Copyright © Sonnenhof Equestrian Center
Kirsten Gray has been a true inspiration to me. When we started working together, I did not know if my horse could be brought back to a good place in his muscling and attitude. A month in, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Through specific exercises with consistent daily work -- given to me as homework at our weekly lessons -- we felt a noticeable difference. Kirsten has constant connection with the vet as well. Comments from the vet, the saddle-fitter and peers along the way have been exciting.
Simultaneously, Kirsten works very hard on my riding and confidence. A great start was group yoga sessions at Gray Friesian Farm on Saturdays, which I now practice daily. My mental and physical strength is increasing and I have much more mobility and far less tension and fear. My way of thinking / old habits and muscle-memory are fading.
Through it all – this has been a remarkable experience. Rehabilitation riding by Kirsten and Jannike Gray, weekly lessons, expert advice, encouragement and care from the entire Gray Friesian Farm staff have been the ingredients to our success.
As Kirsten says: Dressage is for the horse -- not the horse for dressage. And only the horse will tell us when and how far we can go. I'm a believer.
-- K.H., Westport, CT
"I have been riding at Gray Friesian Farm for over 7 years. What I love most about GFF is the family aspect. Every horse and rider are treated with respect and kindness. I have been riding for over 20 years...thus having experience with A LOT of instructors. When I look for a good trainer I have a long list of expectations and Kirsten and her team meet them all! GFF is a wonderful learning center with emphasis on improving communication between horse and rider. They also offer a large variety of special clinicians and classes to help you develop your equestrian skills. It is a privilege to be a part of such a fantastic farm!"
--- A. G. P., Trumbull, CT
About a year ago I started looking for a stable that offered the chance to learn about horses in an unpretentious and supportive environment. Two people who had been in the business for years told me to go to Gray Friesian Farm. I was told Kirsten Gray knew how to come to the level of the student to help them in bettering their skills. One year later I can say I have consistently found the environment to be supportive and the instructors to be encouraging of my growth as a rider. This is done with clear and creative instruction as well as a good sense of humor. It very much feels as if we are all, each at our own level, trying to understand how to simply work with and, most of all, enjoy horses.
---B.N., Wilton, CT
Gray Friesian Farm is a unique blend of friendly, caring and competent people. I think of Kirstin and her team in terms of:
H - Happy and honest: Everyone at the barn greets each other with a big smile and "hello." My two daughters and I always enjoy going to the barn even if we are not riding. Kirstin is also very honest. If there are times when you need her to ride your horse, give supplements or other care, you can be sure she will do what she says based on your agreement.
O - Organized and opportunities: The barn and grounds are always clean and neat. All the staff and boarders work together to keep things straightened out and put away. There are also so many opportunities to advance your skill. Because Kirstin has so many connections and is respected in the community, she gets top riders and judges to give clinics at the barn. It is wonderful to get new perspectives on what my horse and I need to work on to get better.
R - Respectful, reliable, responsible: Kirstin and her staff are respectful of everyone's needs and goals. If you just want to have fun - go for it. She will design the lesson to be fun. If you are getting ready for a show, she will help you break down your test into manageable parts so you can work on them by yourself as well as in the lesson. She is also amazingly reliable. I have never experienced a no-show at GFF. If Kirstin says she will doing something - she does it. This is true in terms of horse care. Kirstin has been invaluable in terms of taking care of my horse and pony. She knows so much about horses that I frequently just need to ask her if I have a concern and she will know the answer. I know that when I go on vacation or away that my horses will be well taken care of.
S - Safe: One of the things I missed at previous barns was the emphasis on safety. At GFF safety is one of the most important goals. I am confident that I wont be asked to do anything I cant handle. I am also comfortable leaving my children at GFF to ride. I know that they will be safe in the riding ring as well as in the barn. The barn is safe also in terms of our horses. They are kept in clean, safe paddocks and stalls. I never worry about their well-being.
E - Empathetic: Because Kirstin and her staff all ride they completely know where I am coming from. If it is a cold day, she knows that my hips might be a little more tight and can help me work through it. She also can tell if I am having a hard day and need a pick me up kind of ride. She is very in touch with my feelings and body language. WE frequently joke about my lessons being the cheapest therapy around!
