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Zazou Hoffman
August 13, 2007
Junior Perspective: Zazou Hoffman Speaks with Grand Prix Rider Paul Rohrbach and business partner Corky Shaha of Colorado
By Zazou Hoffman
Monday, August 13, 2007 :: Posted 02:21:29 PM EDT

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© Flying Horse Photography: Collin 31 and Paul Rohrbach
Shannon Jones' Collin 31 and Paul Rohrbach

Zazou Hoffman is a fifteen year old junior rider from California. In 2005, she won the Ronnie Mutch Working Student Scholarship, which led to an association with respected East Coast trainers Missy Clark and John Brennan. In January 2007, Zazou was one of seven elite riders chosen to work with Olympic Chef d’Equipe George Morris in Wellington, Florida. She has just started the Low Junior Jumpers at WEF.

Zazou became familiar with Paul and Corky when she switched to Zone 8, where Corky Shaha is the NAYRC Zone Coordinator. She met Paul Rohrbach when he came to California to compete in a qualifier at the Oaks. Paul missed making the team by the most miniscule amount. In addition to their talent in the grand prix ring, Paul and Corky are known for their skills in successfully bringing both green horses and green riders to the competition ring.

Paul and Corky, congratulations on your win at the High Prairie Grand Prix on Mary Dunahay’s Belgian mare Shiraz. I understand that you have a new horse that you have big plans for. Can you tell us a little about both of your backgrounds?

Paul: Actually, Shiraz is now in Vermont.  Her owner sent her to be sold, as she is owned by a corporation.  The corporation needed to show some income. But my new horse is named Collin 31 and Shannon Jones owns him. We bought him from Frank Selinger in Tucson this past winter. This is his first grand prix year, and I will develop him this year. He will be Shannon’s A/O jumper in the future. About my background, I grew up in Hawaii, and began riding with my mother.  She didn’t want to go to her lessons by herself, so she brought me along with her.  I remember that I was scared to jump stacked cavalettis. 

Now, my greatest joy is developing horses to jump big jumps. In 2005 Shiraz and I won the Los Angeles World Cup qualifier, and just missed qualifying for the West Coast team. After graduating from high school I moved to California and attended the Pacific Horse Center where I came to the attention of Rudy Leone.  I worked for Rudy for several years and also spent some time in Holland riding for a sales barn.  Upon returning to the States I decided to head East and made it as far as Colorado.  My first job was south of Colorado Springs where I joined forces with Dennis Callin.  Through Dennis I had many opportunities to clinic with top dressage professionals. I am dedicated to developing my horses correctly through flat work whether they are hunters or jumpers.  One of my successful hunters was Carmen, who was the Horse of the Year Regular Working Champion.

I enjoy living in Colorado and being able to develop all levels of horses and riders. I believe my students can achieve their goals with hard work and dedication. I have taken students to equitation finals as well as Young Riders. I am looking forward to teaching, with the help of Corky, my daughters Hannah and Quincy to ride. My wife Dorothy is expecting twin boys at any moment.

Corky:  I grew up in Virginia and rode at Jane Dillon’s Junior Equitation School.  One of my best friends there was Joe Fargis.  We did everything with our horses in those days from horse showing  to fox hunting to galloping in the fields in the moonlight (hoping not to get caught.)  Joe and I both earned lessons by being “leaders”.  We would help the younger children in there until they had the skills to ride on their own.  I heard hundreds of lessons being taught and began teaching the “pre-riders” when I was 14.  One of our clinicians at that time was Captain Vladimir Littauer. Captain Littauer brought one of his students with him to one clinic, Bernie Traurig. I only met Bernie that one time.  Of course I heard Mrs. Dillon and Capt. Littauer talk about him and his successes at the equitation finals.  The next time I saw him was 45 years later at The Oaks.  As for George Morris, I rode in his clinics in Colorado in the 80s, and Paul and I attended his clinics with Diane Carney in Chicago where Paul rode.  You may know that George and Jessica Ransehousen are contemporaries and friends.  Jessica used to coach his equitation riders on the flat.

