If it weren’t for Shadow’s Oliver, Mary Zoldak might never have started on her journey in dressage, but now she’s at the U.S. Dressage Finals riding in her last competition with the Gypsy Vanner gelding and closing a chapter.
“ ‘Ollie’ has been such a superstar for such an unusual breed and has done very well,” said Zoldak.
Zoldak grew up in Ohio on the open show circuit and did some hunter/jumpers before heading to law school so she could have a career that would help pay for her horse passion.
She’s ridden with trainer Andi Farmer for 14 years, and Farmer’s had a few clients over the years with Gypsy Vanners, including Ollie’s owner Melinda Schumacher, who sent him for training when he was 3.
Zoldak was looking for a job after taking the Ohio bar exam in 2017 and was riding some green horses for Farmer when she was given the opportunity to ride Ollie (Latcho’s Shadow—Cushti Bok’s Anniversary), now 5.
With her personal Quarter Horse, whom she’d been jumping, out of action due to an injury, Zoldak was eager to ride the striking gelding. That started her journey in dressage.
The pair qualified for their regional championship last year with a first level freestyle, and attended the championship again this year.
“Regionals this year were a bit disappointing,” said Zoldak, 26. “We were up at Waterloo [Michigan], and my training level and first level championship scores were kind of rough, but we rallied. We had the first level freestyle championship on Sunday, and we just eeked out a wildcard score.”
Zoldak has continued to ride for Farmer—“I spend a lot of time driving and eating in my car and not always getting as much sleep as I’d like!”—and has recently accepted a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in New Mexico, so this weekend’s first level freestyle championship will be her last show with Ollie.
“I am very excited,” said Zoldak. “Where I work now I do a lot of mergers and acquisitions work and some general business work, and we’ve had a couple of fairly large transactions going on in between regionals and finals this weekend, so that’s taken up a lot more of my riding time than I would have liked, so it’s exciting, and it feels a little bit like, ‘Oh crap, am I prepared enough?’ ”
Ollie’s music is a mix of “Game Of Thrones” and Lindsey Stirling violin music.
Bred by Kathy Yore of Legacy Vanners in Virginia, Ollie is a solid-colored Gypsy Vanner, which Zoldak, Rushsylvania, Ohio, says are becoming more popular.
“He is just that typically goofy gelding who just really wants to please you,” she said. “Being a draft breed, he has a tendency to get a little heavy, and this year especially Andi has been really working hard on helping to improve his self-carriage. As a 5-year-old he’s still kind of a baby. When he gets tired he starts to lean, and you really have to ride him proactively to make sure he’s honest about the self-carriage. He’s also a very smart horse. He has a tendency to anticipate, which you have to work against. In the first level test and our freestyle, the leg yields that I’ve placed are in a similar position, so sometimes in the first level test he would start to anticipate. But he does it very honestly. He’s just a very earnest horse, and he works hard to please you, and he’s just very sweet.”
We‘re on site at the Kentucky Horse Park for the U.S. Dressage Finals! Check back at coth.com all weekend for more news and stories. If you’re at the show with a cool story, let us know by emailing Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org. Look out for the Dec. 2 print edition of the Chronicle for more from the show.