This week we had the opportunity to catch up with Sarah & Lee Tubman for a Couples of Dressage spotlight! With their combined knowledge about riding and Lee’s judging expertise, they are a match made in heaven. Sarah and Lee have recently made a full-time base in Wellington, Florida, at Donato Farms with their clients and team. Read more to learn more about their relationship, their day-to-day life, and their goals for 2023!
Tell me about your love story!
Sarah: I had gone out for dinner with some friends at a local dive bar, and Lee walked up to the table to say hi, and I had no idea who he was. Of course, he had judged me a million times, but usually, he’s in a suit in a box. After saying hello, I introduced myself. He thought he was cool and said, “oh, I know who you are,” and walked away. That was our first encounter, so he didn’t win over my heart then and there. After living in Wellington for training, he saw on my Facebook that I was in West Palm Beach. He was brave and decided to message me.
Lee: I asked, “what are you doing in Wellington,” and she said she was here for training. So, after a while, I tried to ask her out on the down low, but she didn’t quite get the memo. I had to be more obvious, and I thought she got it, but we could never make a time and day work. After finding a time that fit our schedules, I picked her up at the Wellington Green mall. I went all out for this date; I booked a reservation, and wore a suit and tie. When she stepped out of her car, I have to say I was a bit disappointed with her outfit.
Sarah: I was in my best CDI Jog outfit, and thought we were having dinner as colleagues. We were at dinner for five hours and learned that we actually had a lot in common. The next day I sent him a text thanking him for dinner, and now we’re married and living the dream. I knew he was the one because there are only so many people that will move to another country sporadically and live the crazy horse life with you.
How does it work in the barn having two different perspectives from the horse world?
It works extremely well because we both have the same theories, so we are able to trade students on and off. It’s helpful because we are both looking for the same end result, but sometimes, we have a different way of explaining something or a new exercise to try. It’s definitely a team aspect here. Our students have created Team Tubman, which is an excellent example of our operation. Two heads are much better than one!
How does it work being a judge with Sarah as your wife?
Lee: I have cut back on my judging. I judged for seven years and really enjoyed it, but I had to make a decision. I could either judge a high level competition seven times, which can be exciting, or we can be together 365 days of the year, and every day can be exciting. So that was how I weighed everything out. Even though I cannot judge at Global, I can still judge at other various competitions.
Sarah: It’s exciting for him too, because he had stopped riding for a while and only was judging. Now he is riding, teaching, and taking on more FEI-leveled clients, and hopefully, he will be back in the show ring soon!
Have you ever gone through the judges’ program?
Sarah: He’s my judges’ program! Honestly, I have so much respect for the program and how much money, hours, and time you have to put in. At this point, I don’t have any interest in becoming a judge, but I think it’s extremely educational. I have full access to a judge’s mind, and it’s so interesting even sitting at Global; I’ll ask him what he thinks about each movement which really educates my eye. I ride many young horses, and I’ll be trotting around thinking how this trot is a 9, and he will say that it’s a 7.5! I’m definitely getting my judge’s education, just in a different way. I think it’s a great program if you don’t have easy access, but I’m fortunate to have his expertise.
Do you have any training advice that you both disagree on?
Sarah: Recently, we had a student complete a test, riding the one-tempi’s, and halfway through, the horse stopped changing. She cantered off and didn’t try the changes again. During the test, I said that she needed to try them again and that she should school him through his mistake. Lee was next to me, saying she shouldn’t and that she should canter quietly and not make him even hotter than he already was. I was recording her test, and for the rest of the video, we argued about whether she should try the movement again. Afterward, she came to us and asked what the correct answer was, and we came to a happy medium that if he is cantering quietly, she should try the movement again, and if he is hot, she should not attempt them. If not, then she should not try them.
Thank you, Sarah and Lee, for being our second feature of the Couples of Dressage series! We wish you the best of luck this season!