Oct 08, 2023

Elizabeth Hoffman and Emma Find their Stride in BN3D at Spokane Sport Horse Farm

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Elizabeth Hoffman and Emma. Liz Knight Photography photos

The Spokane Sport Horse Farm HT in Spokane, Washington, was host to three USEA Classic Series events this past weekend, giving Area VII eventers the opportunity to experience the thrill of a traditional long-format event. With Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice levels offered, three horse and rider pairs had the chance to be titled as a USEA Classic Series Champion.

In the Beginner Novice Classic Series division, it was Corvallis, Oregon, resident Elizabeth Hoffman and her own 9-year-old Azteca mare Emma who sailed to the top of the class. Hoffman started riding 12 years ago, “a 56-year adventure” as she calls it. She has done a little bit of it all– hunter/jumpers, dressage, competitive trail riding, endurance, and showing Arabians, but it wasn’t until she moved to Oregon from Alaska in 2004 that she finally got the opportunity to pursue her interest in eventing.

“I have loved it ever since,” she said of her transition. “It combines the best of all the horse worlds for me. It is a true test of the bond and athleticism of horse and rider and it is very fun.”

Hoffman first met Emma three and a half years ago. The mare had no previous experience in either jumping or dressage and had never been to a horse show, but that didn’t put Hoffman off.

“She is the best all-around horse I have ever had,” she said. “We bonded quickly, she is very willing and athletic and tries very hard for me. She is the most affectionate horse I have ever had but at times a very temperamental mare! We have, and are still, learning to work in harmony together no matter what the hormones or mental state is that day! Frequently we just take a day off from work to have fun - go trail riding, go for a gallop, or just do easy jumps for fun.”

Years ago, Hoffman rode up to the Preliminary level but hasn’t had a horse capable of climbing the ladder in such a way since her first eventing horse. She had the ability to compete in the traditional format at the Novice level on her previous horse, so she decided to tackle the Beginner Novice Three-Day with Emma. They checked that box in 2002, also at Spokane, and placed fourth. This was the pair’s second go at the three-day format.

“My future goal is a T3D on Emma in a few years,” said Hoffman. “I think [the long-format] is the truest eventing test. It is a challenge and is the most fun way to compete in eventing. I would always choose to do a classic format if it is offered and we are qualified for it.”

Hoffman noted that Emma loves the roads and tracks and steeplechase portion of the traditional format.

“I think it makes it more fun for the horse. Things like that make sense to a horse if you look at the behavior of wild horses. You have to get your horse in good physical shape to compete in the three-day format.”

The pair started their weekend off in third place with a dressage score of 31.7, but Emma sailed through the endurance phases to leap up to the top of the leaderboard. They added just one rail to their score in show jumping to finish in first with a score of 35.7. Of course, winning is special in its own right, but this win and Emma receiving the Best Conditioned Horse title, held some extra special meaning for Hoffman this time around.

“I have had three joint replacements in my right shoulder in the past five years, originally stemming from a riding injury,” Hoffman said. “My last surgery was January 18th this year and included a fracture repair and the third joint replacement. It has been a steep recovery. I started riding on July 20th and got second place in the Beginner Novice at Caber in August and a seventh and eighth place finish at Equestrians’ Institute and Aspen in September. To win the Beginner Novice Three-Day and get Best Conditioned Horse at Spokane was just amazing as we had been riding together again for just 10 weeks. Honestly, I called her the beloved beluga due to her big belly when I started riding her again in July!”

The Classic Series holds such a dear place in Hoffman’s heart that she is always eager to encourage others to give it a go.

“I would highly recommend trying it to everyone,” she mentioned. “It is more work and it does involve more time to condition your horse. but it is very rewarding. This is how eventing was originally formatted. I hope everyone who events knows the origins of eventing. It was a test for cavalry horses - obedience, athleticism, and endurance. This is a full test of horse and rider.”

Katie Bystrom and Rigby.

In the Training Three-Day, Katie Bystrom piloted her 17-year-old Oldenburg gelding Rigby (Cairo x Tayler’s Princess) to the win.

Whitney Spicer and Excel Star High Jinx.

In the Novice Three-Day, it was Whitney Spicer who rode her own Irish Sport Horse gelding Excel Star High Jinx (Imperial Heights x Euro Cash) to the win, impressively finishing on their dressage score of 31.6.

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