February 2015 Karen Abbattista

February’s Featured Rider

Ringo FL Dr Concours

Karen Abbattista

Born just outside Philadelphia, Karen grew up in Horsham, PA, but today calls Sarasota home.  Not from a “horsey” family, she had limited access to horses or formal riding instruction as a child.  That all changed when a friend began leaving his horses at her farm while traveling.  She began playing around with them, and getting more serious about riding.  She saved money for lessons, and bought her very own horse, an obstinate Impressive bred Palomino Quarter horse aptly named Buck.
Years later, while competing in the hunter ring, Karen had a different yet just as difficult horse that would often refuse jumps.  Someone suggested dressage lessons to improve their work between fences.  In dressage, her passion became her calling.  The systematic approach toward training, the focus on the mental and physical development of the horse, the emphasis on the partnership between horse and rider resonated with her.   She transitioned from the hunter ring to the dressage ring, and began a lifetime of learning.
Since that transition, Karen has earned her USDF Bronze and Silver medals and the Bronze and Silver Musical Freestyle Bars.  She is an “L” graduate with Distinction, which qualifies her to apply for entry into the USEF Dressage Judges Program.  She is in the process of obtaining her USEF Western Dressage Judges license.  Judging is important to her, as she feels that riders and trainers reproduce what judges reward, so it’s critical that judges reward correct training.  She takes that responsibility very seriously.
Despite her emphasis on judging, Karen does not measure equestrian achievements by awards or by ribbons, but by the relationship you have with your horse.  One of her favorite moments was an exhibition ride on Hawk’s Flight Farm’s signature Arabian stallion, Amir Jamaal.  Amir was terrified by the tents, the loudspeakers, and the general commotion.  It was only his trust and faith in Karen that made the performance possible, and their beautiful freestyle left many onlookers in tears.
Today, Karen travels all over South West Florida to teach and train and also offers lessons on school horse, as well as haul in options, at her farm.  Between lessons, riding, and training, depending on the weather, Karen works with 5 to 9 horses a day.  She finds her background in Psychology useful on a daily basis for both horses and riders alike.  She enjoys helping people achieve their dreams and goals, and considers her greatest strength her ability to accept her own shortcomings.  For example, she would like to improve the timing of her aids.
Currently, she is teaching her Friesian mare to execute flying changes and considers her one of her most challenging horses.  However, she finds the best results come from breaking the process into manageable pieces; the responsiveness to the aids, the balance, and working on them one at a time. What’s important to her is the process, remembering there are no deadlines, not taking shortcuts that will come back to haunt you later.
Perfect practice combined with a lifetime of lessons is the best plan she knows. She trusts her own conscience, believes that she is her best advocate and that introspection, combined with prayer, provide the answer to most of life’s questions.
Karen fondly recalls a young horse she was training and had taken out on a trail ride. The horse was giving her a particularly hard time when a man named Sam rode up on his cutting horse, asking if she needed help. Of course she responded No, but the horse answered otherwise.  Quite happily, he turned and followed Sam. Many, many, years later when they buried the horse, her husband, Sam, thanked him for stopping that day. If it wasn’t for that horse, that moment, they might never have met.
Her horses and Sam are her biggest fans and while training or riding you may find her listening to country music or maybe a little southern rock. A glass of Chardonnay and a little blues might also help wind down a long day.
We’d like to give a big shout out to one of Karen’s students, an up and coming star Jr rider Ms. Marguerite Andrich. At only 12,  she rode her first show ever at the American Dressage Concours at Fox Lea and came home with a very impressive score of 74% at Training Level.  Karen is rightfully pleased and expects great things in the future of Ms. Andrich.

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