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The Next Generation – Mimi Gochman: “The base from equitation will help you in the long run”

Tuesday, 22 June 2021
The Next Generation

Photo © Kind Media LLC Mimi Gochman with the 13-year-old mare Gigi’s Girl BH, that she placed third with in her three-star Grand Prix debut at the Winter Equestrian Festival earlier this year. Photo © Kind Media LLC.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

In March 2021, Mimi Gochman topped the Hermès U25 Semi Final and Final at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, and did her three-star Grand Prix debut to finish third. World of Showjumping had a chat with the 16-year-old American rider to learn more about her journey from equitation to jumpers and how competing next to the sport’s current superstars has made the very top seem more attainable.

In her debut at three-star Grand Prix level, Gochman rode the 13-year-old mare Gigi’s Girl BH (ex. Daline, Vingino x Celano) and placed third after two clear rounds. “The last two weeks of WEF were really great,” Gochman says. “Winning the U25 Grand Prix Final was super exciting and something I had worked towards during the whole WEF. Together with my third place in the three-star Grand Prix, these were the highlights of my WEF and some of my biggest accomplishments yet. WEF is always fun and you learn a lot.”

Photo © Kind Media LLC In March 2021, Mimi Gochman topped the Hermès U25 Semi Final and Final at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, and did her three-star Grand Prix debut to finish third. “Winning the U25 Grand Prix Final was super exciting and something I had worked towards during the whole WEF," Gochman says. Photo © Kind Media LLC.

This year, many of the world’s top ranked riders and horses were present at the Winter Equestrian Festival, which made the twelve weeks even more interesting for Gochman. “It is cool to be able to walk to the showground and see so many of the top riders in the world,” she says. “It is inspiring to watch them school their horses. Just seeing everything they do – from putting their boots on to how much they jump, the way they walk the course – you can learn so much. Now, I have competed against some of them and it is interesting to see the differences between my rounds and theirs and to be able to learn from the experience.”

“I think it makes it feel more real,” Gochman continues to speak about the importance of riding next to top athletes. “Being able to see the biggest courses, watch the top horses and riders and interacting with them – it makes the very top of the sport seem more attainable. However, I think I have ways to go! I have had some success as a young rider, but I know I have a lot to learn in this sport. I have to be consistent and that gets harder on the higher levels. However, I think if I put in the work, I am able to get there.”

Next to her success at Grand Prix level, Gochman is still active in the equitation ring. “I really appreciate the equitation,” she tells. “I think it forces riders to think more about doing things correctly. In jumpers, it is not always about correctness. This makes the jumpers more free and fun, and in my opinion, easier to succeed in. Equitation is really hard: It forces you to think about all the little details. However, this then helps you when you get to bigger jumps. The base from equitation will help you in the long run: Stuff you can do on the lower heights – like being able to see the tracks and outer lines – becomes really helpful in the jumper ring.”

Photo © Kind Media LLC “Being able to have a partnership with an animal is an aspect in the sport that I love,” Gochman says – here with Celina BH. Photo © Kind Media LLC.

Gochman’s family has their own barn, Baxter Hill, in Wellington. “Baxter Hill has its permanent facilities in Wellington, Florida, but I live in New York City with my family and go to school here,” Gochman explains. “My mom grew up in New Jersey and she always loved riding. She competed when she was young and introduced my sister Sophie and me to horses. I was first put on a horse when I was 18 months old, and my sister and I fell in love with the sport.”

Combining school and sport can be challenging at times, Gochman tells. “I think I have gotten a hang of it now though. I have a whole group of tutors who help me when I am not able to attend school and I always get support from my teachers,” Gochman smiles. “I think the key is to stay ahead at all times, so that I can keep going to horse shows on the weekends and not fail at school. I am definitely going to go to college and finish my education – I want to keep my options open. I would love to become a professional rider, but I also want to see what else there is in the world. However, I know horses will always be a part of my life, whether I become a professional or not.”

