By Marissa L. Quigley
As horse lovers, we spend our childhoods doodling horses and cantering around the house. For most of us, this obsession is amiably tolerated by our families. They politely smile and pretend to understand when our idea of pleasant dinner conversation consists of stories about lead changes and the cutest face our pony makes for treats. They roll their eyes when they find us surrounded by Breyer Horse statues, the course at Aachen recreated on our bedroom floor using toilet paper for roll-tops and pencils for swedish oxers.
This was not the case for 15-year-old Lucy Matz. Lucy’s father is the iconic Michael Matz, Olympic medal winner, now Thoroughbred racing trainer. When Lucy played with Breyers, and needed a consult on the course design for her mini-Aachen, she could simply ask her dad, who just happened to have won team gold there in 1986. Lucy’s mom, D.D. Matz, comes from a horse legacy of her own. Lucy’s great-grandfather is Robert Kleberg, founder of the legendary King Ranch, which sprawls over 825,000 acres (bigger than Rhode Island!), and produced 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault, and Middleground, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Belmont in 1950. D.D. had a successful career in the amateur owner ring, and won her first grand prix in Wellington in 1991, at WEF’s former locale, the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club.
Not surprisingly, given this family heritage, Lucy can barely remember her first ride. She made her showing debut in the leadline at Devon at three, and has been showing ever since. After a successful career with her medium pony Frostin, who took her from Short Stirrup through the Medium Ponies, Lucy moved up to the Large Ponies, landing a 7th place finish at Pony Finals with Showboat.
In 2010, Lucy started doing the Pony Jumpers with Wiseguy, an Irish-bred Connemara who was originally shown by her older brother Alex. This little firecracker’s all-business attitude makes the Pony Jumper ring look just like a scaled down grand prix field. The pair won the NAL Pony Jumper Classic in the Dixon Oval in 2010 and finished second in 2011. While 2010 was lightning fast, the 2011 round is much more polished, minus the bucks and bobbles. When asked which she liked better, Lucy said while it’s nice to win, she was happier with her 2011 round where Wiseguy was “extremely good” and she rode a bit better. To see both rounds, visit the “Tucker the Wunderkind” blog on the Sidelines website – and you’ll see what Lucy means.
After talking with Lucy, it is easy to see how horses are woven into this family’s fabric. Her mom is an avid foxhunter, along with Lucy and Alex. Lucy’s younger brother, Robert, just started riding last year and will likely join them on the hunt as well. Lucy’s parents mainly ride for fun now, and help keep all the family’s horses in work. Can you imagine having Michael Matz in the family if your horse needed a good school? Then again, when asked what it’s like to have an Olympian for a father, Lucy says he’s fun to be around and at the end of the day, like any other kid, she just thinks of him as Dad.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you know that Lucy’s dad made quite a splash in the Thoroughbred racing world. Lucy admits that with a busy show schedule and the demands of school, it’s hard to get up early to go to the track, but she enjoys going. Lucy and her siblings were part of the cheering squad when Barbaro and Union Rags made their respective bids for the Triple Crown. With a giggle that tells you she must have asked at least once, Lucy confides that her dad has never let her ride any of the race horses.
At this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, Lucy has been working toward making a transition to the Junior Jumpers with her next mount, a Dutch Warmblood mare named Whoops. When asked about her riding goals, Lucy humbly says she hopes to keep improving with this horse, but adds that it would be “really, really cool” to go to the Olympics. The way Lucy says this makes it seem entirely possible, and is reminiscent of a young Michael Matz, who didn’t even attend his first opening ceremony because he figured he’d go every four years. With that in mind, it won’t be surprising to see Lucy on that platform one day.
Olympic Show Jumper and Racehorse Trainer
Michael Matz has had a brilliant career as a show jumper, described by many as a “natural” in the saddle, and has made headlines in the Thoroughbred racing world. His career highlights include:
- Competed with the U.S. Show Jumping Team for the 1976, 1992 and 1996 Olympics.
- Won the individual and team bronze medals at the 1978 World Equestrian Championships aboard Jet Run.
- Won the 1981 Show Jumping World Cup on Jet Run.
- Won team gold at the 1986 World Championships in Aachen aboard Chef.
- Won four gold medals and four bronze medals at the Pan American Games.
- Won a team silver medal in 1996 aboard Rhum IV.
- Chosen to carry the United States flag into Centennial Olympic Stadium at the Closing Ceremonies of the 1996 Games, in recognition of the heroism he showed during the crash of United Flight 232, where he returned to the plane to rescue the four children seated beside him.
- Inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame on April 1, 2006.
- Trained Barbaro, winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby.
- Trained Union Rags, winner of the 2012 Belmont Stakes.
About the writer: Marissa L. Quigley has been a fan of all things horses since before she could walk, and competes in the adult amateur hunters. Marissa and her horse, Tucker, live in New Jersey and take very good care of each other. For video features and more on this story, including Lucy’s NAL Pony Jumper trips, visit them on the Sidelines website at https://sidelinesnews.com/blogs/tuckerthewunderkind/.