This week I’m chatting with Canadian dressage rider Zachary Marshall. Based near Toronto, Zachary is competing at Small Tour and developing his two horses. He hopes one day to represent his country. Read on to discover more about Zachary, his ambitions, and top tips for success
Tell us about you and your horsesHi! My name is Zachary Marshall. I am twenty and live a double life as a University Student at the University of Toronto studying the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology as well as attempting to be a competitive dressage rider. Right now, I have two horses: Gatsby and Bazzinga. Gatsby has been with me for three years and is my “top horse”. He is a 12-year-old jet black KWPN by Jazz who competes at the Small tour level, and who I hope to have ready for the U25 division next season. He is a laid-back horse to ride, but he is very mischievous on the ground, and has a atypically large sense of humour. He is hands down one of the most interactive horses I’ve ever worked with, I swear he can talk. That allows us to have a wonderful partnership, he’s always giving me feedback. I personally think he’s one of the smartest horses I’ve had to work around. Bazzinga is a 11-year-old jumper bred gelding by Baloubet Du Rouet. I have had him for just over a year as he made the transition from being a Jumper to a Dressage horse. He is currently schooling third level on his way to the Prix St. George. My goal with him is to try to get him as close as possible to the PSG so that my sister can take over his reins as a successor to her current horse, so that she can qualify for NAYC as a young rider (U21). In many ways he is the polar opposite of Gatsby in that he is very polite on the ground and hot and sensitive to ride. He is very eager to please and a little bit of a worrier. “Bazz” always charms everyone with his beautiful head and gentlemanly demeanour.
How did horses come into your life?I came into the horses. My mother is a rider who at the time had been riding at Canadian Olympian David Marcus’s place. I was brought around the farm as an infant, and as soon as I could talk, I began to ask for lessons.
When and where do you ride?I ride 6 days a week whenever my schedule allows it to happen during the day, I am rarely in the same place twice, though I do find time to be at the barn every day. My horses have been stabled at Taylor Hills Equine Centre near Toronto, Ontario for the past 6 years. For the past 7 and a 1/2 years I have ridden with Dynasty Dressage, headed by Cindy Ishoy, a six-time Olympian and Canada’s most successful dressage rider. Cindy has been a massive influence on not only my riding, but my being as a person and has become family. Any success I have had or will have in the future largely rests on her shoulders!
How did you start riding?In Ontario the youngest you can officially begin to ride is eight. However, I was so insistent in my want to ride that my mother found a riding school which took me at five, by the name of Bertin Stables. In retrospect it should have been a warning that they had taken me so young. I only lasted there for a year, before my mother enrolled me in lessons with local dressage pro Ute Busse at age six.
What you and your horses currently working on?As we approach show season, flow, and accuracy. We are also starting to condition them in the rising temperatures so that we can back off a bit before high show season and the horses can begin to peak. In specific, with Gatsby it is always the uphill connection, elasticity, and lateral work. With Bazzinga at this stage, it is namely relaxation.
What do you love about riding?The dedication it requires to do well, the time I spend around the horses, my community of people, and the attention to detail.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?I have many goals. I would like my career to be involved with the horses in some capacity. I hope to represent Canada at the senior level one day. My largest goal is to live a peaceful and fulfilling life with the animals I love doing what I love, riding.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?Yes. I am naturally a very anxious person, and I am predisposed to worrying. As a kid I was very nervous and fearful on horseback. Now, most of my nerves have translated themselves to performance anxiety. However, I don’t always enjoy getting on a new horse for the first time.
How do you deal with them?I have a wonderful mentor who has loads of competition experience to talk me through it. Additionally, failure has been an important part of learning to rationalise nerves as well. After all the stress that we impose on ourselves, you still wake up with tomorrow as a new day to learn and improve regardless of the results of yesterday. The bad rounds teach you how to compete because you learn to focus on what can be affected, and not to dwell on what is out of control, which is especially pertinent in our sport with horses who have their own conscious. I was also a member of a development squad which acquainted their athletes with some sports psychology training.
Your Top Tip
- Find a knowledgeable trainer; someone who can advise you on and off horseback (a mentor).
- Become a better horseperson than you are a rider.
- Always remember we started riding because we loved the horse and the horse first; so that we must always try to do right by them!