California Riding Magazine • November, 2009

On Course with Zazou
The North East Maclay Regionals

by Zazou Hoffman

Hi Everyone! I have a minute between AP Econ and AP Stats homework, so I’ll fill you in on what I’ve been doing competition-wise. I was brave and fortune favored me. The North East Maclay Regionals took place last month at the Westbrook Hunt Club. There were 80 competitors and it took nearly the whole day.

This is an excruciating final. I rarely get nervous when I compete. I watched as rider after rider demolished the course. I wasn’t concerned because I knew Ivy would ride boldly towards all the jumps. It was only as I walked into the ring that it struck me that this is different than the other Equitation rounds because, if you blow it here, you Don’t Get To Go to the Syracuse Final. This almost happened to me two years ago, but that’s another story.

Moreover it is my last year as a junior rider. Into the ring I went, step-step. Deep breath. Relax. Ivy was perfect (per usual) and won every class we did except for the Maclay warm-up. We won the Zone One Medal Finals, the Regional Junior Medal Finals and the Northeast Maclay Regional Finals as well as being champion in the Junior Hunters. Ivy felt great and seemed happy to be back showing indoors. There was some buzz about the course being overly difficult for the Regionals, but really I was surprised by the generally poor quality of riding in the class. It was the long gallop to the bounce that got most of the riders. The top 15 finishers definitely all had good rounds, but from there it went downhill.

Surprisingly there was no test for the class other than the flat phase, but the Regional Junior Medal, which was held the night before, had a test in which they made the top four switch horses. I got the luxury of switching onto Sundance while Taylor Harris, my barnmate from California, rode Ivy. Sundance was a lot of fun to ride and we stayed in our leading position!! Unfortunately, Taylor ran into some minor problems with Ivy and moved from second to fourth. Taylor did place second in the Maclay Regional so it turned out to be a very good day for our stable North Run.

Me unwinding - Junior year is coming to an end.

There were 36 in the California Regional Maclay at the Oaks. I point this out because the experience of riding in a covered arena against the most accomplished riders most closely mimics the indoor Finals. At Harrisburg, the location of the USEF Pessoa Hunt Seat Equitation Final, the number of competitors averages 200-plus. I am not trying to say that East Coast riders are better riders, but learning to be patient, remaining calm, and pacing yourself for long days of horse showing are valuable lessons in preparation.

In an article entitled Helping Athletes Handle High Pressure Situations, my trainer Missy Clark wrote, “The equestrians who are most able to cope with the sport’s pressure understand the importance of experience. They’re also open to improving their ‘mental game’.”

I also competed on a mystery horse at this competition. He is a newer horse of Missy’s that does the Equitation but played Junior Hunter as a practice/back-up horse for me for the weekend. He is a very goofy looking guy that has a tendency to stop dead and do a bucking bronco style buck in the corners. He also does not lunge but instead stops, bucks and then turns and strikes at you. As you can tell I had tons of fun dealing with this absolute sweetheart for the weekend, haha.

As much of a jerk as he is, he was actually very well behaved and we all came away from the weekend unscathed.

We (the whole North Run barn) are back at the farm and losing staff members by the day. Two of our foreign grooms (one from Mexico and one from Ireland) have gone back to get their papers straightened out because Missy was granted five work visas. We are all very excited that these grooms will return soon, but unfortunately it means we are way down on staff at the moment.

Everyone has to pitch in. I have taken on a full grooming position of caring for four horses while riding a minimum of five horses a day. So I am busy-busy instead of having a nice relaxing week before the USET Talent Search Finals East at Gladstone, NJ. A little work never killed anyone so it will all work out. Normally the horse shows are the time when I have to work the hardest but at this point it looks like the shows are more of a break than being at the farm!

As I write this the USET Finals are next week (Oct. 2-4) and I am looking forward to that. I think I am going to show Catwoman but Missy mentioned a few other options that we are going to test out this weekend.

As a postscript, I’ve been riding for several years now in a wonderful CWD saddle provided courtesy of the saddle maker because they sponsor Missy Clark and our barn. I am convinced that the clever design of my saddle has aided my position tremendously and I am grateful to have the privilege of riding in their tack.