Stepping Out Of Her Comfort Zone

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - August 17, 2011
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Haven Mizutani makes a jump. Ron Mizutani photo

Let me start by saying my daughter Haven is not thrilled that I’m focusing this week’s column on her recent success at a horse show in Northern California.

We recently traveled to Sonoma County to watch Haven compete in a show. It was a great opportunity to see where she stood on a large stage.

If the competition wasn’t tough enough, the logistics of being a competitor here only added to the massive challenge. Part of the success of any rider is the relationship they have with their horse. My daughter, a sophomoreto-be at Kamehameha, has a great relationship with “River” and “Reggie,” but they were back in Waimanalo at Circle C Ranch. Bringing them on a road trip was not an option.

We had to find a horse for her and she’d have less than two days to develop that critical horse-rider relationship, which often takes years to nourish. Thanks to trainer Marian Nelson of Riverside Equestrian Center, Haven was matched with a 14-year-old horse named Skylar. The thoroughbred had not competed in more than three years, but the bond began and quickly flourished.

On the first day, with all eyes on her, Haven placed in all three events; two fifths and a sixth. She was composed under immense pressure. Riders and trainers knew someone from out of town was in the competition. “She’s from Hawaii,” was echoed through the fairgrounds. Of course, our family was bundled in layers of clothing in the 50-degree weather. Hawaii was definitely in the house.


That night my daughter told me, “I’ve never been so nervous at a horse show.”

I was witnessing growth.

Haven has experienced much success back home, but only after years of hard work. There had been much disappointment and frustration along the way. It was years before she started placing, let alone win, but the wait made her a more appreciative rider.

But Sonoma was far from Waimanalo. Haven had definitely stepped out of her comfort zone. I knew the nervousness would ease on day two. It did. She was steady in the early rounds, earning two third-place finishes. Her confidence was growing by the hour. She earned another third in an equitation class filled with established riders and horses that were worth six figures and higher.

She stumbled briefly in her seventh class but still managed a sixth-place finish. With one final class to go, she quietly walked over to us on Skylar. “I’m not going home without a blue ribbon,” she told my oldest son Dane, who had flown from Chicago to watch his baby sister.

She would not be denied. She and Skylar looked like old friends sailing quietly and cleanly over jumps. And as she approached her last jump, I could see a huge smile. She knew she was nearly perfect, and the judge agreed. After an hour of watching other competitors, the results were read on a loud speaker for all to hear.


“In first place, No. 631, Haven Mizutani,” said the announcer. We screamed with joy. Some frowned at our excitement but others understood why we were elated. I was comforted when someone quietly told his family, “They came a long way for this one.”

My daughter had overcome enormous odds and humbly smiled and thanked the presenter as she was handed the blue ribbon.

It was at that moment that I saw her grace and maturity shine.

My baby girl was a young woman. Where did the time go?

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