Rebecca Garrard

Early days

From the earliest age, Rebecca was obsessed with horses; but growing up in the urban environment of West Vancouver, BC, she had limited opportunities to feed her passion for them. Whenever she could, six-year old Rebecca would take a short ferry ride with family friends to nearby Bowen Island, where she developed her riding skills in raw form: bareback on ponies, often with nothing more than a halter. When she was eleven, Rebecca was introduced to the Southlands area of Vancouver, where so much of her riding career would later develop. At the age of sixteen she met a father and son pair named George and Glen Petty. George introduced Rebecca to two very different worlds: the racetrack and dressage. Rebecca had still not owned her first horse, and George would let her ride his black Thoroughbred stallion Jannock. “The first thing I learned from George was passage – I wasn’t allowed to do anything else,” she remembers with a laugh. At the same time she began starting and galloping race horses. Rebecca learned horsemanship skills from George Petty, which would prove invaluable in her future. When, at the age of seventeen, she started riding with Canadian Olympian and multiple Pan Am games medalist Leslie Reid, both her horizons and her opportunities widened. “I would ride whatever Leslie put me on! Gradually, I was allowed to ride better and better horses.” The first horse Rebecca competed in dressage with success was a 17.2 hand Warmblood gelding named Willy, who belonged to one of Rebecca’s early supporters, Jenny Haddleton. Rebecca and Willy went on to win multiple championships throughout the years together.

A first horse, at last

By the time Rebecca was eighteen, she had begun teaching at Greystone Stables in Delta, BC. When she was 24 she earned her NCCP Level I coaching certification. Shortly after obtaining her Level I, Rebecca bought her first ‘fancy’ horse, a Dutch gelding named Hidalgo. She had traveled to California with Leslie Reid and another of Leslie’s students, Andrea Taylor, to look at horses. Hidalgo was at DG Bar Ranch – a three year old that had been ridden once. Ben, as he was known in the stable, became the first horse Rebecca trained and competed to the FEI level. In 1999 she and Ben competed in the Pan Am Games Canadian Team Western Trials. By the time Ben was sold at the age of eleven, he was schooling the Grand Prix movements.

Along the way

Throughout the years Rebecca has received extensive training from many international trainers. In 1994, she spent six months in Germany with Canadian Olympian Christilot Boylen and renowned trainer Udo Lange. This was a very intensive training/working period, where most of the horses she rode were trained to Prix St. Georges or Grand Prix level. Many others have had and continue to have a great influence on her training and riding: Leslie Reid, Dietrich Von Hopffgarten, Bert Rutten, Ellen Bontje, Diederik Wigmans , Colonel Christian Carde, and Leonie Bramall. Rebecca has since trained many horses from the very first steps under saddle to the Prix St. Georges and Grand Prix levels. In 2000, she bought a 3 year old KWPN gelding by Concorde named Och Heden. The partnership she forged with Heden led to countless championships and high scores from Canada all the way down the west coast to California. Long-listed for the Canadian team in 2006, Heden made his Grand Prix debut with Rebecca in 2010. A few other horses that Rebecca competed with considerable success at Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I are Robin Reichmann’s "German Gigolo", Caroline Williams’ "Jurassic Spyke" and Caroline Williams' "Con Brio".

Feeding the passion

Rebecca learned at an early age that her passion for horses went well beyond competitive aspirations. “I just love the horse. Even if I’m just grooming them. I love all of it,” she says. Competing is only one dimension, but one that is made more enjoyable by competing in the freestyle. “I am addicted to freestyles,” she admits. Rebecca’s days are equally divided between training horses and coaching. Some of her clients are in full training so she both rides the horses and teaches the owners. “I like working with dedicated individuals, whether the horse is being trained by myself or I am teaching the rider one or two times a week.” Rebecca believes that to be good at a complex pursuit such as dressage, help on the ground is essential at any level. “Each horse – and each rider – is an individual, which is why this is such a challenging and gratifying career. But I enjoy helping people find the epiphanies, to develop harmony and understanding with their horses. Even though it is a complex and physical sport, as a trainer I think I have found a way to use constructive criticism and to keep the riders positive and enthusiastic. I want people to be inspired in their riding."