I met Kathy Kusner when I was 13. I went with her and the Dillons to Harrisburg where she was beginning to ride jumpers during the Ben O’Meara time. I went as a groom for April Dawn, Mrs. Dillon’s special junior hunter.  Watching the International teams compete from high up in the stands at Harrisburg was a great thrill for a young girl from Virginia. I can tell you about the horse:  April Dawn was a beautiful light dun mare. She was approximately 15.2 hands and was ridden by Sara Willis. I was the stall cleaner, groom and hot walker. I do remember doing lots of walking in fairly wet weather, but memories of schooling are non-existent.  I do remember during my own showing as a teenager in the late 50s and early 60s the warm-up jumps consisted of one, maybe two verticals set at 3’6”.  Mrs. Dillon would talk to us about our ride, but there was no extensive warm-up.  We mostly warmed ourselves up.  The only course walking was the outside hunter course so we knew where we were going.  Judges sat in a pickup truck in the middle of the course.

Somehow without the Internet, cell phones and cable I knew about William Steinkraus, Hugh Wiley, Frank Chapot, etc.   Horsemanship, sportsmanship, and total care of the horse were emphasized at Jane Dillon’s. I moved to Colorado about 30 years ago.  At that time I became interested in eventing and spent several years involved in dressage, obtaining an "r" judges card in dressage. During this time I met Jessica Ransehousen, who was giving clinics in Colorado.  She was a huge influence for both Paul and myself in correct flat work for hunters and jumpers.

© Winter Hoffman: Zazou Hoffman, Joe Fargis, and Ella Cornell
Shaha's old friend Joe Fargis at Zazou Hoffman's farm
with Hoffman (left) and Ella Cornell

Is there any downside to being so far from both coasts and does that hinder the process of bringing a horse or rider to the top level? Is it hard to run a riding school and have a horse or horses doing the Grand Prix?

Corky: The upside about living in Colorado is the choices that we can make. We don’t have the pressure to show at a particular venue if we don’t think it is suitable for the horses and riders.  Paul has made personal sacrifices to show in Grand Prix on both coasts. Many times I stay home to teach.  I missed his win in Los Angeles in 2005, but a good friend called me on the cell and gave me a blow by blow of the jump-off. Paul has two lovely young daughters, and his wife is expecting twins (boys this time) any day now, so his traveling will be curtailed some. We have also been fortunate to have several wonderful assistants who teach and ride when both of us are out of town.


Corky, in an article titled “Adapting the Forward Riding System to Today’s Hunter-Jumper Industry”, http://www.anrc.org/article.asp?ArticleID=65&section_id=4

you state, “Riders need to understand how to create transitions, bending, and suppleness. They have to know those things in order to successfully ride today’s more technical courses. If riders don’t have a position that allows them to do that, they’re in trouble.”

You go on to say that connection and relaxation are essential to forward riding and that you and Paul “spend a lot of time on correct flatwork because horses need to be able to stretch to the bit on a long rein as well as be able to ride in a connected way, to collect and extend the gaits, stretching like an accordion.” George Morris and Joe Fargis advocate the same approach. How do you think the equitation division fits in, and is it a viable stepping-stone to the jumpers?

Corky: We are believers in the equitation being a stepping stone to the jumpers. A functional, strong position is crucial to riding the bigger jumps. A rider must be able to work a horse properly on the flat and understand how that work develops the horse. An advanced equitation class should ask all the proper questions of riders.

Corky and Paul, you both have a thorough understanding of the qualifying process for the North American Young Rider Team. It seems hard for certain zones such as yours to put together a team. Is it due to lack of depth in horses that can jump 1.40m and over or lack of riders who have experience at that height? Can anything be done to encourage the development of horses and riders in the disadvantaged zones? In theory, it’s cheaper to bring a horse along because pastureland and board are less expensive. Even show costs are more modest, but there are fewer shows.  What is the solution?

Both: The young rider question is an interesting one.  We do have summer shows in Colorado with good competition and course designers. However, to get the experience necessary for young riders, out of state traveling is a must. I think moving to the meter system for all jumper shows is a necessity, so that riders understand the level of difficulty.  Show managers need to offer classes at the young rider levels and allow a rider to compete even if the class doesn’t fill. This year Zone 8 fielded a championship team of three and a junior championship team of four.  We are very excited about this. We are also proud of our former Zone 8 young riders competitors:  Allison Kroff, Alex Granato, and Rebecca  Hoffman, who are competing successfully on both coasts and Canada. Part of the solution to developing young riders and their horses are educational opportunities and offering the classes even if they don’t fill. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Photos copyright 2007 Flying Horse Photography and Winter Hoffman

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