By Jan Westmark
Olympic show jumper Nona Garson has competed all over the world, but her career with horses began on the farm she still calls home. Nona owns and operates The Ridge in Florida and New Jersey, and moved to The Ridge Farm in New Jersey when she was 5. On her 6th birthday, Nona got a Shetland Pony named Maple Sugar. “My father and sister were both involved in horses, and they started my obsession,” Nona said. “I went into business with my father in the mid-70s with The Ridge at Tewksbury, which still operates out of the original location. Nona and her business partner, George D’Ambrosio, have a long relationship as well. “George was a very successful young rider, and we competed against each other as juniors but were not closely acquainted,” Nona said. “The year I went to the World Championships in 1998, we became business partners and the rest is history.” Nona is quick to say that she loves everything about the sport, including riding, training and teaching clinics. “I now travel all over the country doing clinics, and recently returned from Arizona and Connecticut. I’ve parlayed that knowledge into managing a horse show that caters to the trainers and riders. The focus for us has always been the development of the sport and the participants. From the footing to the number of horses attending, we try to personalize experiences, minimize the chance of injury and provide opportunity to grow.” Sidelines caught up with Nona to find out more about life at The Ridge.
How did The Ridge get its name?
The original Ridge Farm sits on a beautiful mountain ridge overlooking a valley. We branched out to The Ridge at Wellington in Florida and The Ridge Asbury, which is about 20 minutes from the original, and kept the name and brand.
What’s the best thing about The Ridge?
The Ridge is the place where the welfare of the horses comes first. Growing up in the horse business, we’ve become successful in hunter-jumpers and use this info to help riders and horses gain success as well.
What are your goals for the future?
To continue to develop our show series in Florida and New Jersey and teach clinics both in the U.S. and abroad. I’m working toward my USEF “R” judging and FEI course designing licenses as well.
Favorite shows you’ve competed in?
Aachen was the most exciting. I was Leading Lady Rider the last time I was there, and I remember the crowd was huge and very highly educated. The ceremonies at Aachen are beautiful and very unique, and the show has all different disciplines. Dublin was also amazing — loved the cheese races.
Any favorite horse experiences over the years?
Competing all over the world, representing the United States in Olympics and in 23 countries.
Have you had a funny horse moment that still makes you laugh?
I remember during a grand prix class, after watching another rider jump-off I ran to jump on Rhythmical to go next. He didn’t appreciate the abrupt approach and in his typical style tried to bite and kick me at the same time. He was a quirky horse and a total pistol.
What’s your favorite thing about being part of the horse world?
The privilege of being with the horses every day, our amazing partners.
If you weren’t involved with the horse world, what career do you think you would have picked?
Billionaire-ess. Just kidding, but honestly, all I’ve ever done is work with horses and want to be with horses. Maybe a movie star or rock star.
If you had a week off, what would you do?
Go watch young horses free jump at a big breeding farm
Who inspires you?
Carol Hoffman Thompson inspired me a lot as a young rider. I was 13 or 14, riding an impressive open jumper and the owner asked her to ride the horse in the grand prix. Carol responded that the horse should stay with the rider who had done all the work, despite being one of the best riders in America at the time.
What talents do you feel you have?
I’m a great communicator and always was able to work well with difficult horses. I was accurate and consistent enough of a rider to show them the same distance, and have them feel confident.
Do you have a personal motto or catch phrase?
I’ll steal from Winston Churchill: The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.
What three items can usually be found in your refrigerator?
Water, wine, raspberries
What’s your favorite meal?
Stone crab claws
What would be the best gift in the world?
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Teleporting, so I can beam myself everywhere and not be late.
What’s something everyone should try at least once?
How would you like people to remember you?
Friendly, relevant and fun