This week I’m chatting with Australian FEI dressage rider, trainer and coach Gina Montgomery. Based in Germany with German national coach Johnny Hilberath, Gina is training and competing her own horses as well as riding one of Johnny’s horses. Read on to discover more about Gina, her ambitions, and top tips for success
Tell us about you
I am a professional dressage rider, trainer & coach from Australia but I have been living in Germany for exactly one year now. I am based at AH Abbendorf, which is near Hamburg, in training with German National Coach Jonny Hilberath. I have my own two horses with me Braveaux, a black 10 year old licensed stallion by Bordeaux from a Don Primero x Sandro Hit mare. He was bred by Dr Ulf & Eva Moller, I bought him as a 3year old in Germany and flew him home to Australia where we had really good success in sport there and then in March 2022 we both flew over to confirm his training for Grand Prix sport and for us to be able to hopefully compete internationally from here. My other horse, Nespresso DS, I purchased in Holland last year, he is also black, a 5 year old gelding by Painted Black from a Negro x Krack C mare bred by Blue Diamond Horses. Then I have been given the ride on one of Jonny’s own horses, Dream Big a 12year old gelding by Desperados and we are competing Small Tour together.
How did your horses come into your life?
I started riding at age 6 and like so many little girls I just wanted a pony! I didn’t grow up around horses, no-one in my Family rode, but my Dad purchased “Bambi” for me and I just figured out everything we needed to from there. My parents were my greatest supporters and I’ve been riding “ponies” for over 40years now!!
When and where do you ride?
Well back home I ran my own training stable at my family property AmberWood Park but as mentioned above, in Germany I’m based at AH Abbendorf. I’m lucky to be living in an apartment right by the stables also, so I ride virtually every day. We have the option of the indoor school which is 60m x 20m and when weather, (and carnivorous flies!!) permit the outdoor arena which is 70m x 30m, and a wonderful forest and quiet roadside trails alongside the property for hacking days. My horses are working 6 days a week, but by no means intensely training every day. We structure our week around training with Jonny, depending on whether he is away at shows with the German team or not. So, when Jonny is at home we will have training with him each day with Braveaux or Dream Big and then they can have their rest day/lunge day/hacking day when he is away. With 5 year old George, I alternate his riding with sessions on the double lunge, work over poles and so on which is how I’ve always developed my younger horses.
How did you start riding?
Well, I come from a non-riding background, but our neighbours had ponies, so I would sit under the tree watching them ride and going along to Pony Club with them. I basically pestered my parents into buying Bambi for me. I was 6 and he was 3, he came with a bridle but we had nothing else and Dad said I had to learn how to first ride bareback and eventually I earnt my saddle! Bambi became the most amazing all-rounder for me and together we experienced all disciplines of riding, as is the way in Australia. Once I had my saddle, we went on to Pony Club, then started show-jumping, eventing and showing. The show riding led us all the way to Sydney Royal Easter Show, the premier show in the country, and showing then became my main focus and in time my initial career.
In Australia, my generation grew up on station ponies and off the track thoroughbreds, retraining them for the show horse ring and jumping or eventing. I learnt many skills riding these sort of horses, was very successful with many Royal Show Champions and National Saddlehorse titles and success in show jumping up to Grand Prix. All of this eventually led to me trying dressage, first with my top thoroughbred show horses and then in 2007 I bought my first warmblood in Germany from Christoph Koschel, his name was Wallmeyer, and it’s been all 60m x 20m training and competing since!
What are you and your horses currently working on?
With Blackie (Braveaux) we are specifically working on his suppleness, strength & self-carriage within the Grand Prix work. He has a good understanding of the elements of the GP work, passage-piaffe, one tempis etc. but unfortunately, he became very ill one week after arriving in Germany last year and was only able to return to full work in November, so he and I are now trying to better understand each other and the way to show our best work. I’m really excited about the quality of work he is showing and looking forward to the summer competitions for him.Bigly (Dream Big) and I recently had our first competitions together at Prix St George, and in fact they were Bigly’s first competitions since he was 4 years old! He has had such solid training that the capability is all there but we have had mistakes in the tests which I feel are due to his arena greenness. So right now, I am taking him to different arenas and running through the tests, trying to show him that he can in fact multi-task by listening to my aids as well as what’s happening beyond the arena wall! My 5 year old, George (Nespresso) who I only bought in August last year, was a very late foal as he was the last of 5 embryos from the mare, so he was left a little longer before breaking in and really hadn’t any experience when I found him. With Jonny watching on, we are right now focused on really establishing good basics and would like to compete in the young horse classes this summer so that he gets good exposure to the show environment.
What do you love about riding?
Everything! I started riding professionally at 15 years old because I loved it and nothing has changed in that time. I just love working with these animals, figuring out their individual personalities and tailoring the training to suit. No day is ever the same, even though we are continually working on the same end goal, the path varies along the way which keeps me interested, curious, sometimes exasperated and fit amongst other things!!
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?
The future will be the next 2 years in Germany continuing training with the genius of Jonny Hilberath. We simply don’t have this level of help back home in Australia. After all my years riding I feel, with Jonny’s guidance, I have only just now gotten to properly understand the true feeling of riding the “whole horse”, from the back to the front, and in the lightest & easiest way. Once I consistently have that feeling then international Grand Prix for Braveaux and Dream Big and World Young Horse Championships 6year old for Nespresso are the competition goals.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?
No, for whatever reason, I have never suffered competition anxiety at all. The only time I did get nervous was riding in front of Jonny the first time…and actually that still happens LOL.
How do you deal with them?
A Hendriks G & T afterwards!
Your Top Tip
Listen to your horses, look after them and manage their physical & mental health and happiness. Dressage is a long game; you need to ensure they can sustain the journey with you.
Down the Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?
I have had the good fortune to ride some incredible stallions already in my life but I would love, love to add Valverde to my list.
Who is your equestrian hero?
The late, great, Heath Harris – an Australian horseman, a true legend of a trainer. But also Cathrine, Charlotte, Lottie, Carl, Edward, Eva, Nanna, Sonke and the list goes on & on LOL.
If you could have 5 people to dinner who would they be?
Oh so hard to choose just 5 people… instead can I say Valegro, Bohemian, Valverde, Glamourdale, Totalis – that sounds like fun to me!!
Favourite colour horse?
A good horse can be any colour but as my 3 are black then I guess that’s my current choice.
Favourite horse event?
I can’t go past Aachen, especially when it’s a WEG or Euro champs – incredible atmosphere.
I love all food!
Favourite way to relax?
Snuggles with my Shih Tzu dog Bodhi
I love movies and have countless favourites all for different reasons but just maybe I’ve watched all the Jason Bourne movies a million times.
If you enjoyed meeting Gina you might like to view more dressage rider “chatting with” interviews here You can keep up with Gina’s progress and check out her instagram page here