“That was pretty much the most stressful thing I’ve ever had to watch,” confessed Zazou Hoffman.
Second to go in a 17-horse jump off for the 1.50m AON Cup at Calgary’s Spruce Meadows, the 25-year-old rider lay down a blistering track to stop the clocks at 35.31 seconds. But with the likes of Kent Farrington (USA), McLain Ward (USA), Eric Lamaze (CAN), and 12 more international riders to come, would it be enough?
Farrington and Dublin finished just nine hundredths of a second slower, stopping the clock at 35.40s to claim the number two spot. Lamaze and Chacco Kid, third in 36.30s.
“It’s unbelievable. I wasn’t expecting this at all today,” enthused Hoffman. “I could not be happier!”
It’s the first five-star victory for the upcoming rider from Santa Monica, California.
Hoffman, who rides for France Steinwedell and Dick Carvin’s Meadow Grove Farm, first made a name for herself as a junior rider when she won a working student scholarship to train with Missy Clark at North Run Stables from the R.W. Mutch Educational Foundation at age 13. By 17, she’d won the ASPCA Maclay Hunt Seat Equitation Final.
Impressive accomplishments for a rider who says she struggles with mental toughness—even today.
“Anytime I’m stressed out I’m in tears,” she laughed. “Definitely as a junior, when I was at North Run, anytime I would feel like I had just not done a good job or made a mistake, I was really hard on myself.”
It’s something she’s still working on.
“You need a lot of fortitude to go in there and produce results and take care of your horses well. Day to day it gets hard to stay strong mentally,” said Hoffman.
“I think you just take every experience and try to learn from it and just move on to the next one. Take each thing as it comes.”
Her mount, 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare W Zermie 13, is the counterweight to Hoffman’s sensitive nature—”a real diva,” a “Beyonce,” she smiles.
“She’s a tough-minded horse,” say Hoffman. “She’s a real fighter and she’s going to fight for you and help you in the ring when you need her.”
Maybe it’s rubbing off. There were no tears as Hoffman made her victory gallop debut in the International ring today—just a beaming smile and a newly minted five-star winner.