California Riding Magazine • December, 2009

On Course with Zazou
The North East Maclay Regionals

by Zazou Hoffman

Photos: Jennifer Wood/PMG

(First a few explanations: According to Wikipedia, the “Rashomon Effect” is the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it. It’s really based on a famous Japanese movie, but the plot is too complicated to explain. The ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship Championship Medal Final is a test of the rider’s equitation skills.)

My mom Winter Hoffman’s perspective:

What was going through your head?

Armed with a strong cup of French Roast I was awake at 4 a.m. with my order-of-go and list of riders, sitting in front of my computer screen at our home in Santa Monica. After what seems like a lifetime of watching Zazou and her fellow competitors go into the ring, at show after show, I actually feel like I know many of them (not personally, but by name) and know what to look for.

Watching the rounds on the computer screen it’s easy to miss a late rail or even a late lead change, but it’s better than nothing. For me I sometimes have second thoughts about where Zazou goes in the order. “Go early, get it over” crosses my mind. “Go later, the judges seem inclined to raise the scores” also crosses my mind. Sometimes I am just overwhelmed with a wish or prayer for the round to go well enough that Zazou is pleased with her ride. So many things can get in the way of a win. So many variables that sometimes it just seems like luck.

What did the win mean to you?

The win was huge. Many times my husband and I have cringed with shame at the magnitude of physical work that Zazou has taken on. Elbow grease never hurt anyone, but add to that the expectation of straight As in your Advanced Placement classes, you and your trainer’s quest for victory, having to feed, house and do your own laundry, as well as the horse’s and I think a mere mortal would easily crumble. Zazou is no mere mortal. We teasingly refer to Chase Boggio as “Wonder Boy,” but there is no doubt in my mind that Zazou is “Super Girl.” The win was well deserved.

Why is this win important to you and to your daughter?

You set a goal and obtain it. It validates all the hard work.

Will it change her?

I already see that the whole experience has made her a more thoughtful person. She’s wise beyond her years. She is also circumspect about a career as a rider. She knows that this is what she wants, but she knows that time away from the riding and going to college is critical. She is also acutely aware of the need for sponsorship. The best thing is that she has horsey friends all over the U.S., all over the world from the FEI Children’s, and they genuinely care about her. She admits that if she goes too long without competing she will probably go crazy. So there’s no question that at night when she closes her eyes she dreams about horses and riding and winning. It’s the most aesthetically beautiful sport of all sports, so who wouldn’t want to?

My dad Fred Hoffman’s perspective:

What was going through your head?

Years ago, when Zazou went to Florida as the Ronnie Mutch working student and worked with Missy Clark, Missy told Zazou that someday she would win a medal final. Now we were down to Zazou’s last final. She had done everything humanly possible to be prepared, having basically lived out of a suitcase for the past 18 months, working for and riding with Missy Clark out of Warren, VT.

At Harrisburg, Zazou was on fire, but her horse Ivy wasn’t responding in the work-off rounds and Zazou came in second. First, we were just hoping that Ivy was comfortable. From the moment she started on course in the first Maclay round I knew that Zazou and Ivy were on their game. As the rounds progressed I knew that Zazou was going to have a chance. Right before they announced second place I just prayed that Zazou would finally be rewarded for all her work and skills.

Will it change her?

As Zazou said, there is a big difference between second place and winning. Zazou has a great deal of confidence in her talent. I think winning will give her the opportunity to relax a little and trust that talent.

My California trainer Meredith Bullock’s perspective:

What was going through your head?

In the morning I knew that I would not be able to watch her round because I would be teaching lessons. I got up at 4 a.m. to watch the early rounds and get an idea of the course. From there I had to rely on Zazou’s mom and others to text me about what was going on. I actually had a positive feeling about the day after she did well in the first round. It felt like it might actually happen this time.

I have such confidence in Zazou’s riding ability and her ability to take the pressure. Then I got superstitious and worried that if I watched the final round or even thought about her winning it I would bring her bad luck. I had all my fingers and toes crossed and tried not to think about her winning but I wanted it so badly for her. Kathy Hobstetter called me and I sat on the phone with her, holding my breath, as the ribbons were being given out. Wow! What an amazing end to a junior career!

What did the win mean to you?

This win is a confirmation of years of learning and years of teaching. It means everything to me to have my students achieve their goals whether they are lofty goals like winning the Maclay or winning a local medal or training a green horse to jump. This was just the biggest, most amazing dream.

Why is this win important to you?

Hopefully this win will open more doors for Zazou. She has big decisions to make as she ends her junior career and I wish for her many more opportunities to fulfill her dreams. For me, it confirms that my emphasis on creating riders that are not only technically correct but that can ride a variety of horses and know about horsemanship from the ground up can pay off.

Will it change her?

While it may change her future opportunities, it will not change the amazing person that she is. When she came back home from her first wins in the East, I watched for signs that she had changed. But impressively so, she is always the first to encourage another rider in the lesson who may be having trouble or share a humbling experience that she has had with a rider who is having trouble. She is always a positive influence on those around her. Zazou will always have that great head on her shoulders that will allow her to make good thoughtful decisions.

My perspective:

What was going through my head?

When they announced Chase as second I just couldn’t believe that I had actually done it. I wasn’t just second or third, I had actually won! Throughout the long day I really tried to not focus on the possibility of winning. Instead, I just tried to keep thinking about the riding itself and staying relaxed. 

What did the win mean?

This win was really important to me because it signified that all the hours of hard work I had invested in my riding had really paid off. I felt like the work in the barn and on the horses all came together to bring me this win and it was a very gratifying feeling. 

Why is this win important to me and to my future?

This win is important to me because I consider the Equitation division a stepping stone to the Jumper division and winning the Maclay brings closure to my Equitation career. I definitely have hopes of being competitive in the jumper ring now that I have learned so much in Equitation. 

Will it change me?

I don’t think that winning the Maclay finals will change me. After winning, I came back to California, back to the Sullivan Canyon arena in Brentwood and tacked up and rode my horse Eva just like I always used to. I do feel confident about myself and my riding after this win and have high hopes for my future, but other than that I feel like I am really the same. I still have the same plans of finishing high school and going to college that I had before winning.