Abbott was raised on a farm in the suburbs of Lansing, Michigan. To John?s depression-era dad, horses were work animals, not pampered pets. ?Our horses, Tom and Jim and Bob, plowed the fields,? says John. ?One day, I decided to get on top.? He liked it there. John started as most farm boys do, riding Western, learning through the local 4-H club. Eventually he had the opportunity to take a few clinics that introduced him to English riding, and, above all, jumping. That did it. Once he left the ground on a horse?s back, it was hard to stay earthbound; nor did he have to. John had talent and found his way to the show ring early on as a junior competitor. He began riding with Kay Richardson, a well-known hunter/jumper trainer in the area, and by the mid-1970s, John graduated to the big show circuit, including the A-rated Motor City Horse Shows and the Bloomfield Open Hunt Club shows. Still riding in the junior hunter divisions, John was showing his own horse, Narrow Escape, another hunter named Polish, as well as one of Kay Richardson?s horses, Dupose. Kay also introduced the precocious junior rider to the basics of dressage, which was somewhat unusual in those days. ?I really liked it,? John says. ?I like how the classical horsemanship adds to the training for any discipline.? In 1976, John moved to Atlanta where he earned a degree in Interior Design from the Art Institute of Atlanta. While pursuing his degree and his subsequent design career, he rode at the Atlanta Equestrian Center. Karen Kirby and Frank Gombolay, two top trainers to this day, were teaching there. They recognized John?s talent and he was soon riding better and better horses. In addition, Karen had close connections with legendary jumper riders Kathy Kusner and Joe Fargis, both of whom came to Atlanta to give clinics in the early 1980s. John took full advantage of that great opportunity. By 1984 it was goodbye to interior design, and hello to full-time horses. Abbott began teaching at Sleepy Fox Farm in Atlanta while also catch-riding and showing. Since then, he has never lacked for horses to train or show, or clients to represent whether buying or selling. But what this friendly, soft-spoken gentleman really loves to do is teach. ?I have a straightforward philosophy,? John explains. ?I want to teach people to ride safely and with confidence, to help them overcome any fear issues that might exist. I just want my students to enjoy their horses, to grow with their horses.? ?Showing is fine,? he continues, ?and if you want lots of ribbons I?m happy to help you achieve that goal. But I?m equally happy to help people who have no such aspirations, who just want to learn to ride better. I?ve worked with dressage riders, eventers, foxhunters?not just hunter/ jumper riders.? John ventured out of Atlanta in 2006, buying his own place in Mansfield, near Covington, Ga. He called it Bridlewood Farm. So how did Aiken tempt him to move here? ?I?ve always loved Aiken,? says John. ?I?ve been showing here for 15 years, and I?ve known Rick and Cathy Cram since the Progressive Show Jumping shows were in Atlanta.? But as is so often the case, fate had a bit of a hand in things, as well. John?s social life began to revolve around Aiken. ?I met my partner, who lives in Aiken, in April of 2008,? John explains. ?So I started coming here more and more. The more I came here the more I liked it. It?s not just that it?s a great horse community. I also love the social and cultural atmosphere. Life that revolves around horses can be so isolating. Aiken has so many more levels. Great dining, cocktail parties, just a very special social life. Plus you can live in town, be in the horse district in five minutes, ride in the Hitchcock Woods or on the polo fields.? With all that to offer, Abbott decided that commuting to Aiken just wouldn?t do anymore. He moved here officially this past March and now operates his Bridlewood Farm out of The Stable On The Rail on Powderhouse Road. He ran a few very well-attended clinics at Full Gallop Farm, and began developing ongoing student relationships from there. ?I think word-of-mouth is a great way to build a client base,? John says. ?I go to their farms or they come to mine. It?s so easy to get everywhere in Aiken.?
For more information on John Abbott, Bridlewood Farm, or The Stable On The Rail go to www.BridlewoodFarmGa.com or www.thestableontherail. com. To contact John directly: 770-309-2210.
28 The Aiken Horse Summer 2009
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