Sarah Zufelt & “Howard”
A Heavenly Match
Every so often, the stars inevitably align. That’s what happened when Sara Zufelt met her current dressage mount, Howard. Named after the character Howard from the television show, The Big Bang Theory, this upper level school master has exchanged a wealth of knowledge for a secure home with a dedicated rider and caretaker. This cosmic collision is a match made in heaven. Watch for them at our next STRIDE show.
How long have you been interested in horses? I have been interested in horses for as long as I can remember. My mom worked on the race track and she would take me in my carrier around the shed row at 6 weeks old.
How long have been riding? Have you always been interested in dressage? If not, what other types of riding have you done? I’ve been riding since I was 4. When I turned seven, I got my first pony named Blondie. Shortly after I got Blondie, I fell off and lacerated my spleen learning to canter and was in Shands intensive care unit for 10 days. I took a break from jumping for about two years and joined stride in 2003 /2004. I accomplished my goal and was year-end grand champion with my pony Blondie. I continued showing in the pony hunters doing local shows and a few rated shows. When I was 13, I wanted to try something new and got into barrel racing and have been doing that since… until my mom got a new horse, which is where Howard came in.
When did you first meet Howard? What’s his real name, and what is his breed? I first met Howard when I got to the barn one evening. My mom went to see him the night before and watched him standing in a pasture knowing he was perfect because he had a kind eye. All she knew was that he was a dressage horse. All the other info on him we later found was not true. When my mom took him, his name was Blackie. We had a Big Bang theme going with the horses we had; our first one we named Sheldon (Accent), and we later sold him to Juan Ledgard. In keeping with The Big Bang theme, this horse just had to be named Howard! Later, by chance we were contacted by his original owner. We found his real name was Lanka, and that he was a Dutch Warmblood imported as nine-year-old, now 25 years old.
How did you and Howard become a team? When did you know he was “the one?” Howard and I became a team when I bred my barrel racing mare a little over a year ago. Since my mare was in foal and my mom
couldn’t ride Howard’s trot, I was asked to ride him for her. I haven’t done dressage since I was little, and Howard is like driving a space shuttle; he has so many buttons. The more I rode him the more buttons I found.
What do you enjoy most about Howard? The thing I like most about Howard is that he knows way more than I️ do and feels the need to let me know that every time I️ get on,
especially warming up. He is such a show off and loves to do the fancy moves when all I want to do is trot on a long rein. Although frustrating at times, it’s also a good laugh.
What is his greatest strength? Howard’s greatest strength is he never gives up. He is 25 years old and he still thinks he is nine. He will not take retirement for an answer. Every time I️ get on, I️ know he always take care of me; he has taught me so much!
At what level are you two currently showing? We are currently showing Intro A, B, and C and moving towards Training Level 1. When I started with Howard, we were both way out of shape, and I could barely ride his trot, so I wanted to start at the beginning and learn how to ride him, and we could get fit at the same time. Howard is an upper level horse and to ask him to just trot is not that easy. He is always trying to do something fancy, but neither of us are ready for that.
What are your long-term goals for yourself and Howard? My long-term goals for Howard are to get through this year and see how he is; he will tell us if he wants to continue on. But like I️ said, he won’t take retirement for an answer.
To what level is Howard schooled? Howard has been shown through Prix St. George, but is trained to Grand Prix. He knows a ton.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from Howard? My greatest lesson from Howard is not to worry about the small stuff. Trust him to take care of me and I will take care of him.
What do you think Howard would say is the greatest lesson he’s learned from you? I hope Howard has learned from me that it’s ok just to walk and trot on a loose rein, that every time someone gets on him he doesn’t have to do fancy trick- just walk and trot and enjoy the day.
What is the most challenging thing about riding Howard? What’s the most rewarding thing about riding him? The most challenging thing about Howard when I first started to ride him was his trot. He has so much suspension. It took a long time to get used to, going from my quarter horse to him. I have very short legs compared to a traditional dressage rider (barely reaching past the pad), and Howard was not used to getting cues from way up there. Now that he knows my legs won’t be getting any longer, I️ can ask him to do almost anything, and he’s more than happy to do it.
Do you have a favorite book or video that’s your “go to” riding/ training reference?
I don’t really have a favorite book, but I do like to go on YouTube and watch different instructional videos and learn different ways I️ can ask Howard to do something.
Are you currently taking lessons with anyone? I’m not currently taking lessons, but my mom has been there with me every step and points out the things I️ could try to improve. If it wasn’t for her, I️ would always feel like I️ looked like a sack of potatoes driving a space shuttle.
What thoughts or words of inspiration do you keep in mind to move forward with your riding goals? My inspiration are the horses. Just to be able to have the opportunity to ride such a well-trained horse such as Howard! I️ know he won’t always be there, but the lessons he has taught me will never be forgotten, and I️ will be able to carry them with me every time I️ get on a horse.