Since she was three years old, riding has always been part of Ana DiGironimo’s life.
Like most children, she began in a lesson program, and from the beginning, her passion for riding was evident. She was a member of the Fox and Hounds Pony Club, so she dabbled in a bit of everything until she discovered dressage at eight years old. At age 11, she was being taught by Olympic rider Lendon Gray. At age 12, she competed in her first FEI class, and by age 15, she was showing internationally.
“I participated in the FEI Ponies, FEI Juniors and FEI Young Rider Teams and programs representing Region 1,” DiGironimo said. “My horses and I have won many accolades, and I have my USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold medals. I had the most amazing opportunities to train and compete as a youth rider, which paved the way for my career as an adult.”
Those in the dressage world know how demanding the sport can be. It takes understanding and communicating with your horse to a new level. For some, this can be disheartening, but for DiGironimo, the challenge makes dressage more rewarding.
“Some of the most rewarding parts of the job come from the ‘moments’ you and your horse have or even a client has,” DiGironimo said. “We all work so hard to be in this sport, and often the light bulb moment takes time to happen. So, when training my horses or even teaching, I find instant gratification when it all just clicks. I also enjoy the success of my clients in the show ring. Everyone has tailored their goals to fit them. Seeing them achieve these goals is amazing. Dressage, like all other riding disciplines, is challenging. The communication between horse and rider must be precise for the reaction of the horse to be just right. In showing, we are not allowed to talk to the horse like other disciplines. So, it comes from a place of connection between riders, aids and the horse’s body response. For me, I think the challenge of creating the perfect partnership through aids keeps me working hard every day to improve myself, and that is what I love about dressage.”
As an avid rider, trainer and competitor, DiGironimo had plenty of advice for those who are interested and new to dressage.
“For those who are new to dressage, give it an honest try,” DiGironimo said. “It is the foundation of riding. There are so many benefits to dressage, even something as simple as balance. It’s a great discipline for those who want feedback from a judge at a show. Also, you can practice your test of choice, unlike not knowing the course until you arrive at the show. I think it suits a lot of riders, and every horse can learn dressage. The best advice I can give is to be patient and do not give up. It is hard work, but so worth it once you and your horse master the piece you are working on.”
She added how Arabians especially make for fitting dressage horses.
“Arabians are wonderful horses for many disciplines,” DiGironimo said. “I have had the opportunity to ride, train and compete them in dressage. I love that this breed is honest and smart. This is a huge asset in horses not only for myself, but also for my clients! This year alone, we have three new Arabians in my barn from riders ages 25-70! Another attribute I admire about the breed is their intelligence. They have a way of analyzing situations as well as training and digesting them to perform with you. Training the Arabian breed is one of my personal favorites, as they are quick learners and try hard to please their riders. I hope to always have an Arabian in my dressage program.”
So, what does the future hold for her horse showing career?
“Competition season for 2019 is over,” DiGironimo said. “However, we did attend some large National Championships and Regional Championships with wonderful results. This year, I mainly showed three horses - Espresso Au Lait, owned by Dr. Jacqueline Fine; Esperanto, owned by Christine Capano; and Anna Miriah C, owned by myself. ‘Essi,’ the German riding pony, competed in First and Second Level, including a Musical Freestyle. ‘Peanut’ and ‘AM’ I competed with in FEI Prix St. George. Anna Miriah C is a ten-year-old Arabian pony mare. It was her first year out at FEI, and I wanted to wait until I felt that we could compete at this high level. I took her to one show, where she did well, and then we went to CBLM championships, where she finished 5th in the Prix St. George Open B. You will see us competing in the Small Tour next year.”
DiGironimo owns and is the head trainer of DQ Performance Horses, a dressage training facility in southern New Jersey.
“We welcome all breeds and levels of riders into our program,” DiGironimo said. “For more information, you can contact me through my website at www.dqperformancehorses.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”