Zume Gallaher, 23, earned her first grand prix win on July 18 when she and Edita (Ukato—Zinzi, Clinton) beat nine other pairs in the jump-off in the $25,000 Markel Insurance Grand Prix at the Showpark Summer Festival in San Juan Capistrano, California.
Adopted from Vietnam and raised in Sonoma County, Gallaher now lives in Carlsbad, California, and keeps five horses at the Haunert family’s Tristar Farms in Del Mar, California. She’s also a student at the Interior Designers Institute in nearby Newport Beach.
Congratulations on your first grand prix win! What clicked to help you get this victory?
I have great horses, absolutely a great string of horses helping me out. Edita really helped me out in the jump-off.
I had a learning moment earlier. I had two other horses in the class. Certain VD Begijnakker had three rails, but we didn’t buy him to be careful; he was my step-up horse. And then I have a new horse that I did in it, that I blasted through one of the in-and-outs with.
So coming back for the jump-off, I wasn’t necessarily going for the win. We obviously wanted to be fast but mainly just to have a nice, clear round to finish the day on a good note. We walked the courses to be fast but not crazy. I’m still learning and trying to get good miles under my belt.
Tell me about Sheba, your rescued miniature horse.
She came from Little Hooves Rescue [in Rancho Santa Fe, California]. Nicole Haunert, who’s the rider at Tristar, fosters some of the rescues for Little Hooves. Sheba was one of the fosters, and I just fell in love with her. She’s blind in one eye, and she’s older, but the sweetest little thing.
I had a mini before that who had passed away about three weeks before we got Sheba, and so we were looking for another one. I called my mom and said I’d found a replacement for Jack, our mini that had passed away, and said “I think you’re going to love her.”
She dislocated her shoulder after we got her. We don’t know how she did it; she was out in the turnout, and she’s not usually very active! So she had to have this huge surgery and got pins in her shoulder. She’s going to get those removed hopefully in the next two weeks. She’s doing great, though. She’s so deserving, and she’s totally sweet.
What are you studying in school?
I did a few years at Chapman University [in Orange, California], realized I didn’t want to do business administration, and transferred out to the Interior Designers Institute. I’m finishing my last quarter there right now and just need some internship hours to graduate by next year.
My mom [Cindy Gallaher] does interior design, and my dad [Bill Gallaher] is a developer, so I’ve always grown up around the interior design and construction worlds. I love it. It’s very visual, and it’s nice to have something that isn’t horse-related. Right now I’m doing my internship with a local interior designer who does residential, and I’m having a blast.
Tell us more about your family and how you got started riding.
I started riding when I was 5, and I talked my mom into doing lessons with me when I was about 7. She tried showing, but it wasn’t really her thing. She has a trail horse, and she takes lessons, so we get to share that when I’m home. We’ve been on riding trips together, so that’s been a nice thing for us to have.
I rode at a small county barn until I went off to college. I did ponies, children’s hunters, equitation, dabbled in jumpers here and there, but I really didn’t start being competitive until I moved down for college.
Both of my brothers were really into racing Formula Ford, Arca and Super Late Models cars, which are a few levels down from the Formula 1 level, so I’d go to races and watch that. My brother [who was adopted] from Korea is very supportive, and whenever he can he comes to watch me. He flew out with my parents to watch me in Las Vegas last year; he likes to come down to San Diego to see me ride.
It’s a big family, but we’re very separated in age. I’m the baby, and my oldest sibling is 15 years older. Growing up, I was basically an only child after eighth grade because they were all either moved out and working or finishing school.
Have you been able to travel to Vietnam, where you were born?
I have. I’ve been back four times. I’ve been able to meet my birth mom. I have two other siblings that are adopted as well, so it’s interesting. It’s been so nice for me to be able to be in contact with my birth family. I keep up with them on Facebook. Before Facebook, my adoptive mom would send handwritten letters to them in the mail that they’d get and have translated. So it’s been nice for me to be able to keep in contact with them.
What’s been your experience as an Asian-American in the equestrian world?
It’s interesting for me, because I obviously am a minority, but I also live in California. That’s a big thing because we’re already so inclusive. You don’t see Asians walking all around the horse shows, but the other girl who went clear over the weekend in the grand prix was Melody Liu; she’s another Asian rider. Personally, I haven’t had any bad experiences in the horse show world.
What’s your training schedule?
I usually ride five days a week. We give the horses a day or two to just be themselves. I usually will lesson with Paul [Haunert] every day, but rotate through my horses, so I do two or three horses a day.
I love Tristar because they’re literally a family business. Paul is the trainer, Reyhan his son is the barn manager/head groom, and he’s married to Nicole. We have barn dinners together. Coming from a small county barn and not knowing the big trainers, to be able to land with them, I got lucky for sure.
I really love all of them. They all work so hard. Everyone in the barn is there for each other. They’re so humble and supportive. It’s amazing.
How has the coronavirus affected your riding and competition schedule?
We definitely had big plans for a lot of shows this season. This was the season that I had three solid grand prix horses that I could take around and really learn a lot on, get good miles on. The quarantine was kind of a blessing for me. We were lucky enough to continue to ride throughout the whole thing, and with my new string, I really got to get to know them.
I had two new horses, Daisy Dee 16 and Cyrus. Daisy I got in October and Cyrus I got in Thermal [during the Desert Circuit in California at the beginning of 2020], so I really got a lot of time at home getting to know them. Usually when I get a horse, we go to a show, and we’re in the ring. I don’t always have that time at home to make mistakes, to spend time with them on the ground and really get to know them.
It was a little longer than I would have liked to not show, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. We had done six or seven weeks of Thermal before that, so we did a good amount of showing before quarantine came.
It has changed our schedule for the future, though. With more shows at home, it’s great for us. We’re located at Showpark [of San Diego], and there are a good amount of shows that go on there. But I am missing out on some of my favorite northern California shows. Of course, I love to see my family and have them come watch when I show up there.
I would love to do a World Cup qualifier. I don’t know if it’ll be this season or next season, but I think that’s probably the next step. I have a lot to work on, and in this sport you continuously learn and learn to try and get to that level.