“We had to pinch ourselves to keep feeling it’s real,” Sarah (Lockman) Tubman confessed shortly after she and husband/horseman Lee Tubman began unpacking and settling into Wellington, Florida sport horse and dressage facility, Donato Farms.
“The horses, from the moment they went in their stalls, acted like they had lived here all their lives! I think horses -- and people – have permanent smiles on their faces.”
Everyone should be smiling. Donato Farms owner’s, Jeff and Jessica Friedrich have gained two talented and versatile equestrian professionals that, thanks to a string of stellar performances by Sarah and her 2019 Pan American Games Individual Gold Medal partner, Summit Farms First Apple, are sure to bring to the facility an even greater degree of dressage gravitas.
Bringing Experience and Success to Donato Farms
Most recently, Sarah and First Apple were named – for the first time – to the Top 50 on the dressage World Ranking list- “Myself at #37,” Sarah said, “and First Apple at #47.”
Donato Farms, in international horse world-centric Wellington, is ideally located to support the Tubman’s heavy competition schedule and well-earned world ranking.
“The last year was very successful for my horses,” Sarah said. “Summit Farms First Apple and I had a great 2021/2022 Wellington season, and ended up on the Short List for the World Equestrian Games and invited to spend the summer in Europe representing the United States internationally.”
Europe was also a success. “We placed in the top three in the CDI4* at Achleiten (Austria) and CDI4* at Schafhof (Germany), and one of the most special moments of the summer was, after placing sixth in the Grand Prix Freestyle at Aachen, being able to ride under the U.S. flag under the lights, in front of a packed stadium!”
After a short break upon returning to the United States, Sarah and First Apple won both their classes at the CDI4* at the World Equestrian Center-Ocala, and a month later, launched their bid for a slot on the 2023 World Cup squad with wins in the Terra Nova CDI4* and the World Cup qualifier.
In addition, Sarah qualified a second Summit Farms horse, Balia, at the US Dressage National Championships in Developing Grand Prix, and won a Swedish Lövsta Future Challenge for developing young horses. “She also went to Europe to gain experience, as we prepare her for qualifying for the 2023 Pan American Games.”
Lee Tubman has been coaching Sarah and other students to strong finishes in the FEI rings and is looking forward to taking on more FEI riders and horses, and focusing on producing more top combinations for the sport in the years ahead. The Saskatchewan native, who got his riding start in a Western saddle, says his FEI 4* judging experience has helped him produce a string of successful Small and Large tour competitors and nearly a dozen NAYC riders.
In fact, one of the most striking accomplishments by this 3M Canadian Coach of the Year, is that he is the first horseman in North American Young Rider Championships (NAYC) history to have competed as a Young Rider (1981) and serve as a judge (2016).
New Faces and Office Spaces
“Jeff and Jessica have been so warm and welcoming during this move. We are so impressed by their generosity and professionalism, as well as their happy and positive outlook on everything,” Sarah said. “It’s fun when everyone is equally motivated!”
“It is a dream,” Sarah agreed, “to be able to function out of a world-class facility with every amenity possible. Not only is the farm beautiful, it is functional for our daily routines. We pride ourselves on correct and thoughtful training that makes for happy horses and riders that can go on to be successful at the top of their sport.”
The layout at Donato Farms, Lee notes, is well thought out and the facilities are aesthetically pleasing as well as practical, and offer efficiency during day-to-day work. “The arenas are top class, with super footing, great sound and lights systems, and nice, breezy ventilation. There are many ‘people luxuries’ too, including groom and rider lounges, locker rooms, and the most amazing tack rooms.
“It’s an amazing place to call ‘an office’ every day.”
“Office space” Jeff and Jessica feel is well deserved. “Sarah and Lee are consummate equine professionals in every way,” said Jessica. “The Tubmans bring a unique, specialized and focused approach that comes from their combined experiences as stable operators, riders, judges and coaches. And they are able to brilliantly share their collective knowledge with riders and equine athletes of all skill levels and abilities, to achieve the goals they aspire to.”
Added Jeff, “Our vision at Donato Farms was to create a facility to support dressage team sport in an atmosphere that promotes an overall great experience for the equine athlete, the rider, and the owner. Our goal is to maintain an exceptional standard of professionalism, so our training environment is the highest quality.”
“Sarah and Lee embody the positive attributes we sought, and more. Their positive energy is contagious and their teamwork is remarkable,” said Jessica, who is looking forward to showing her two FEI horses, Donatus and Goldwyn, in the season ahead.
“Aside from our first priority, to have fun and enjoy Wellington and our equine community, I am so excited about the wonderful opportunity to be working with Lee and Sarah in the development and training of all of my horses,” she said. “Their integration into the property has been seamless, with wonderful collaborations on how to make things even better for horse and rider.”
The word donato means a heavenly gift or blessing, and Donato Farm’s owners truly do feel blessed to have the Tubmans and their team training out of their facility.
“They are amazing on so many levels,” says Jessica, “and we look forward to hosting them as their dreams become realized. We are excited for what the future may bring.”
Keep on eye on the horizon line: In 2023, Donato Farms plans to host a Young Horse clinic, a test riding clinic and (possibly) a symposium-style clinic with both Lee and Sarah teaching, and that’s just for starters. A future goal is to establish Donato Farms as a USEF Training facility and site of even more events to support the community. In addition, Donato Farms will continue their support of the Global Dressage Festival, Wellington Classic Dressage and the Gold Coast Dressage Association where in addition to their sponsorship support, they award the Donato Farms Team Achievement Award.
A season grand opening and welcome party is planned for early January 2023 at the start of the winter dressage show circuit to share the splendor Donato Farm’s team excitement with the Wellington equestrian community.
Discover Donata Farms at www.DonatoFarmsllc.com
- by Johnny Robb