There’s a new sensation in the home of Microsoft, Starbucks and the Space Needle; Equestrian Performance is taking root in the Northwest. After over a decade of working with a private client, Vinton and Ann Karrasch have closed one chapter and are on to the next. With miles of experience from the pony ring to the international arena, Vinton and Ann are inspired to offer their knowledge and passion for equestrian sport to a new market.
Arriving in Redmond in May of this year, the couple is establishing their new business, Equestrian Performance, at the beautiful Shelburne Farms. From tree-lined trails to an oversized indoor arena, 12 x 12 matted stalls to heated wash racks and more, the facility is less than 30 minutes from several Seattle suburbs.
Both Vinton and Ann have lived in the west for most of their lives, have spent months competing in Langley and Calgary, but neither had spent much time in Seattle. When looking for the right spot to start their new chapter, Washington state seemed worthy of a visit. The beauty, the people and the lifestyle combined with an amazing facility said ‘YES’ as soon as they landed in late March.
“I love the Northwest,” said Vinton. “The feeling is amazing here, it’s a very organic kind of place. Everything is green and everything grows. So far it’s been both invigorating and relaxing.”
Ann concurred. “So far i adore the Northwest. I’m excited to plant roots here and see how big we can grow I feel Zone 9 can be more prevalent and become a force to be reckoned with. It’s a goal.”
Both agreed that Shelburne is an incredible place to work and has all the aspects to provide quality care.
Tammy Chipko, owner of Shelburne Farms, was quick to recognize the ideal fit. With their combined and unique knowledge base, Equestrian Performance not only brings a fresh outlook for filling the barn with nice horses and clients, but is also available to coach Chipko when she’s home as well as on the road. Their first time working together was Thunderbird in early June and the results were commendable, including Ekina and Tammy Chipko winning the 7 Year old Maplebrook Challenge. Julianna Ball earning Reserve Champion in 1.20 Junior/Amateur Division and Ann going double clean on Santanita LS.
Along with teaching and training, Vinton and Ann are taking time to become familiar with the area. By attending the summer shows, sponsoring locally, as well as planning educational clinics, Equestrian Performance is creating a winning formula from the ground up.
The Book of Vinton
Unlike many pros in the niche, Vinton didn’t begin his career as a youngster on ponies. He started riding as a teenager, after two years of going to the barn with his sister when she took lessons. From Reno, Nevada, Vinton rode with Julie Winkel at Maplewood Stables during his junior years, garnering a lot of knowledge in a short time. Competing in the Big Eq and at Young Riders in his final junior year, he won Team Silver at NAJYRC on his way to college. Fully committed, he chose a school close to Hunterdon, so he could ride with George Morris and then later was a working student for Anne Kursinski.
“Honestly, I struggled with George. It was difficult for me. But I did take away a lot of knowledge,” he explained. “I learned a lot about teaching, the business overall, care of horses, Hunterdon was so professional and pristine. Then for Anne I rode all the top horses, Cannon Ball, Starman, Top Seed and helped her keep them fit.”
When Vinton ventured off on his own, he got a bit burnt out and decided it was time to pursue another interest. The decision led him to SeaWorld in San Diego, and his future in clicker training. Fascinated with how this method of training worked, Vinton met SeaWorld trainer, Shawna Corrin, and together they created On Target Training.
An interesting opportunity arose when Vinton told his friend John Madden about On Target – Madden wanted them to come to Syracuse and try this new method on their horses. At the time Beezie’s grand prix horse Judgement wouldn’t jump water. Using the On Target clicker training, Judgement went on to win the Jumper Derby at Spruce Meadows, a class that had five different water elements. This was just one of many triumphs. And to this day Vinton and Ann use clicker training on every horse.
The span of experience doesn’t end there. Vinton’s next chapter was working with Blenheim EquiSports. From Olympic qualifiers to CSI4* events, he helped in the show office, with VIP, essentially wherever he was needed, which, again, was a tremendous learning experience.
Clicker training once again led him back to the barn, this time helping a horse that didn’t like the walker. Once back in the saddle, he ended up working full time with EquiSports International, met Ann and as a couple they started to work with Coral Reef Ranch.
Unlike Vinton, Ann grew up on horses. Her family owned a barn in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Ann’s horse story began at a young age. “I was obsessed. As soon as I could walk, I would spend hours leading Carl, the school horse, around the barn. My mom would tell me he needed to eat, so when I put him away I would watch him eat every morning and evening.”
Ann’s first pony was a half-arab whom she taught to jump. The horses and ponies she and her brothers rode were all from the pastures around Salt Lake, not imports from Europe. She gained a ton of miles riding and working with all types of mounts. And along the way they developed and sold several ‘A’ circuit horses.
“I’m so grateful for my upbringing. My parents were supportive, they always kept me riding, even if it created hardship. We did everything on the horses as kids – we trail rode, played games – the freedom to just be a horse kid was remarkable,” Ann noted.
As a teenager, Ann wanted a change from the show ring and went to the racetrack, which led her to California. Truly with horses during most hours she was awake, she would work at the track from 3 a.m – 7 a.m. at track, and then got a ‘day’ job riding for Mike Edrick.
For the next handful of years she split her time between two worlds, hunter-jumper and racing. Her work with private clients began at Blenheim Farms where she helped Cassandra Karazissis with Katie Brandes and her horses. That is where Ann and Vinton became friends, as he was also working at Blenheim Farms.
The racetrack education taught Ann quite a bit about care and riding. “I learned it is really all about the legs. The importance of soundness and good feet. Taking care of the horses from the hoof up made a lot of sense to me. Legs and going forward were my two take aways. You had to be ok with going very forward!”
The Last Decade
From developing horses for top International Events, to competing at FEI World Cup Finals to teaching a child from the lunge line to the show ring to winning medal finals and managing the entire program, Vinton and Ann worked tirelessly for Coral Reef Ranch.
Vinton noted that the experience was rewarding on many levels. “For me it was an opportunity to prove that we could excel in every area we approached. We created the program, developed the horses, managed every detail. And I did a lot sport psychology work there. Honestly that was a huge take away, I had to learn about the psychology in order to realize my potential. I look forward to sharing that knowledge.”
“It was all about the horses, each of them were treated as an individual. It was an amazing experience. I got the bug for showing again and took some young horses to the grand prix level. When I came to Coral Reef, we started Genevieve on a lunge line, then to the pony rings, to horses, it was a successful journey,” Ann said.
She continued, “I learned about the value of a program and a horse being in a program. How important each step of the process in training a horse and a rider. Each step ties in and makes you a well-rounded rider, competitor and person. The process helps you deal with horses and with life.”
Bringing this interesting collection of equine and equestrian experience is not only unique but part of the Equestrian Performance vision. With education playing an important role, Vinton and Ann plan on hosting clinics with professionals such as the Maddens, for clicker training and in sports psychology. They’ve ‘written’ a variety of chapters individually and now together, both Vinton and Ann look at their future in the Northwest as an open book.
From The Competitive Equestrian, July/August 2016 Issue