -women. “The horse world is the world I’ve chosen,” she said. “It’s the world I love and I want to open it up to as many people as possible.”