In the Ring with Mimi Gochman
Meet Mimi Gochman, your winner of the Hermès U25 Semi Final Grand Prix and U25 Final Grand Prix WEF 2021, Upperville American Standard Grand Prix 2021, Ashford Farm Young Rider Grand Prix 2021, CSI2* LGCT Grand Prix of Monte Carlo 2021, and Individual Gold Medalist at NAYC in the Young Rider Division 2021. Mimi is a top 3 ring rider living in New York City, traveling all around the world throughout the year fulfilling her equestrian dreams. Now, let’s take a peek into Mimi’s life.
What does a typical day in your life look like for you?
I would say that none of my days are really
the same. In Florida when I am down for the WEF circuit, my days can look like this: I wake up at 7:15-7:30am, head to the barn and get on around 8:15am and have lessons or trail ride or flat my list of horses until about 1:30pm, then I go grab some lunch and head home or to PBIA’s building for 2pm classes that don’t end until 6pm. Then I will either do some ACT tutoring until about 7:30pm, or I will go have dinner with my parents.
I usually have those kinds of days in Florida Tues-Thurs and then the show weekend begins and my schedule switches around to riding early in the rings in the morning and finishing late in the afternoon and then hanging with friends or doing homework or hanging out with my horses at the barn and helping out. I usually will ride 4-6 horses at home, and will sometimes ride my mom or my sister’s horses.
When I am back in the city, my school week consists of school, ACT tutoring, and hanging out with my friends. We like to see musicals on Broadway, have picnics in Central Park, spend hours in Barnes and Noble or any book store really, or just hangout downtown browsing shops and stopping for food or boba. I try to stay relaxed when I am in the city and spend time doing non riding things while I can, but I always miss the horses while I am here. After the winter circuit through the spring, summer, and fall, the horses are in New Jersey so I can go to the barn during the weekends and ride them as well.
How did you balance school and competitive riding? Do/Did you go to an Online High School?
When I was younger, balancing school and riding was quite easy because I usually would only show Friday-Sunday, and schools were often accommodating because school wasn’t as demanding. I would also be able to go attend lessons in upstate New York or in New Jersey after school because it was close by. When I was doing pony divisions, the Winter circuit in Florida used to be a weekend activity that we would fly down for on a Thursday night to make it for a pony medal and warmups on Friday, but as I got older my parents decided we should make the move to Florida and do school there to be closer to the horses.
I moved down to Florida and did in-person middle school and was able to balance riding very well with the accommodation of my teachers and trainers. Then, I moved back to the city for High School where I attend in-person classes at Spence School. I like attending school as much as possible, and that was always a precedent in my family, school first! I am, however, able to stay down for the whole entire WEF circuit during the winter and continue my Spence curriculum with PBIA tutors. My school communicates with me and a set of tutors in Florida and we all work together to ensure that I keep up with my classes, and then I return in the spring to go back to my regular classes. I never did an online school program, but I do work with tutors in order to keep my schooling in order.
What are your top tips for being so successful in the jumpers?
I would say that the most important thing about jumpers or riding in general is to remember why you began riding, and to remember why you are putting in the work and effort. I think that for me jumpers have always been the challenge that keeps getting more challenging which is why it is so rewarding. I love the idea of trying to turn better next time or manipulating a distance to have one less step on course, and the adrenaline that comes with the clock. Jumpers is such a technical discipline and I love the fact that it can always be done better. I think riding in general is like that, but I see it the most in jumpers. I wouldn’t say that I have a specific tip that will be helpful, but I would say never give up on yourself or your horse and always be grateful to your team because they are what makes everything possible.
My mom instilled in me that the best thing to be successful is to remember the roots of the sport. Remember the partnership between you and the horse and never stop caring or putting that horse first. Horses are the reason we do this, and the love and care for horses is the most imperative part of being successful. The talent, training, and hard work are just a bonus that we get to put in to see the shining result. I am constantly reminded of the time and hard work that goes into this sport, so to lose sight of the love for horses, can be the most defeating thing.
What is it like riding, showing, and working with Catch Me?
Riding Snoopy is absolutely wonderful. He is a one of a kind horse and I can never be too grateful to my mom for allowing me to ride him. He is a dream to ride from his trot and perfect jump to his amazing and silly personality. I feel like we clicked very fast and that he understood that I am a part of the family. He is a very smart horse and knows what is going on at all times. He makes his life very easy on himself and is always ready for a competition. I have had the pleasure of watching Scott Stewart compete on him and my mother compete on him for about 5-6 years at least now so it was really nice to have that support when my mom said that I could show him. Now, my mom and I share him and we both are able to compete with him which is something that I love being able to share with my mother. Back to him being smart, I think I could tell him the course and just sit there and he would go do it on his own. He loves being cuddled with and loves attention. He is really the sweetest horse and will always be one of the best competitors I have had the chance to partner with.
What do you think sets you apart from other competitors within the show ring? Do you think it is because of your training routine at home, the type of horse you ride, your track on course, etc?
I would say that my amazing parents, team, and horses set me apart. I think that my horses and I have been able to create amazing bonds with each other which makes me successful, and I have had amazing coaching my whole life. Being able to be at the top competitions in the world and watch professionals show and compete also contributes to my education and success because I can see hands on how a successful barn and team runs. I think that it all stems from barn management and a team working together towards one goal. I think another thing that contributes to my success is that I have family members who ride as well and they have been able to guide me and share my passion with me so that we may learn from each other. Having the whole family be as invested in your sport as you are makes it very easy to enjoy and learn, and I think that family dynamic has definitely contributed to my success. Horses are always going to be at the forefront of my success and I have been so lucky to find the best horses I can and been able to have success on all of them from being taught a lesson about horsemanship and horse care, to actually winning classes. I think all horses can teach you to be a better horseman and all horses make you successful in growing as a rider.
