The year was 1972. Hunters were Thoroughbreds. Jumps were solid.
This is John Yozell on Judith’s Pilot, showing in the junior hunters over the outside course at the Ox Ridge Horse Show (Conn.).
“Back then, there were a lot of big outside courses with solid, vertical jumps. The one I’m jumping? That gate must have weighed 100 pounds,” Yozell said. “The big outside courses up in our area were Ox Ridge, Fairfield (Conn.), Children’s Services (Conn.), Myopia and Old Newberry. And we all showed on grass. And we galloped!
“It was different because there was only one division for the juniors; I could be showing against 40 or 50 people and all these amazing competitors. It was very competitive and hard to win,” Yozell said.
Kudith’s Pilot was a Thoroughbred gelding Yozell showed in both the junior hunters and the equitation division. “He was my only one! I don’t remember anyone having more than one horse, and even two was unusual. It was more common to have one horse you were known for,” he said. “And most of the horses were Thoroughbreds.
“Back then, there was a little more emphasis on spark and energy. If there was an eight-stride line and you did it in seven and it looked good, that wasn’t a bad thing. And the outside courses had such long lines that there wasn’t all this counting of strides. People rode off their eye much more. In this picture, that gate was probably part of a 10-stride line, so you had to really be centered and balanced to get the pace properly. If you were ahead of the horse or behind the horse, with all that room, it was very challenging.”
Kudith’s Pilot was bred by Yozell’s uncle, Justin. “He was a very well known horseman in his day. He was the one who got me riding,” John said. Kudith’s Pilot was out of Justin’s famous show mare Kudith and by Norman Hall’s racehorse stallion Pilot’s Rose. Justin gave John Kudith’s Pilot to show, and they had much success locally.
In 1973, John almost wrote his name in history. He was called back for the final round of the ASPCA Maclay Finals on top, riding Kudith’s Pilot. “I had gone last in the order for the first round. No one had had a good round; it was a very hard course. For some reason my horse got really pumped up and we went in there and nailed it. The place exploded in applause. I had a trainer tell me “That was the best round I’ve ever seen by anyone in the finals.” It was just one of those moments,” he said.
Still in the lead after the flat phase, John had to go last in the final jumping round. “In the very middle of the ring was a really skinny jump with wishing wells on either side. I saw my distance and I thought it was going to be perfect and at the moment, the horse just chipped. I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled.
“In the air, I said ‘Oh **&^%” and there was dead silence. There was no applause when I finished that round. My friends to this day never stop teasing me about it,” he said.
After 1973, his last junior year, John became an amateur rider and continues to show to this day. He calls Dedham, Mass., home and serves as the CEO of Yozell Associates, an employee benefits brokerage firm. His current ride in the amateur-owner hunter division is Aiden and he trains with Havens Schatt.