Jump Up with Danica Meyerhoff – International Show Jumper
Contributed by Around the Water Trough
Like many young equestrians, Danica Meyerhoff, now an international show jumper, started her horse career at her grandparent’s farm, “my grandparents always had a few horses picked up from the local sales. My sisters and I would take turns leading each other around the paddock bareback in a halter. Spending time with the horses was all it took, soon I joined our local 4-H club, then Pony Club.” As Danica aims to achieve her goal of one day competing for Team Canada, she has a string of wildly talented horses in her barn, including ‘Casanova’ – a level 1.30m jumper, ‘Cass’ (or ‘Prince Cass’ when he’s feeling like a diva!) is an 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding that she started herself. She competed him in his first .80m and has continued to bring him up through the levels. ‘EWSZ Mozart’ is competing in the level 1.20m jumpers, ‘Mo’ is a 7-year-old Zweibruker gelding that the Mozart Syndicate purchased as a 5-year-old and have been producing him with goals of the upper levels. ‘Chico,’ a 6-year-old Holsteiner gelding that Danica started, is a young hunter just starting out in the baby greens.
Meyerhoff Show Horses also has several imports and homebreds for sale at their farm - Eight Bells Farm in Statesville, NC - owned by John and Anna Gilbert. Eight Bells consists of 34 acres, a 20-stall barn with 12 paddocks, 150x150 jump ring with derby bank and all weather GGT jumper blend footing. A 20x60 sand dressage court, grass jump field, and 3-acre cross country schooling field complete with water jump, ditch, and mound make for a top-notch facility. The Meyerhoffs spend the winter months at Derek Strine’s Barnstaple South, which is located across the highway from HITS, “a very convenient location for me, 38 acres with a 22-stall barn, 18 paddocks and a grass jump field with a track on the outside,” says Danica.
Danica focuses on the quality of the canter in horses she’s looking to train and compete, “an active strong hind leg with a good brain to train them how to use it correctly is going to make your job a heck of a lot easier in the long run.” She smiles when asked why she turned to strictly jumpers after a successful eventing career, “I’m a bit of a perfectionist. When you can walk out of the ring executing your perfect fast, clear round because all your training and hard work just came together, that combined with the adrenaline of jumping bigger fences, there’s no better feeling!” Danica first came to the States from Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada, where she began as a working student for Canadian Team rider Rebecca Howard in Virginia. While working for Howard, Danica produced several horses through the levels of eventing and was quickly recognized as an up and coming talent for Team Canada. Danica then began to focus on a career in show jumping in 2012 as she took a winter riding position for Grand Prix rider Aaron Vale. In 2006, she met Bobby Meyerhoff, an international eventer, when they were both working students in Middleburg, VA, and the two married a few years later in 2011. The couple moved to California from 2014-15, but soon decided the East Coast was where they needed, and wanted, to be and headed back east to Eight Bells Farm.
The Meyerhoffs compete in different disciplines but building up two successful businesses – eventing and show jumping - such as Meyerhoff Show Horses is hard work. When asked if working with your significant other is difficult or easy, Danica easily answers, “Both! It can be challenging to run your business out of the same barn, our programs are so closely involved. Over the years we have made a lot of changes as our careers and strings have evolved. We run things in a team environment, all together despite the difference in disciplines. We have some amazing employees that keep up with all our different likes and dislikes to keep things running smoothly throughout the day. Our grooms and working students have been wonderful this year and have memorized all the differences in tack, horses, therapies, etc, which isn’t an easy thing to accomplish!”
With every new, young business, there are funny, and yes, sometimes frustrating, memories and mistakes to look back on and Danica and Bobby have made the best of the things they have learned, “Well, a lot of mistakes were made! LOL When we first started out, we started a lot of young horses together to make a living so we could compete the few upper level horses we had at the time. I think when you’re that young you’re a little more game to get on anything and everything and probably a little more positive you can fix every horses problem. Our ‘young horse starting guide’ has evolved over the years and we have developed a ton more ways to work through behavioral problems with groundwork before just climbing on and having a go! When we started out, we lived in a living quarters horse trailer and joked that the day we moved into a house we would have so much space we wouldn't be able to find each other.”
Currently Danica has a busy summer planned with several shows at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, as well as a trip to Kentucky in August. She will head to Aiken, SC, in September and wrap up the month in Tryon again for Fall 2. When asked what events are some of her favorites, she easily answers that her “favorite event that I have attended would hands down have to be Spruce Meadows, while my favorite event that I have competed at was the Aiken Charity Classic, such a great venue, courses, footing, and hospitality!”
With trailers headed to various events throughout the year, I asked Danica if she had any “game day rituals”, and while she may not have a lucky rabbits foot, she does have a show day plan, “I definitely have common strategies to help me focus on repeating previous success. If one day your horse show goes well it’s important to focus on why and know exactly the prep and under what circumstances it went well. I think it’s easy to have some small successes, I think it’s extremely difficult to repeat that all the time.” Every rider has different motivation, or reasons, for riding and competing. The thing that keeps Danica in the saddle is “the partnership and relationship you create through the training process, my horses mean a lot to me. My whole life revolves around them, waking up each day to spend time with them in or out of the saddle is what I look forward to each day and what keeps me going.”
Danica’s advice for other riders –
“Most people, especially in this digital age, are so influenced by social media. It can “appear” that everyone else is doing so much better than you, but stay in your lane, focus on your goals and your riding. Everyone has their own path and I think it’s important to focus on your own training program.”
A few Danica favs ...
Food - Basically all of my mom’s home cooking!
Song - that’s tough ... I’m not sure I have one!
Place to Visit - California, as I am originally from the west coast