If you are looking for talented trainers, a beautiful facility and fun place to learn, GFF is the place to go!
---J.B., Easton, CT
Gray Friesian Farm is a shining gem in Easton. Kirsten and her daughter Jannike are highly skilled dressage riders, who are knowledgeable in teaching riders of any age, and many adults.
Kirsten has trained in Europe under some of the best riders in more than one discipline. Jannike has gone all the way to the Kentucky Horse Park with her skills. But if you think that dressage is too elitist, you should come and visit this harmonious farm. It will win you over!
Kirsten has a wonderful, friendly approach to her clients. She offers them many opportunities to learn and improve their balance in the seat, no matter what disipline they prefer. Her horses take good care of the riders, and the Friesians are used for vaulting on the weekends. She has a keen balance of respect for the rider and as well as her horses for their best behaviour. The facility offers two outddoor dressage rings, one which can be lit at night, one is used for jumping if you so desire, and an indoor ring to allow for year round riding. Notable clinicians and trainers have come as guests to offer instruction appropriate for any level of riding. There are stalls and outdoor paddocks for boarding. I started as a novice a few years ago and have learned so much, not only in riding, but also in horse care and management. If you'd like to broaden your horizons or just need a place to escape your everyday worries, come talk to Kirsten. She will get you started right away!
---J.F., Norwalk, CT
I love GFF! I have become a much better and confident rider in the last year due to their teaching. I even started showing again with the GFF team! I am especially pleased with the care of my horses while boarding at GFF. The employees are attentive and gentle with the horses and do an exceptional job with mucking, blanketing....etc. It really is a warm and friendly environment, while being serious about making us accomplished riders! ( I just wish I lived closer...)
---- M.S., Ridgefield, CT
I started taking lessons at GFF about a year ago and have enjoyed my time there greatly! I have been looking to learn how to build communication and a relationship with horses and I feel GFF is a great place to learn that because their horses are part of the family.Taking lessons there has really helped me build my confidence and has even motivated me to be healthier so I can be a better rider. Many thanks to Kirsten and her family for making it such a wonderful place to learn about horses and riding. My only negative comment is that I live too far away!!
--- C.K., Westchester County
Its mane in the wind,
Its tail starts to fly
And when it turns around
and looks at me
my heart leaps off the earth,
to see the Friesian.
-- M.C., Redding, CT
"I'm so glad I discovered Gray Friesian Farm. I've been riding for many years, and have worked with lots of trainers, but I've learned so much from Kirsten. She's brilliant at solving the problems that I've developed over the years, with meaningful instruction and illustration. I feel like my riding's improved tremendously!"
-- K.R., Shelton, CT
"As a child, I rode competitively for years and learned everything I could about winning -- but nothing about the horse. I was never taught "horsemanship" or the psychology of the horse. I had started riding as a kid because I loved my horse, but quit because that relationship was never nurtured and the sport became meaningless. When my husband and I rescued several PMU foals, Kirsten's patient training, keen eye, and thoughtful approach to us both (horses and humans) rekindled what was so exciting to me as a child: the amazing bond between horse and rider. She has helped us get our wild yearlings under saddle, taught our entire family (grownups and children) to ride with confidence and respect, and enriched our lives by opening up our world to a life with horses again! We love Gray Friesian Farm!"
-- The D. Family, Fairfield, CT
"I have been riding for over 17 years...thus having experience with A LOT of trainers. When I look for a good trainer I have a long list of expectations and Kirsten meets them all! What I love most about Gray Friesian Farm is the family aspect. Every horse and rider are treated with tender love and care. Gray Friesian Farm is a wonderful learning center with the basis of improving communication between horse and rider. It is a privilege to be a part of such a fantastic environment!"
