With the onset of the cold weather, it’s a great time to cozy up and get to know some of your favorite riders. We’ll be posting Q&As with riders throughout the upcoming months, giving you an inside look into their life as equine professionals and getting tidbits of advice that we can all put to good use.
David Ziegler and Critical Decision at NAJYRC. Photo by Samantha Clark for PRO.
David Ziegler burst onto both the eventing and dressage scenes for Canada in 2014, taking home gold and silver medals in both sports at NAJYRC in Lexington last summer. We got the opportunity to chat with David and find out some more about him and how he balances life competing at the upper levels of both sports. Do you have a rider you’d like us to profile? Email [email protected] and we’ll get the chinchillas on it!
EN: How do you balance eventing and dressage?
David: The program that I’m in with Missy and Jess (Ransenhousen) has really been the best. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without being here. They both have just have such a high respect for each other’s programs. They both helped at NAJYRC and while I was in Wellington. With their help, I’ve been able to excel in both sports.
EN: How do you feel the training you’ve had for each sport helps you?
David: For the dressage, you want to ride as quiet as possible, and that’s helped me with the jumping as well. Staying quiet in all three disciplines lets the horse work better as one unit with you as opposed to the rider being a screaming monkey on top of the horse.
The eventing has helped me with the naughty dressage horses! Fitness focus with the eventing, I’ll still take Topper out for hill sets and gallops.
EN: If you could take a spin on any horse, past or present, who would it be?
David: The one horse I would love to sit on is Hickstead. I’ve always felt that show jumping was my weakest phase and he had so much heart, and kind of how I feel riding (Critical Decision), you want every horse to feel that way. (Critical Decision) has given me the ride of my life in the eventing and I’ve had a blast with him because he’s got so much heart.
Aside from Hickstead, I’d probably choose Totilas as one I’d like to take a ride on.
EN: What’s the biggest advice you could give to someone on achieving balance?
David: It’s a lot of hard work. I certainly have had my share of breakdowns going through it through the years. Don’t make any rash decisions; it all seems to work out in the end. Whenever I say that, it drives my mother crazy!
But it’s hard to make plans when you’re trying to juggle two things, so you really have to play it by ear. There was a long time where I thought I wouldn’t have (Critical Decision) ready for NAJYRC, and then there were times where I thought Topper wouldn’t be ready. And then it all just fell together.
David Ziegler and Peninsula Top Man at Galway Downs in 2011. Photo by Samantha Clark.
EN: What are your big goals for the future?
David: Certainly next year I plan to start competing Topper in the Grand Prix, by August. We’re working piaffe and passage and the one changes now; it still needs some work through that for the winter, so hopefully will have an August debut. I would like to campaign him in Wellington that winter looking at the Rio Olympics.
For eventing, I don’t really have anything going upper level at the moment. I was trying to find a horse for Pan Ams but ran out of time with the qualification schedule. I do have a young horse now that I’ll hopefully be going Training with by the fall, and in the meantime I’ll be shopping around for young ones to produce.
Now’s kind of the best time for bringing the young horses now that I have Topper competing at the upper levels, so it helps with giving them time off while I’m away competing and then starting back up when I return.
I am also looking into going back to Young Riders as the Assistant Chef d’Equipe to the dressage team. I’d also (finally!) like to get my course design license.
EN: Describe yourself in three words.
David: Confident. Calm. Ambitious.
EN: What was the best Christmas gift you received this year?
David: Everyone did really well with the Christmas gifts this year. My girlfriend, Devon, gave me a custom cutting board with a horseshoe in it and then a lot of gifts for the horses. All in all it’s been a pretty good Christmas this year.
EN: Any New Year’s Resolutions?
David: I can never stick to them. Eating less fruit snacks!
EN: You were recently long listed for the Canadian eventing team. What was your first reaction?
David: It’s always been a bit of a dream for me to be listed to a team. We were long listed for the dressage team as well, so it was quite the way to cap off my year. I’m excited to go down to Wellington and Ocala to the training sessions for both teams this winter.
Dressage Canada is less mounted sessions with the Chefs and more information sessions. You can go to the competitions and they’ll have a judge there who will go over the tests. They’ll have experts come in and talk about saddle fitting, and they focus on the entire group.
EN: What has been your riding career highlight to date?
David: For dressage, I’d have to say when we won all three Young Rider classes at Dressage at Devon in September and our scores were much better than they were at NAJYRC. For eventing, it was definitely winning at NAJYRC with (Critical Decision) this year.