10 Questions with Rising Star Dakota Philibert


Dakota Philibert. PC: Paulina Soto

Dakota Philibert is as well-traveled as she is hungry to succeed in the ring. Having trained and shown in New Zealand, Mexico, and the United States, Dakota has big plans for her future in show jumping, and has kindly invited us in for a personal look at her string, her experiences, and her intense regimen that has made her a rising star in the sport.

JN: How did you get started in riding? Does your family ride?

DP: I have wanted to ride since before I can remember, so when we finally settled in Los Angeles at the age of 8, my mom and Dad finally allowed me riding lessons. Those first lessons and experiences sparked a passion for horses and everything to do with riding. My mom rode and jumped in France and Switzerland when she was younger and so were many relatives on her side of the family. My dad loves horses and likes to trail ride a couple of times per week.

JN: What are your major accomplishments in the ring?

DP: A favorite memory, and a major accomplishment in the ring, happened while I was in New Zealand and I, aboard my mare Velvet, placed first in a 6-year-old age class. It just proved that our major flatwork overhaul was having its affect. Together, we placed second in the Amateur of the Year class at NZ’s Horse of the Year Show.  I also won the overall championship in 1.20m division in Mexico only three months after arriving with Velvet from New Zealand.

Another major accomplishment, though it doesn’t involve the show ring, is breaking a three-year old stallion at our club in Mexico. It has been an amazing and enlightening experience working with a horse from scratch who didn’t even want to be touched to getting on him and riding him.

JN: What are your ultimate goals in the field? What shows would you love to ride at? 

DP: My ultimate goal is to compete in Grand Prix and World Cup classes. I would also love to have a string of young horses that I can bring up through the ranks. I have always been interested in young horse development. As of right now, I am absorbing as much of the horse industry as I can.

I would also love to show at the American Gold Cup and at Spruce Meadows.  They are two shows that attract the best of the best, and I hope to one day join them.


Suki Armendariz Photography

JN: Tell us about your current string.

DP: My “queen” is a 16-hand pocket-rocket of a mare named Velvet NZPH (New Zealand Performance Horse). We have been showing up to 1.30m in Mexico. I came across her while I was working in a sales barn in New Zealand, and thought she was a dream. I bought her with my parents’ help and we showed in the six-year-old division until it was time to come home to Mexico. She is a quick learner and a huge love-bug.

My family and I also just bought another NZPH horse, Bingo NZPH.  She is a 6-year-old Untouchable M mare that has shown impressive jumping potential while showing in the 5 year old classes in New Zealand.  I have very high expectations of her in both the Mexican and American show rings as she seems to have even more talent than my dear Velvet NZPH.

I also have a horse coming from France. She is a beautiful four-year-old Selle Francais mare (Kannan x Quidam de Revel) with amazing potential and incredible jumping ability. She is close to 17 hands with the personality of a puppy. I look forward to continuing her training after her year-long pasture vacation.

JN: What is your training regimen? Give us a day in the life of Dakota.

DP: I am up very early as we have several dogs at home and I help them get their day started.  I then get to the barn around 7:30 and begin checking on my horses and gear.  I like to give my horses a nice long walk warm-up with different exercises to loosen up and relax, especially on Tuesdays after their day off.

Dakota and Velvet schooling at Club Hipico Real del Mar in Tijuana, Mexico. PC: Catherine Philibert

Dakota and Velvet schooling at Club Hipico Real del Mar in Tijuana, Mexico. PC: Catherine Philibert


I ride them for 30 minutes to an hour each, depending on the horse.  Often times I plan their exercise routines with our trainer, and we jointly design different courses depending on what areas of training need to be addressed on a particular day. I only jump my horses two to three times a week and usually only jumping above their competition height once a week.

Once I am done with the day’s work, all of my horses get the necessary attention and after-work care they need, including icing their legs, checking tendons and musculature, and making sure they are put away in the best condition possible. Let’s not forget the end of the day: Cleaning of the tack and boots!