What mental or physical strategies do you use for bouncing back from a round that didn’t go the way you planned?
As someone who often dwells on my mistakes, I think that “bouncing back from a bad round” is a work in progress for me. I often like to spend time with my horses and thank them for helping me through a challenging round, and then sit and discuss with my trainers and rewatch the round on tape. I think that I struggle to accept my mistakes and not get too upset about them, but that is something that I have had to consistently work on my whole entire riding career. I sometimes will let myself cry, and then after that force myself to look onto the next event and try to mentally pump myself up. I often have to remember that I wouldn’t be put in a dangerous situation and remember that I can ride and that all riding is always a learning experience and try to focus on what I can do better. I think that in a sport this competitive with this many amazing riders, it is hard to forgive yourself. I often fall into the mental hole of: I have had so much training, I have the best horses, and I should have been able to do this, which is actually detrimental. I strive to have a more positive mindset for the future, but I think that the best thing to do is continue to work on yourself and go from there.
What advice would you give to other kids looking to move up the ranks?
I would say find someone who you idolize and try to replicate the things they do that make you want to be them. That might sound a little bit confusing, but a lot of professionals share a lot about their riding process and I think it is interesting to watch those that inspire you. I have watched professionals school their horses in person, but also been able to watch some of Beezie Madden’s youtube videos and Karl Cook’s walking and talkings which are all online educational videos that share tools and tips for riding through the eyes of a successful professional. Riding is a hard sport to move up in because so many things need to click in place in order to move up, so I think never give up and always strive to make your dreams come true.
What exercises do you do while hacking/riding to improve consistency within the show ring?
Ken has me work on a lot of short to open (or open to short) lines with cavalettis to help me with communication with my horse. We also do a lot of gymnastic work along with bending lines to strengthen my horses' and my eye. When having trouble finding distances I will resort to counting each step with 1 and 2 in my head to keep my rhythm and force myself to set a pace and stay at it, something my mom taught me. I think that I also have to remember to not take the first distance I see since I tend to see my distances very far out. I don’t jump very big at home, but all the exercises I do are just as effective at 3’ or lower. I only jump bigger when there is a specific type of jump or combination that I need to practice at show ring height.
Do you feel pressure or nerves when walking into the show ring? How do you cope with them?
I have been lucky enough to show for my whole entire life so I don’t tend to have a lot of nerves. When I do get nervous I try to focus on what I know how to do and remembering how talented my partner is, but once I am on my horse in the warm up, those small little nerves dissipate. I also believe a little bit of fear is healthy and actually makes you rise to the occasion because you know how important it is to do what you do best. I tend to get a little fidgety when I have to wait a long time to show, like going later in the class, so I will often watch the first few with my trainer and then walk around the horse show or back to the stalls to visit my horses and then return and watch from a different angle. I think that spending time with your horse and talking through the plan are the best ways to stay focused and not let any distractions in.
What are some of your future plans or goals? Are you going to go pro? Why or why not?
In the future, I hope to ride on teams and represent the USA nationally and internationally. I love riding and I hope to continue to rise in the sport for as long as I can. Another goal is to become the best horsewoman and broaden my knowledge of riding and horses as a whole. I do not have plans to go pro right away because I want to focus on college and getting a degree apart from riding, but I will always be a rider and show through college. I think that becoming a pro will be something I consider later after college, but definitely something I am interested in.
What do you wish you could’ve told 10-year-old Mimi?
I wish I could’ve told 10-year old Mimi to be more patient. I was a very hyperactive kid and I think that patience with myself would have made my riding better. Horses and ponies are a process and a long term bond that you have to make, and rushing through the process never leads to success. I think I took the wins for granted and was too hard on myself about the mistakes, and I think that patience with myself would have balanced those extreme emotions out a little bit. I want 10-year old Mimi to be more aware of herself and know that she has a lot coming, but not to rush what is happening to her at that moment.
One thing you wish you could change about the equestrian world?
I would love to make the equestrian world more inclusive and diverse. Now that is such a broad statement, but my family as a whole is dedicated to this change. I think that it is slow to come and going to be challenging to achieve because of how inaccessible this sport is right now. I want to open it up and show every person how amazing horses and riding are. I think that starts with every equestrian and horse person opening their mind just a little bit more. There are small things to do first before the sport truly changes, but I hope to be able to dedicate myself and contribute to this change on a high level. My mom and sister are also dedicated to this challenge and have both been super vocal about change. It is so important to help others because of how fortunate we, as a riding community, are to know the bond of horse and rider and be able to compete with amazing animals. Wouldn’t you want to share that with those who can’t and make it possible so that they can? I do, and I need to be more active in this because words can only do so much.
Rapid Fire 🔥
Top 5 things you can always find in your trunk/locker at a horse show?
Boot polish kit, crops and spurs, rain gear, extra layers, stocktie
Favorite TV show or movie?
I love Criminal Minds and am an avid Grey’s Anatomy watcher.
I also love most marvel movies and romcoms.
Go-to food and/or snack when at a horse show?
I usually can always go for a good breakfast sandwich or smoothie while at the shows.
Dream Saturday night when you’re not showing?
Hanging with friends either going to the movies or seeing a Broadway musical. I also love having a nice dinner or having a sleepover with some friends as well.
Favorite horse show you’ve been to?
I love the Devon Horse Show!!