Sometimes a girl needs more than bonbons to unwind. When that happens, Katrina Markoff leaves her Chicago boutique, Vosges Haut-Chocolat, to clock a couple of hours riding her horse, Euclide. Markoff, who has competed nationally since the age of 13, practices the formal hunters and jumpers disciplines.

"Jumpers is about going fast without pulling rails [not clearing a jump cleanly]," explains the equestrienne/entrepreneur. "Hunters is about the style, form, and carriage of the horse around the course. It doesn't look like you're doing anything, but you're controlling this 1,500-pound animal."

Markoff, 30, waxes rhapsodic about her hobby's mystical aspects: "I love the spiritual side of riding, being in nature, communicating with an animal." It's sweet relief to the pressures of running Vosges, which specializes in chocolates infused with ingredients like wasabi or Guinness. The 25-employee company expects to take in close to $3 million this year, and a fourth shop opens in New York City this month. Somehow, Markoff, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, tears herself away from the kitchen to take part in the odd competition. "Riding tells my mind to stop thinking," she says, "and rely on my instincts." So far, they've served her quite well.

Published on: Aug 1, 2003