By Lindsay Y. McCall
In the hunter world, the East Coast gets a large amount of attention for their brilliant horses, top-ranking professionals and experienced young athletes. However, the West Coast hunter world is as strong as ever and in 2014 produced many talented horse-and-rider combinations.
Hope Glynn, owner of Sonoma Valley Stables in Petaluma, California, has received a great deal of fanfare over the past few years for her top finishes at multiple hunter derbies. Hope is also busy developing young hunter stars, including Emma Waldfogel of Palo Alto, California.
Emma embarked on her equestrian career at 8 years old, riding once a week at a local barn. When she was 12, she moved to a smaller show barn where she competed in the children’s hunters and groomed and fed the horses on the weekends.
In 2012, Emma, then 16, started riding with Hope at Sonoma Valley Stables (SVS) and moved up to the junior hunters that same year. SVS is an 80-mile drive from Emma’s house, so when she earned her driver’s license, she was headed to Petaluma four to five days a week like any horse-crazy teenager.
Emma has now graduated from Castilleja High School and is looking forward to attending University of St. Andrews in Scotland after a year break. That gives Emma a full gap year to focus on her riding, her horses and the exciting show schedule at Sonoma Valley Stables. “I love riding at SVS,” said Emma. “They have a wonderful program both at home and at the shows. Hope, Ned [Glynn] and Heather [Roades] all care about the horses, and they make sure that their horses are as sound and happy as they can be. They’re extremely organized, so even when the barn is busy, everything runs smoothly.”
The 2013–2014 competition year brought Emma top finishes with her hunter horses including her 9-year-old Hanoverian, Donato; her Warmblood, King’s Peak; and her leased 7-year-old Holsteiner, Zaretina. Those competitions included Devon Horse Show, ASPCA Maclay Finals and the 2014 HITS Thermal where she was Grand Circuit Junior Hunter Champion with King’s Peak.
In August 2014, before she headed east to the 2014 USHJA Hunter Derby Finals, Emma and her horses attended the Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby in Washoe Valley, Nevada. Emma rode Donato and Zaretina in the $2,500 National Hunter Derby while Hope Glynn rode Zaretina in the $25,000 International Hunter Derby and Emma rode Donato.
“The show is absolutely beautiful and the footing is great,” remarked Emma. “I just love riding on the grass.” Emma was the only junior rider who took on the professionals during the Franktown Meadows $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. It was an intense competition with horse-and-rider combinations including Jenny Karazissis and Undeniable; Hope Glynn and Woodstock; and Jessie Lang and C. Quito, to name a few.
Zaretina and Hope finished fourth overall while Donato and Emma finished 10th. The derby, designed by Phil DeVita, prepared the horses and riders for the USHJA International Derby Finals in Kentucky.
Throughout the year, Emma has shown in multiple equitation classes and medal classes in addition to the small junior hunters (16–17) with Zaretina and the large junior hunters with Donato and King’s Peak. “I love Donato,” commented Emma. “I know that I can always trust him. He loves to jump so he always takes me to the jump; I know that he’s comfortable leaving from anywhere for me. He’s not really spooky at the jumps, so I just have to get a good canter and make sure that I’m connected to him. He’s also really scopey so I know that the jumps are always easy for him. He can get a little strong in the corners but if I’m soft with him he stays soft.”
Emma added, “When I started riding Zaretina the week before Thermal, we got along immediately. She’s a little sensitive, but she’s really soft and scopey. I’m always confident on her and she’s really brave. She looks at the jumps but I know that she’ll always jump. Zaretina naturally wants to go more so I just pick up the canter and keep a light leg for the rest of my round.”
She continued, “When Hope rides Zaretina she rides effortlessly. All of the jumps come up really easily for them, no matter how big or small the jump is. When we first got Zaretina, she was a little more peaky and wiggly, but Hope does an amazing job of keeping her straight and forward to the jumps, and I think Zaretina has gotten a lot braver in the past few months.”
In 2015, Emma plans on focusing on the derbies, moving to jumpers and riding in the amateur owners division. As she navigates the transition from junior hunters to amateur owners and even jumpers, people will continue to see how the West Coast riders are making their mark on the hunter industry.