By Lauren R. Giannini
Max McManamy, 19, is a rising star in three-day eventing. At the 2008 North American Junior & Young Rider Championships, Beacon Hill and Max finished fourth individually and earned team gold in the CCI** with Jennifer Brannigan, Tiana Coudray and David Koss for Area VI. A year later, Max and Beacon Hill returned for the third time to the NAJYRC at Kentucky Horse Park and harvested individual and team gold for Area VI in the two-star championship. The USEF named Max the 2009 Junior Equestrian of the Year.
Sidelines: Who has been your greatest influence in eventing?
MM: I started riding with Olympic silver medalist Gina Miles right after I turned 14. It was amazing to train with her. She’s such a hardworking person. She encouraged me to do Pony Club, because she did Pony Club and she’s still very active in it. I broke my foot this summer and had to pull out of doing my “A” level, but I have until I’m 25. I learned so many great things from Gina. She made everything fun and exciting. I will always have a special place in my heart for Gina. She introduced me to eventing and found me my two main horses.
I now train with Bea and Derek Di Grazia. Every time I walk into the house, it’s like walking into history. Every picture on the wall is about eventing. I can’t get enough of their stories and it’s incredible being around them and learning from them.
Sidelines: What kind of learner are you?
MM: I really learn best by watching. I love just watching others ride, others have lessons, other people ride my horses – what they’re doing, what’s going on. I started teaching, helping the younger kids in my Pony Club, and you learn a lot about yourself and the way you ride through teaching. I’m constantly learning and trying to absorb as much information as I possibly can every day to better myself and my horses.
Sidelines: What aspects of eventing or horsemanship demand extra effort?
MM: There’s so much to do. In 3-day eventing, you have to have three sets of tack, three sets of clothes, three sets of everything. It’s all about taking care of your horses. My horses are my first priority. I don’t even get a drink of water or sit down and relax after cross country until my horses are relaxing or being cooled off or hosed off. No matter what the circumstances, those horses have to be taken care of first. If they’re not in top shape, they won’t be able to perform the next day or the next two days. Some people don’t realize how important it is to take care of eventing horses before you take care of yourself.
Sidelines: What about your top horses?
MM: Beacon Hill, 14, is my current advanced horse, competing at the three-star level. He’s the best. I think every rider out there gets a once-in-a-lifetime horse, and he’s definitely been mine. There aren’t very many horses that I’ve seen kids at 14 do their first training level event and continue all the way up to finishing their first three-star. He’s a fantastic horse and I’m very lucky to have him.
My younger horse, Project Runway, is competing at the two-star level. He’s a 15.2h Trakehner/paint gelding by Windfall. We’re the youngest horse and rider on the short list for the Pan American Games, at the Pan Am Selection Trial at Richland Park, August 24-28.]
Sidelines: Any advice to young riders who dream of equestrian glory?
MM: I think the most important thing to remember is to take it slow. It’s become a fad these days for riders to want to go to NAYRC and win as young as they possibly can. For some, it works out all right, but some push themselves too hard, too quickly, and that’s when accidents happen. Take your time and be prepared and have the best help you can find and learn the best tactics to keep yourself and your horse safe.