California Riding Magazine • March, 2008

On Course with Zazou
The WCE Medal Final and teaching
horsemanship to the next generation.

by Zazou Hoffman

I came off the indoor medal finals back East, caught my breath for a few days, and geared up for the West Coast Equestrian Medal Final at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. The California Professional Horsemen’s Association runs this terrific final. It is a jumper format competition and we were told in the rider meeting that the judges were looking for effective riding with pace.

I was fortunate enough to be given a very appropriate horse for this event, Clocktower Optimist, owned by the Esse family. I was also lucky enough to get some added help from top Grand Prix rider Richard Spooner, along with his assistant Marla Amormino. With these added factors, I moved my way up through the standings after a little bit of a shaky start.

The WCE really tests the rider’s ability to ride at a much faster pace, but still keep their own style and proper equitation. The first round of this final is set like a normal equitation course, but all time faults, rails and other penalties are deducted from your score.

My first round was one of those rounds that really lacked sparkle, especially from my horse’s feet. We had two rails, which meant that eight points were deducted from our score of 80. This put me in something like the 22nd spot going into Round 2.

I knew I had to step it up from there, so I did. I received a score of 86 in my second round, which was basically a speed course. The judges do not necessarily reward the fastest round but they take your time into consideration when allotting your score. This bumped me up just enough to make it into the final round of the top 15.

No Posers!

The final round is a shortened course, exactly like a jump-off in any regular jumper class would be. I knew at this point that judges wanted to see some form of jumper riding skills. With help from Richard, we made a plan we thought would help bring me to the top because I really had nothing to lose.

I went in and made it happen. I landed off a jump from a very tight turn and my horse was cross cantering. At that point I made the split second decision to let him cross canter and work it out on his own, rather than slow down to fix it. I made this decision knowing that this was a jumper style equitation class because when was the last time you saw a competitive jumper rider slow down in the middle of their jump-off for a lead change?

My decision proved to be the right one when the judges rewarded me with a score of 90. With the 90 added to my previous two scores I was moved to third place behind Tina Dilandri and Elizabeth Dickinson, who both were smooth and consistent all weekend.

The WCE Final is a great final for the people who don’t necessarily have that perfectly smooth equitation horse or maybe only have a jumper. I have done this final twice now (once on a true jumper and this past year on a solid equitation horse) and the judges really seem to reward effective riding as opposed to some of the posed riding I have seen rewarded in the other equitation classes.

Me winning third place in the WCE Medal Final with the highest jump-off score on Clocktower Optimist, owned by Oscany Inc. and the Esse family. I was coached by Maria Amormino and Richard Spooner. LA National, Burbank, CA.

Stymied Student Teacher

Since I am spending more time at home, I have started teaching lessons to some of the pony riders in Sullivan Canyon, where I ride and keep my own horses. Teaching these emerging riders has been a great experience. It is also an opportunity to rethink what I may be doing wrong without even noticing when I ride, as well as a chance to incorporate the bits and pieces I have learned from other trainers, into my own system of training.

Overall I have found these kids to be very impressive. There are a few in particular that I really enjoy teaching and I think they have potential to be the hot pony riders in about a year.

Although I was impressed with their riding, I was slightly less impressed with their horsemanship skills. I think the lack of horsemanship reaches beyond Sullivan Canyon and this group of kids. I believe that it has become an issue with almost all young riders today.

Since I have started teaching we have had multiple lessons on grooming, tacking up, putting your pony away, and basic naming of tack. Even though they had little knowledge prior to these lessons, they learned extremely quickly and, in my opinion, developed sufficient skills for their age. That said, it is very important that all riders have an in-depth knowledge of horsemanship and I would love to see it tested more at horse shows to reward those that do know what they are doing.
Unfortunately, I just learned that the Board of the Sullivan Canyon Preservation Association Riding Ring has voted to forbid me from giving riding lessons, even with an adult trainer present, because I am under 18 and “juniors generally do not have the maturity to handle the responsibilities involved.”

I was already insured by Equisure, the official USEF insurance company and, when I inquired, they said that there is no law prohibiting a minor from teaching riding. The money that I was earning was going to defray show costs and help me to realize my goals. It makes me sad to think that the riding ring where I learned to ride is not joining together to support my ambitions.

I think there is a disconnect in the equestrian job world when it comes to paying jobs for qualified juniors. The George Morris mantra is “pass on the knowledge” and teach ”the next generation to be good horsemen,” yet someone like me is forbidden from doing so. I will be writing further on this subject. Please e-mail me if you know of anyone who has experienced a similar situation.

One of my Christmas gifts, this brightly colored Witney horse blanket,
is ubiquitous on the East Coast, but seldom seen here in California.
At first glance, it looks like a five-foot long Indian blanket with black and
red stripes on a yellow background. On closer examination the color
combination is right off an Hermes scarf racetrack scene.
It turns out that a blanket with this specific color combination is referred
to as a “Newmarket rug,” as in the Newmarket track in England.

The blanket’s amazing history dates back to the 16th Century French
traders who made deals with the Native Americans to trade fur pelts for the
woven blankets. The size of the stripe (called points), and the color of the
blanket represented the number of pelts and other goods to be exchanged.

The blankets were woven on looms in the small English town of Witney.
As the process became mechanized the blankets were known to come from
the Witney of Early’s famous factory. They were prized as wedding gifts and
a pair of Witney horse blankets were made as wedding presents for
Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981.

New Year: New Goals

With the start of the New Year, I have reflected on the past year and begun to formulate goals for 2008. My short-term goals are to continue to compete in the equitation finals, hopefully continuing to move up in the placings, and to compete in the Junior Jumpers and the North American Young Riders Championships (NAYRC). My main long-term goal is to represent the United States in international competition.

I would like to compete in the Junior Jumpers at more competitive horse shows such as: The Oaks, Del Mar, Showpark and HITS Thermal. Competing in these Junior Jumper classes will allow me to qualify for the NAYRC. To this end I applied for the West Coast Active Rider’s Jumper Grant as well as the Equus & Equestrian Sport Foundation Grant.

I will continue to make a point of studying the top Grand Prix riders and their horses, as well as the tack they use. I try to adapt what I learn from my observations to my own riding. I try to be open to new ideas and fluid in my goals. For instance, I would love to go to Spruce Meadows with a WCAR team, but I would also like to be on the Young Rider team. I will weigh the achievability of each knowing that I have a limited budget and one of those goals may be postponed for a year or two. I will seek out sponsorship, but the reality is that I am still very young.
Yes, I am riding well. I still need to become much better known and compete in more high profile competitions. The WCAR Grant would allow me to do this.

I see myself hopefully competing internationally within the next 10 years. I hope to at some point ride for the United States in international competition. I would also like to contribute to the sport in a non-result based way. I would love to be able to give back to less financially fortunate riders like myself to aid them in moving up to the next level in their own riding careers, much like what I need help with right now.