I wrap my day up back at home where I try to do 20-30 minutes of yoga before showering and having dinner with my parents, after which we love to sit together with our dogs and watch TV.  It’s the best way to unwind, on a big couch with a fire in the fireplace, our dogs, and a good movie!

JN: How did you end up riding and training in Mexico, and is it your long term goal to operate a business from there?

DP: My parents moved to Mexico about five years ago, and two years later they took over a riding club just outside of Tijuana where I had ridden at previously by chance, Club Hipico Real Del Mar. When I was ready to come home from New Zealand with Velvet, it was only natural to come home to Tijuana to train and show throughout the northern part of Mexico.  However, I’m not sure if it will be best for me to operate out of Mexico or if I should have my own facility back in the U.S.  I think business opportunities will dictate that decision for me.

JN: Who have you/do you train with, and what about their methods and philosophies resonates with you?

DP: Jill Beltran was my first hunter/jumper trainer in Fallbrook, California and she really taught me how to be disciplined not only in my equitation but in thinking about how each choice in riding will affect the rest of the ride. We did a lot of no-stirrup work! My pony used to bully me around and Jill taught me in a way that allowed my self-confidence to build and ultimately bring the pony’s reign of terror to an end.

After Jill came Joe Lombardo when I was in my teens.  He helped me step up into the larger jumper classes. He brought a great deal of jumping technique to my riding. If I did not do it right at the beginning with the first jump in the course, I would have to start over. This focus on technique has really prepared me for all the possibilities that can occur out in the ring.

I had the good fortune of meeting Linda Allen at a clinic two years ago in Mexico and have since attended two more clinics with her.  She has a great philosophy which emphasizes listening to your horse and they will speak to you. She has great insight into the training of young horses, and it has really helped me with my young horses, something I am very interested in.

I have attended the Young Horse Trainer School at Maplewood in Reno, Nevada twice.  I was lucky to work with not only Linda but also Julie and Kevin Winkel and Jose Alejos. I learned a lot of great methods on how to handle young horses, from breaking them to trailer loading to introducing new jumps and everything in-between.

Young Horse Trainers School 2017 at Maplewood (three-year-old Fiona's third ride ever!) PC: Julie Winkel

Young Horse Trainers School 2017 at Maplewood (three-year-old Fiona’s third ride ever!) PC: Julie Winkel

Octavio Cortez is my trainer in Tijuana and he has the ability to be incredibly soft with the horses and still get his message across.

Lastly, I have started training with Chris Kappler, and in a short time, I have seen my mare and I improve tremendously under his expertise. He emphasizes the importance of when to move forward with the horse and when to wait patiently, especially in front of the jumps.  I only have two weeks of Chris’s training under my belt but I cannot wait to see the improvements after a month or more!  I consider myself very lucky to be there.

JN: If you could take any horse – dead, alive or fictitious – for a test ride, who would it be?

DP: There are so many I would love to test ride!!  I would love to take Penelope Leprevost’s Flora de Mariposa for a test ride. I think she is a beautifully athletic mare with lots of personality. I also would not mind taking Azur HH for a spin as well. She is such a spectacular mare with so much ease and power when jumping. I do love a great mare! Jappeloup would also make for a fun ride!!! Small and mighty!!

JN: What are you immediate plans for winter/spring show circuits?

DP: I will be in Wellington, Florida to train with Chris Kappler and his team for the winter. I feel very lucky to have that opportunity.  I have never attended the Winter Equestrian Festival, let alone the East Coast shows, so I am very excited for this experience.

After that, my plans are still fluid, as I am only bringing Velvet to WEF and leaving Cibelle and Bingo NZPH at home. I also hope to pick up in Mexico after my time in Florida at our normal riding circuit and score some wins with Bingo NZPH before the end of 2017.

JN: Thank you so much for chatting with us, Dakota! Do you have social media accounts where people can follow you? 

DP: Yes, you can find me on Facebook and Instagram.