Perhaps L.J. Banks’ positive attitude is the residual effect of growing up in one of the most beautiful states in the union, or maybe it’s just his personality. Either way, L.J.’s optimistic outlook has helped him do very well in California.
L.J. Banks was born and raised in Hawaii, and started riding dressage there. In 1996, L.J. imported the Dutch Warmblood gelding Amadeus from Holland. Amadeus was 3, and had only 90 days under saddle when he came to Hawaii. L.J. recognized a great deal of talent in the bay gelding, and determined that if he could successfully train Amadeus to F.E.I. level, he would move to California in search of more serious training and competition.
Amadeus’ potential blossomed, and L.J. made the move in 2001. He spent his first five years in California at Hilda Gurney’s Keenridge in Moorpark, riding under Hilda’s instruction, as well as running his own training business. In October of 2006, L.J. moved his training barn to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.
L.J. describes his training barn as a place where there is something for every equestrian. “Everyone is dedicated to becoming the best that they can be, whether that is a top amateur competitor or a very competent pleasure rider.” L.J. points out that he is fortunate to have clientele who are supportive of each other and interested in each other’s success. “The moral support is definitely there,” he says.
The trainer’s positive attitude and optimistic tone are evident in every conversation. L.J. has good reason to be optimistic. He has achieved many of the goals he has set for himself, including earning his USDF gold medal last year, and he has had a very successful year with Amadeus, his current Grand Prix mount. In October, L.J. and Amadeus won the USDF Region 7 Grand Prix championship with a 64.06 percent in Woodside.
L.J. recalls with a laugh that the ride was surprisingly great for how unexpectedly terrible the weather was during the show: heavy downpour and bitter wind. “I remember thinking, ‘He feels really good! When is this rain going to distract him the way it’s distracting me?’ And maybe that was it; I stayed out of his way and let him do his thing.” L.J. credits part of his and Amadeus’ success to four months of training with Steffen Peters. “I now have no self-doubt about getting through a solid Grand Prix.” This coming year, L.J.’s goal with Amadeus is to be long listed for Gladstone.
L.J.’s career has not been without its challenges, primarily the diagnosis of a brain tumor many years ago. L.J. suddenly found certain activities became difficult, and his sense of balance slightly compromised. Fortunately, L.J. has been in full remission for several years. While undoubtedly a hardship, L.J. is reluctant to dwell on his setbacks, and instead focuses on what he has learned.
He’s a silver-lining seer. “I’m a much more patient and understanding teacher now. It makes you understand that everyone has their own limitations, and while you still want to push yourself and your students, becoming frustrated doesn’t accomplish anything.”
L.J.’s positive attitude has helped him earn a reputation as a teacher who puts great effort into helping his students gain a true understanding of dressage. “I try to really articulate what it is I’m teaching. I don’t just say, ‘Oh, more forward.’ I explain what they really need to do to get the horse forward and going strong, and make sure they understand how to do so.” L.J. emphasizes that his students are already very self-motivated, and that many have long term goals they are working toward. “My job is to help them define their short-term goals for the year, so that those long-term goals become attainable.”
It’s not surprising that L.J.’s clientele is so self- directed. Being self-motivated is largely how L.J. has achieved success. L.J. mentions that it’s a satisfying feeling to have been Amadeus’ primary trainer. “I’ve had some help here and there, but it feels good to say I can take credit for him. The mistakes, yes, but also all the achievements.”
He is quick to add that dressage is more a team sport than it is usually considered. L.J. says there is a skilled team of veterinarians, farriers, chiropractors and grooms behind his barn of successful horses.
For more information on L.J. Banks Dressage, please call 818-749-5363.