BY JESS CLAWSON
Zachary Parks had an unlikely start to his equestrian career. During his very first ride, on the beach in California, he fell off and got his foot caught in the stirrup and wound up in the intensive care unit. “I got hooked—literally,” he joked.
Most people would likely call it a day at that point and move on to a different, safer hobby like skydiving… but Parks felt pulled back to horses. When his family moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, he was fortunate to be able to take riding lessons at The Barracks and hasn’t looked back.
Charlottesville was a good place for an aspiring young rider to land. At The Barracks, Parks took lessons from Claiborne Bishop and Glenn Moody. “They helped shape me into the person and rider I am today,” he said.
Parks has had quite a journey in the sport, beginning with a pony named The Wizard of Oz. “He regularly acquainted me with the ground,” he laughed. He went on to ride a life changing horse named Cadeaux, after whom he would eventually name his business, Cadeaux Show Stables.
“Cadeaux means gift,” he said. “I realize how lucky I am with the horses and people I have come to love in this business. There have been a lot of gifts along the way.”
Parks rode Cadeaux to the 2007 3’6” Small Junior Hunter National Championship title, a truly special accomplishment. Although the young man clearly showed great promise in the sport, he wasn’t always set on the idea of becoming a professional.
He was accepted to the University of Virginia Graduate Curry School of Education, and had to make a choice. “Ultimately, I decided I wanted to follow my passion, continue my riding career, and become a professional,” he said. “Claiborne Bishop was able to help, offering me a job coaching the UVA IHSA team.”
Parks turned out to be a great fit with the team. In his first year coaching, one of his students was reserve champion at the IHSA Nationals. The following year, UVA went to zone finals for the first time in many years.
The opportunity to coach young riders at UVA was the push he needed to really dig into becoming a professional. “It was my first chance to watch my students develop as riders as well as individuals,” he said. “Since then, being able to help a rider achieve a horse show goal, welcome a new four-legged friend, or simply reach small goals around the barn has been really rewarding.”
Now he enjoys helping horses and riders develop at their own pace at Cadeaux Show Stables. “I find it really important to remind my clients that they are in this sport for a reason,” he said. “As long as you’re giving it your all, the pieces will come together.”
Parks has benefitted from many mentors in the sport. Claiborne Bishop has continued to support him, even helping him out of a tough spot several years ago when the barn he was leasing gave him a six hour eviction warning. “She welcomed me back with open arms and a big truck to move all my clients and horses,” he recalled.
Glenn Moody, too, has been critical. “He was probably the most influential, supportive person for me,” Parks said. “From the start, Glenn would always be there to drive me to lessons before I was old enough to take myself. He opened endless opportunities for me to take lessons and clinics, and genuinely wanted to develop me as a rider in any way he could, whether it be in his lessons or someone else’s.”
Parks has also been lucky enough to have the support of Virginia luminaries like Maria Shannon, Maria Oates, Dotty Gray, Peg Seals, and Joe Fargis (for whom he was a working student). “Peg Seals is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. She brought me riding opportunities at venues I had only dreamed of going to, and training techniques I still use,” he said.
Cadeaux Show Stables is a gift in itself for Parks. The people–and his new dwarf mini, Captain Cupcakes–are a supportive group. “We have everyone from lead line to the junior hunters to the jumpers, and everyone supports each others’ goals,” he said.
Parks plans to keep working hard on bringing his business to the next level, including supporting his clients, developing more sales horses, and riding in the Grand Prix ring. But whatever he does next, Parks knows that being in the sport at all is a gift.
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About the Author: Jess is a professional historian and educator who lives in northwestern Virginia. They completed their undergraduate degree in English at William & Mary, and did their masters and doctoral work at the University of Florida. Jess is an event rider with a passion for thoroughbreds, and has extensive experience in community organizing around queer identities, racial marginalization, and labor.
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