Where some riders get their start in their chosen sport from day one, others take a path less traveled and find themselves making different choices than they would have before. For Danica Meyerhoff, the road started out with a destination of the top levels of eventing as the final goal, but over time she felt her priorities changing as she transitioned to focus fully on the jumper ring. Now, she’s busy producing horses using the foundation of knowledge she built in the event world and has an exciting string of young horses ready to step in and make a name for themselves.
Growing up in British Columbia, Danica grew into horses through the routes of 4H and Pony Club. Using Canadian event rider Rebecca Howard as a benchmark of success to emulate, Danica followed her dreams to the East Coast in 2005, finding work with both Rebecca as well as Sinead Halpin.
Even as an event rider, though, Danica found herself most excited for the show jumping phase of competition. “Growing up, we made a lot of trips to Spruce Meadows,” she recalled. “My childhood environment was always the jumpers, and when I was competing and had two upper level event horses, I was always more drawn to show jumping day. Cross country became less of a ‘want’ for me, and it got to the point where I needed to decide because I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue to event.”
Eventually, Danica made the switch to the jumper ring full time and has not looked back since. She has since spent time training with Silvio Mazzoni as well as Christoph Schroeder, but has relied much on her experience producing event horses to aid with the transition.
“I’ve found that my event horses had really thrived in the show jumping, which has made it more enticing,” she said. “I’ve almost always produced my horses, so I prefer to continue doing so since I feel the partnership is so important as the jumps get bigger.”
To that end, Danica currently has a few younger horses in her string that she’s particularly excited about, and has formed syndication options for her horses to keep them going as they progress. When seeking out a prospect for the jumper ring, Danica focuses on the quality of canter as a priority.
“I watch how easy it is for them to sit and push off the ground,” she explained. “You want to have a great canter, you want them to be easily adjustable, and you want them to have an active hind leg that can create that power and speed. I’ve definitely had to learn a bit as I had to adjust a bit for what I was looking for in a jumper versus an event horse, but the quality of my horses has gotten nicer and nicer as I’ve gone along.”
In particular, two of Danica’s young horses, Mozart (5-year-old RSPI gelding) and Casanova (6-year-old Holsteiner gelding), show promise to reach the upper levels of the sport.
Posted by Danica Meyerhoff on Saturday, September 30, 2017
“I think they can get to some Nations Cup caliber shows,” Danica said of her rising stars. “I think at that level you have got to be where the selectors are and you have to be visible. It’s been hard for me, especially at my age, switching sports. In eventing, I was on the radar through the Young Riders program, but now at age 30 I am trying to be someone in a different sport, so I really am going to have to be competing at that level to be noticed.”
As for creating a string that she can continue up the levels and put herself on the radar for team selection, Danica focuses on quality over quantity. “I prefer to have a smaller string with more quality,” she said. “I love seeing these young horses come up and make progress. When things begin to fall into place and you know that you are the one who put that work into them, it’s so rewarding. That’s what’s gratifying, no matter what sport you choose.”
Danica also works closely with her husband, event rider Bobby Meyerhoff, and they share training responsibilities for their training and sales program, Meyerhoff Show Horses in Statesville, North Carolina. “It’s definitely a team effort,” she said. “It’s helpful to have Bobby around and I feel that it’s good for my jumpers to go on hacks and trot sets just like the eventers. It isn’t something you see too often with the jumper horses, but I think it benefits their mind and prepares them for surprises in the ring.”
In all, Danica has her sights firmly set on achieving her goals of becoming an international show jump rider. “It’s a little farther away in this world because I climbed one ladder (in the event world) and now I’m climbing a different one from the bottom. But it’s the same dream, different sport.”