Horse of the Week: ZZ Top VH Schaarbroek Z

McLain Ward & ZZ Top en route to tie for first in the Central Park Puissance Ph. Lucio Landa
McLain Ward & ZZ Top en route to tie for first place in the Central Park Puissance Ph. Lucio Landa
McLain Ward & ZZ Top en route to tie for first place in the Central Park Puissance Ph. Lucio Landa

With two top finishes in Puissance competitions in the last two months, heads are turning for the horse that’s jumping to new heights with the USA’s McLain Ward.

Ward and ZZ Top VH Schaarbroek Z (Zandor Z x Latus) tied for 1st alongside Aaron Vale and Finou 4 in Friday’s $25,000 Open Jumper Puissance at the Washington International Horse Show—the second time they’ve done so in just over four weeks. They were following up another tie for first with Andrew Kocher and C’Havinia in the $50,000 Engel & Völkers Puissance on September 22nd at the Central Park Horse Show in New York City, New York.

But high jumping is far from the Zangersheide gelding’s only notable skill—his longevity under multiple riders is as much, if not more significant. During his career, ZZ Top has amassed a resume that include great results on the international circuit with France’s Kevin Staut and Michael Robert, Germany’s Marc Bettinger and Venezuela’s Emanuel Andrade.

Together with Andrade, the pair rode to multiple top placings in Wellington and as recently as this summer at Spruce Meadows. They also were members of Venezuela’s Gold Medal winning Nations Cup team in the 2013 Bolivarian Games in Trujillo, Peru, going on to place fourth individually in the Games as well.

Before Andrade stepped foot in the irons, ZZ Top was ridden by Marc Bettinger, who most notably placed 2nd in a CSI2* Grand Prix in Oldenburg, Germany in November 2012. France’s legendary horseman Michael Robert would also make appearances in the show ring with ZZ Top, along with Kevin Staut, who placed 4th with the bay gelding in the Prix French Tour EADS speed at Bordeaux CSI5*-W in February of 2012.

At 15 years old, it is clear that ZZ Top is still in top form, continuing to deliver leading performances and making clearing 7 foot obstacles look like a thing of ease. When the opportunity came for this talented horse to once again be back in his stables, McLain Ward couldn’t pass it up.

I first bought ZZ about four years ago and brought him to Florida and eventually sold him to Emanuel Andrade,” said Ward. “ZZ took Emanuel up to the grand prix level—he was a fantastic teacher in his first experience with the bigger jumps. This year in Florida I purchased him back and leased him this summer to another young rider to help him gain experience. The lease came up at the end of the season and I actually had my home rider, Oliver McCarthy show him at the American Gold Cup and Central Park and he went phenomenally in both places. I then used him for both Puissance classes and he won both of them. He’s been a great guy his whole life.”

Falling into the class of elite horses that have maintained a consistent competitive resume well into maturity, ZZ’s good-natured personality is also a factor that Ward credits with how the horse has sustained his longstanding career.

“His character is really phenomenal and I think that’s really the key to his success,” Ward shared. “He’s kind of a big gentle giant with a lot of personality. He’s really willing to do anything you ask of him and he’s basically very simple. He tries to be good and no matter what the task is or the level of rider, he’s always trying to help.”

ZZ Top concludes competition this week with Ward in the saddle—and will look for a new situation come 2017.

“I think I’ll be done riding him after Washington,” Ward shared. “My goal would be to lease him again next season to a rider who wants to step up the levels. Hopefully we can find the right match for him and another rider can gain some great mileage.”