California Riding Magazine • November, 2008

On Course with Zazou
Working student life on the East Cost
is off to a great start

by Zazou Hoffman

You may be wondering how things are going for me? So far, so good. My online AP classes are tough, but fair. It is extremely helpful to be able to do the work when I have time. The distance learning teachers are very understanding when they do not hear from me for a few days and I always let them know in advance when I go to a competition or medal final.

As of this column’s writing I have completed the Zone 1 Regional Maclay and placed second on Missy Clark’s very talented equitation horse, Ivy. This is only the second competition that I have ridden him in but you can get an idea of his adjustability from a YouTube video of my lesson with Missy by going to: and search Zazou Hoffman.

The Zone 1 Maclay regional had a very large field of 76 riders and Ivy and I gave a very precise ride to every fence and moved up in a tough work-off. We also won the Junior Medal. Tomorrow is the first day of the East Coast USEF Talent Search in Gladstone, NJ. I will ride Cat Woman. Wish me luck!


Zazou at Gladstone for the USEF Talent Search East.
Photo: Fred Hoffman

This column has prompted a lot of questions from young riders about what life is like as a working student and what it’s like to compete on the East Coast. I am going to try to answer some of the questions here:

What is it like to work with Missy Clark? What is she like?
She is a little intimidating at first, and strict, but kind. Her standards are very, very high. She loves animals and her knowledge of every facet of equitation is unparalleled. Missy gives her students the tools to build up to the jumper ring. Hillary Dobbs is a perfect example. Missy gave her the foundation to enter the highest level of competitive show jumping. In the short span of two years she went from the Junior Jumpers and equitation ring to riding on the Nation’s Cup team and being the youngest rider ever to win the $200,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix, all under Missy Clark and John Brennan’s careful tutelage. Each of Hillary’s talented horses has been hand selected by Missy and John.

What is your day like at Northrun, Missy’s farm in Vermont?
I wake up, put on my breeches, eat breakfast, make myself a sack lunch and go to the barn, where I help clean the stalls and feed. I look at the board to see which horses I have been assigned to ride and start to help tack them up. Some days we have jumping lessons, some days we just flat, or hand walk horses. I volunteer to help the vet and farrier, who are frequent visitors because, at any given time, we have 45 to 60 horses in our care. I also help with course setting, tack cleaning and horse laundry. Missy often puts me on new horses when they arrive to be evaluated.

Where do you live?
I live in a very modern apartment above the barn. There is a state-of the-art indoor ring as well as a large outdoor. There are several apartments for staff as well as a house for the farm manager. The apartment has a kitchen and living room and I share it with Brianney, a working student from England.

What is it like not to go to school?
It has its pluses and minuses. I have to be extremely disciplined in order to allocate the proper amount of time for my online schoolwork. What I am doing is not for everyone. If you are easily distracted or a procrastinator, you would have a big problem because the work would pile up and become overwhelming. On the other hand I do not have the anxiety of explaining to my teachers every week why I am absent or leaving school early.

Do you miss your friends?
Yes and I miss my family and my Pomeranian, Aunt Blanche, too. With the Internet and my iPhone I can very easily stay in touch with everyone.

What was the most important experience, riding wise, to prepare you for the medal finals?
There has been no one experience. It has been a progression. Riding against the top junior riders in the U.S. and riding many different horses have been key. Having great riders like Julie Welles, Kimmy and her sister Kristy McCormack (Missy’s assistant trainer) to work with has helped too. And learning how to deal with the disappointment of not winning: that’s a big part of the mental side
of competing.

Who is your favorite Equitation horse that you have ridden. Why?
Ivy is my favorite at the moment. He has some go, but he is adjustable. He’s the consummate pro.

Was the Ronnie Mutch Working Student Scholarship helpful? Why?
Yes, because it got me to the Winter Equestrian Festival and Wellington, FL, where I had a chance to work with Missy Clark and John Brennan. Without the scholarship, I would never have made the move out of local showing. Here is the web address for information on this scholarship:
The deadline for submitting applications is Jan. 9, 2009. Please try to get your videos in early.

Who is your favorite Grand Prix rider and why?
Kathy Kusner is on my list of living legends. She possesses grace under pressure and I am in awe of her generosity. I am always trying to learn from Julie Welles and Hillary Dobbs.