-- A.G., Norwalk, CT
"I was referred to Kirsten after a major riding accident on my young filly, to help me decide whether or not we were a fit. Kirsten has been one of the most therapeutic people in my life, allowing me to conquer my sudden developed fear of my filly, and give me back to love of horses that was in question. The most important thing was that I was able to feel safe, and gain proper control through the use of proper aids. Before, my filly was 4 when we began working together, and it was truly Kirsten's spirit and belief in the horse that persuaded me to keep the faith and work under her, over two years now. Kirsten teaches dressage which basically means movement, correct safe movement, which I now believe is essential for anyone mounting a horse. She teaches with a firm balance of the proper riding technique, fundamentally keeping her riders safe, and horses happy. She has an amazing teaching style, and can drive her point across with a multitude of techniques. As long as I own a horse, I will always be involved with Kirsten, for she is the quintessential riding instructor, who always puts safety first, and with myself becoming a new mom, is important to. I am looking forward for my daughter to take a few steps, and then mount a horse under her."
-- L.T., Newtown, CT
"Before the girls first started riding at GFF, they were riding at another barn every other weekend. We started riding at GFF on the free weekends. After two rides at GFF, the girls refused to go back to the other barn. They would rather have no riding lesson that weekend than to have to go anywhere but GFF."
--The C. Family, Redding, CT
I began riding at Gray Friesian Farm in June of 2008. After three previous years of riding as a beginner at three other barns with five different trainers who all claimed to be teaching me the principles of Dresssage I impulsively drove up to GFF unannounced to inquire about their methodology and philosophy of teaching the art of Dressage riding. My motivation for looking at GFF was total personal frustration with the status of my riding. In short, I was spending a lot of time, money and energy; instinctively I knew that I was not progressing in my riding or in my knowledge of horses. Safety had also been an issue relative to the quality of the school horses which forced me to eventually lease a horse.
It was then that I met Kirsten Gray the owner and primary trainer at GFF who very graciously explained her teaching methods and philosophy of riding. I was very impressed with her positive attitude, her knowledge and most of all her obvious love for her horses. I immediately signed up for a couple of lessons a week with a wonderful horse named Oso. I quickly learned that I knew nothing about Dressage and that I had to go back to the basics in order to develop an independent seat and the balance necessary for this sport.
Choosing GFF and their awesome high level trainers was the best decision I ever made. I purchased a beautiful five year old Morgan mare in November of 2008 and I have been training her to become a Dressage horse up to this point in time. Treasure and I are progressing well and we are becoming a real team! We never could have done it without the expertise and the love and caring of Kirsten Gray in addition to the rest of the staff at GFF. I am so grateful to all of them. Treasure also loves the beautiful environment in which she lives, as well as the incredible care that she gets from all of the staff. I never have to worry about her!! Kirsten also said to me early on that she was going to make a "horsewoman" out of me and that she has done. Thank you Kirsten!
-- J.G., Easton, CT
I came to GFF after riding at several barns. Being new to the horse world and a new adult rider I thought the other barns were just how things were. However, at GFF I found a new standard of care, teaching and community I did not know existed. The first thing I noticed was how well everything was clean, organized and just beautiful. The facility is immaculate! They actually do turn the horses out every day in the spring in those huge open fields. The horses health and everyone’s safety comes first-even if that means postponing a lesson.
The next thing I noticed was the knowledge level of Mrs. Gray and her staff. She really knows horses, their health and how to train them. I have learned so much. Lessons were also different. I had been trained in the hunter/jumper seat but never felt balanced (which was confirmed by my 12 falls!). Mrs. Gray started with the basics and we she actually explained WHY I was doing things. I have not had one fall! Her passion for riding comes out in so many ways. I think she gets more excited when I get something right than I do at times. However, she is very kind and explains things when I need to make changes. This was very important to me since I had literally been screamed at by trainers. The community is just amazing. People are there to have fun, respect each other and the horses. I tell people there is actually no drama!
In addition, I board a horse and pony at GFF. Mrs. Gray has helped our family train the horses so they build muscle, balance, and respond to leg aids (versus smacking with a crop and kicking as I had been trained). The horses have responded by showing us their fun, silly sassy and affectionate personalities.
As a mother of two children that ride I was ecstatic at the child friendliness of the teaching and focus on safety. My girls have learned so much about horses, their care, how to ride with their seat and understand why their pony does what it does at any level of skill, any age, and for the care of their horses. With this kind of training my youngest, who is 6, has gone to other barns for camps and everyone comments on what a great seat she has. She has learned the basics of dressage but can also apply all these skills to jumping.
I highly recommend GFF.
--J.B., Easton, CT