Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 1, 2023 – Before 2023, Morgan Barbancon had only ridden on American soil once — at the 2015 FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas, Nevada. Despite her lack of U.S. experience, Barbancon is no stranger to travel. She was born in Paris, France, to a French father and a Spanish mother. Based in Switzerland at her parents farm for the early stages of her career, she eventually relocated to Germany as a youth rider. After her time in Germany, she began to call The Netherlands home. While in Holland, she rode alongside honored dressage athletes such as Anky van Grunsven, Alex van Silfhout, Andreas Helgstrand, and Ton de Ridder. After 8 years in the Netherlands and one Olympic games under her belt at London 2012, where she represented her maternal country of Spain, Barbancon returned back to Switzerland.
In 2018, Barbancon made the decision to begin riding under her birthplace flag. She made a reappearance to the Olympic stage at the 2020 games in Tokyo, where she was a member of France’s dressage team. Barbancon laid down solid tests at both Olympic games she attended. At only 19-years-old in London, Barbancon piloted her own 14-year-old KWPN stallion, Painted Black, through an impressive Grand Prix that scored 72.751%. In Tokyo, Barbancon competed her own Sir Donnerhall II OLD, finishing in the top half of the class with a 70.543%. After appearing at arguably the most prestigious dressage competition twice, Barbancon says that being 19 at the Olympics was much easier than her return almost 10 years later. “The first time you’re just thinking, ‘wow, I made it, whatever happens happens!’ In Tokyo I definitely felt a little more pressure because I was older and had experience.”
Fast forward to recent years, Barbancon was not sure what her plans going forward entailed. She explained that with so many horses at home, organization can be complicated. This meant that her hopes for a Wellington season seemed far-fetched, until last year. “It has always been a real dream for me to come here,” Barbancon said. “I got lucky at the end of 2022 by selling five horses which emptied our stables, so I said, ‘Let’s go!’” Barbancon arrived in the States just in time for the start of the 2023 show season in Wellington, bringing three Grand Prix horses, an up-and-coming young horse, and two clients.
Soon after her move to Florida, she found herself already in the CDI Grand Prix ring at Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach. Her debut doubled as her first U.S. victories, as well as recording new combination personal bests on each horse. Her partner, self-owned 12-year-old Westfalen gelding Deodoro (Damon Hill x Lauries Crusador), is still somewhat green to the International Grand Prix. A respectable 71.239% in Friday’s Grand Prix resulted in one of many blue ribbons that weekend. Deodoro was acquired by Barbancon soon after he was gelded, leaving him with occasional stallion-like outbursts. After working through his initial behavioral difficulties, the pair made their CDI Small Tour debut in 2019, eventually moving to the Grand Prix in mid-2021. Her own 17-year old KWPN Bolero (Johnson x Vincent) also made an appearance at Jim Brandon, dominating the Grand Prix Freestyle with a 77.175%.
Most recently, Barbancon brought both Bolero and her own 11-year-old KWPN gelding Habana Libre A (Zizi Top x United) to the world-renowned Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington for Week 3’s competition. In the CDI4* Grand Prix class of sixteen combinations, Barbancon took home two of the top five spots, placing fourth on Bolero and fifth on Habana Libre A, each horse scoring over 70%. Under the lights on Friday, January 27, Barbancon and Bolero rode to a podium finish in the CDI4* Grand Prix Freestyle, earning 77.895% and second place. Barbancon was overjoyed with the results, sharing that, “It was [Bolero’s] first time under the lights, so I was a little bit stressed about how he would react but he did really well with it.” She wrapped up the show by winning the CDI4* Grand Prix Special on Habana Libre A with a 74.404%, a new personal best for the pair.
With a passion for competing, Barbancon finds Wellington to be a special location.
“The barns are so close to the show grounds,” she began. “It is not a lot of kilometers for the horses to travel. We can show and show without having to travel thousands of miles.” Another exciting feature in town is the Saturday Night Lights class hosted at Wellington International. Barbancon’s significant other, Belgium’s Jos Verlooy, can often be found there in the International Jumper Arena under the stadium lights. “It is Friday nights for me, Saturday nights for him!” Morgan laughed.
As for her upcoming plans, Barbancon smiled as she said, “We will see what the horses want to do!” With the immense accomplishments she has made only a month into 2023, it is likely she will be seen in the winners circle once again this season.
Though it has not always been smooth sailing, Barbancon has accomplished what many equestrians strive for. Her advice to others was simple but passionately expressed. “Never give up — keep working hard, through whatever comes your way. Believe in your dreams. If you never begin to dream it, you will never be able to do it.”