Winning the Morgan Triple Crown at the Morgan Grand Nationals next month is a tough goal, but one 16-year-old Linden High School student is up for the challenge.
This will be Madison Hoffmeyer’s fourth time competing in the Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show (GNWCMHS) in Oklahoma Oct. 8-15 and her second year competing in the senior division (age group 14-17). It’s her second year with her horse Gus, whose show name is Titleist.
“I am so grateful, every year, to be able to compete at such a high level. I’ve dreamed about going to Oklahoma since the day I started showing, and now we are blessed to be able to attend each year since 2019. My parents are extremely supportive during this equitation journey I am on and have fun too along the way, she said.
The Linden Community Schools student has been riding horses since she was 8 or 9, and she started competing in American Morgan Horse Association Class A in 2019 after showing for about three years. In 2020, Hoffmeyer won Reserve GN Saddle Seat Classic Equitation 13 and under, she placed 3rd in the UPHA Challenge Cup. For her first time in the 21 and under AMHA Gold Medal Finals, she placed in the Top 10. She then won the World Champion in the Saddle Seat Classic Equitation 13 and under.
She’s working to come back strong this year at GNWCMHS. In 2021, she competed one week after she had collarbone repair surgery in early October 2021. The horse she was riding slipped and they both fell. The horse fell on her and she sustained a bad fracture of the left clavicle.
“One doctor told me I’d never ride again in the same capacity. When I went to the 2021 competition, I was in pain and although I placed 4th, mentally I left with a huge hole, not being able to give it my all due to shoulder surgery. I gave what I could, and I still felt good that I maintained Top 5 within my division,” she said.
She’s competing in the Saddle Seat Equitation division. In this division, horses are more spirited and are allowed to display more extreme placement of their hooves, shoulders, hind and neck, she said. Previously, she competed in the Classic Saddle Seat Equitation division, in which the horses are expected to display better impeccable manners.
“Right now my main focus is on equitation. In the 2021 show season, I tried Hunt Seat riding and really enjoyed trying it. Riding a different discipline helped to reset my mind and focus on my Equitation goals. It helped me recognize where I needed to put in more work. Sometimes you can become overly focused on perfect form and need an occasional reset,” Hoffmeyer said.
Her favorite part of the week is traveling to Dayton, Ohio every weekend to ride and train at Dreamway South with trainer Manya Smalley.
“They are all so kind and very supportive, it helps build confidence having each other’s backs. Manya is like a second mom to me, we have such easy conversations and she treats each of us with so much respect,” Hoffmeyer said.
She rides three different horses on Friday and again on Saturday. She rides a retired competition horse Hooter, a Saddlebred, and her own horse Gus. Due to their barn being four hours away, Hoffmeyer makes sure to stay in shape by attending a local gym and working certain muscles her coach said are crucial.
They’re working on leg elongation and strengthening her upper body.
“Having a strong core is crucial in Equitation as well so I created a workout plan to strengthen my core, too,” she said.
Her horse, Gus, is excited to see Hoffmeyer every week and expects treats.
“My trainer, Manya, puts in so much work with Gus and then when we get there, it’s such a joy to see how much he has improved,” she said. “A few times my mom got teary eyed, and me too, at how good he looked compared to the week before. She is a perfectionist and is constantly tweaking things with him to make him the best he can be. He is such an incredible horse.”
Both Hoffmeyer and Gus will have to be at the top of their game in October if they want to win the Morgan Triple Crown title, which is their goal.
“It is such an honor to win such a coveted title and not a lot have been able to achieve that title. Manya’s daughter Alayna won it in 2019, becoming the youngest rider to win it,” she said. “It is a tough title to win but it is one of my dreams and each year I add goals to help work in achieving my Equitation dreams.”
To accomplish this, a rider must win all three classes — the United Professional Horsemen’s Association (UPHA) Challenge Cup Phase II, (American Morgan Horse Association) AMHA Gold Medal Finals and the World Champion Morgan Saddle Seat Equitation- within the same week at GNWCHS in Oklahoma.
“It is an exhausting week for both the horse and rider. But with hard work, lots of rest for both of us, it is possible to compete in all classes to reach that goal,” Hoffmeyer said. “I’m solely focused on doing my very best, giving it my all, taking good care of Gus and enjoying every moment along this Equitation journey. ‘To be the Best, you have to beat the Best.’ Chris Brown.”