The horses are the best part of the sport for Gochman. “Being able to have a partnership with an animal is an aspect in the sport that I love,” she says. “Horses are so interesting and learning how to understand them is fun. I relish being able to see the horses be proud of themselves: Seeing them happy. I can tell that they know and feel proud. Seeing the horses enjoy what they are doing makes it worth it. Happy horses going into the ring with bright eyes is probably my favourite part of the sport.” 

Photo © Kind Media LLC "I think riding brings a lot of responsibility and forces you to make proper decisions and be disciplined, know your limits – all in all, it makes you strong," Gochman says. Photo © Kind Media LLC.

“I think the sport also brings education and time management into my life,” Gochman continues. “Forming bonds with adults and being able to take instructions are important skills to learn. I think riding brings a lot of responsibility and forces you to make proper decisions and be disciplined, know your limits – all in all, it makes you strong. Although it is an individual sport, I think the team aspect is still prominent: You have to have a team of people around you to be successful. It is not only about you and your horse, it is about the whole barn coming together to make it work. This sport teaches you to be disciplined, to be thankful. And also, it is really fun!”

“I always find the most challenging part is seeing horses go: When a horse leaves the farm,” Gochman continues. “It is so easy to get attach to them and it is hard to understand that horses are also athletes and they should be where they can perform best. I think it is important to respect the horse and make sure they can do their work in the best of their abilities – it is not just about them being our pets.”

Gochman believes that her current string of horses is the strongest she has ever had. “Right now, I have two Grand Prix horses: Celina BH (Canstakko x Carthago Z) and Gigi’s Girl BH. I also have a horse for the high jumpers and two horses for equitation. I have been able to develop a great connection with each of them, since I have had most of them for two to four years now. However, a horse that really stood out for me during my career, has been Street Hassle BH (Quick Star x Beach Boy). He brought me from the low junior jumpers to the highs, he taught me so much and gave me a lot of confidence.”

Photo © Kind Media LLC "My horses are great partners and always try so hard for me, it makes it fun," Gochman says – here with Gigi's Girl BH. Photo © Kind Media LLC.

And confidence is key when it comes to success in the show ring. Despite her young age, Gochman is always calm going in – something she believes stems from feeling ready for the challenge ahead. “All of the exercises from my trainers have brought me where I am today and created the success for me and my horses together,” Gochman explains. “I never really feel nervous in the ring or going to the show! I have always been pretty good about my nerves and been able to just go in and do what my trainer told me. Obviously, it does not always go my way. However, my coaches help me feel like I can do it, and the way they teach me to connect with my horses makes me feel like it is all going to be easy. Also, I think the calmness comes from doing it for so long: I have been riding for all my life and this kind of competition is all I know. My first three-star Grand Prix was the first competition where I felt a little bit nervous beforehand. At that height, it all feels real: The jumps are big and the oxers are wide, I had to concentrate a lot more than usual. However, it was the most fun I have had in a show ring! My horses are great partners and always try so hard for me, it makes it fun. In my three-star debut, I was lucky enough to make it to the jump-off and even though I did not have the fastest time, it was a clean, strong round and gave me confidence to continue on this level.”

“I have known my trainers Ken Berkley and Scott Steward my whole life,” Gochman tells about her coaches. “Ken trains me more than Scott and has been a huge part of my life. He is very strict, strong and wants me to do things correctly. He is the one who has taught me all of my jumper knowledge. He is super competitive. Scott does the hunters on a very high level himself; he has so much insight and it is amazing to watch him compete.”

Feeling supported by her peers in such a competitive sport is another aspect that Gochman finds important. “I think since it is a smaller community, you get to know the people in the sport better. It is easier to watch the top end of sport. Also, I feel like although it is a very competitive sport, everyone is always rooting for each other even though in the ring we are rivals," Gochman says. "That is something I love: Being able to have friends in the sport who also support you – because there can be a lot of highs and lows.”

 

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