By Liza Goodlett
Abby O’Mara was a member of the University of Georgia’s Equestrian team before transitioning to the assistant coach position at Texas A&M University in 2017. Abby had a very successful hunt seat career at Georgia, including leading the Bulldogs to win the 2014 NCEA Championship. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a graduate assistant to the team for two years before transitioning to South Florida to work as an academic coordinator. An unexpected phone call came that ultimately landed Abby the coaching position at Texas A&M in 2017.
When did you decide you wanted to coach?
It actually happened when I was a graduate assistant for Georgia in my second year. I was able to see the inside of the sport, work in the office and see how much goes into running a home competition. I definitely came to appreciate what the coaches do, not only with the horses but working with college athletes. I thought it was really cool to see that side of it. I told our head coach, Meghan Boenig, that I would love to coach at either Georgia or Texas A&M.
When did you find out about the coaching position at A&M opening up?
At the time, I had interviewed and applied to a lot of academic advising jobs. I got a phone call from Kimmy Saul, who is the director of operations at A&M, but it was a phone number I didn’t know. I didn’t answer it, so she left me a voicemail saying she had a question for me about Texas A&M. I had no idea what she wanted, but then my first thought was, Oh my gosh, are they looking for a coach?
She told me she’d been put in charge of finding their next hunt seat coach, and it was so weird how it all worked out. They flew me out two days later for an interview and offered me the job on the spot.
What has been the biggest difference between coaching and being a student-athlete?
I work with the student-athletes much more hands-on now. Obviously, when you are an athlete, you have friends on the team, but being a coach I get to learn so much more about all these riders. Their passion is so strong. I love being in the ring with them every single day, seeing how much hard work they’re putting in and how it’s coming out. Seeing those results is really cool.
How did you establish the respect with your athletes even though you are close in age?
There hasn’t been much of an issue: The first thing I told them when I came in was that I’ve been in your shoes and I’ve done everything you’ve done. I’ve had the struggles and the success, so I told them if they think there’s a day I don’t know what they’re going through, they’re totally wrong. I told them that from day one, and we’ve had a great open relationship with a line of respect. I love having such a great relationship with all of them.