Max Corcoran has taken her dedication to the sport of eventing to the next level. As a professional groom, event organizer, popular clinician and now USEA President-Elect, is there anything she can’t do?
Event Clinics caught up with Corcoran during a relatively quiet week following the success of the Great Meadow International event in The Plains, Virginia, which Corcoran helped to orchestrate.
“My career has chosen its own path,” Corcoran says. Between freelance grooming jobs, organizing esteemed international competitions, and gracefully taking on new responsibilities at the USEA, Corcoran finds time to teach unmounted grooming and horse care workshops to interested riders nationwide.
“I just love to give back, and I enjoy teaching people how to make their horses better.”
Following an 11-year stint as a staple of the O’Connor Event Team as both traveling groom and barn manager, Corcoran uses her experiences as a platform to connect with riders of all ages and levels.
“At the beginning of a clinic I always try to ask people what they want to get out of the day. For the most part, I teach adult amateurs and kids, but I’ve had a few young barn managers, which has been fun. Everyone has a different reason for coming to a clinic and wanting to learn.”
“The best thing about teaching clinics is that even though I am the one teaching I take a lot away from the people I’ve taught and their experiences. You just keep learning.”
Through anecdotes and details, Corcoran hopes to share with her students more than simple tricks of the trade. “I just want to make horses’ lives better, and if I can do that through information then that’s what I will do. There’s so much we can do to improve the longevity of their careers. It’s our moral duty to look after these horses. We ask them to do things that are not natural, so it’s our responsibility to look after them. Ideally, I’d like to see less of injuries.”
Corcoran believes that information and mindful horsemanship can help to make fewer injuries a reality. “It’s about management. It’s about noticing if the ground is hard or soft, asking if your horse is fit enough, or if you are fit enough. A horse going Novice or Training is sort of like someone who runs a 5K. So, stretch before and after. If you run too many 5K races a month you will get hurt, and it’s really the same for horses.”
Through the teaching impact of her clinics, and looking ahead to her time as USEA President, Corcoran hopes to educate riders and ultimately see some of the best practices from the top levels of sport become more of the norm at the grassroots.
“I’m competitive, but I don’t like to compete with the horses. As a groom, I always say that I’m their nanny. I get the horses up in time, bathed, groomed, fed, et cetera. At the top level especially, you’re a manager. I love high performance; being part of a team, watching those horses. You’d like some of that to trickle down,” Corcoran says.
The path to experience at the high performance level hasn’t exactly been linear for Corcoran, who played ice hockey in college and worked for an investment company in downtown Boston for a number of years.
Having grown up foxhunting, Corcoran found herself working alongside Robert Costello, who would ultimately compete through the five-star level. “I grew up riding at the same barn as Bobby [Costello]. I took riding lessons and didn’t have a horse. Bobby started taking me to local horse shows with him - it worked out for both of us - I learned and saw a lot, and he was like ‘look, free help!’ The two of us toted along and ran the barn together, we were like brother and sister.”
The pillars of Corcoran’s teaching style reverberate in the advice she offers to aspiring young professionals. “I was pretty lucky that from an early age I had people who told me to listen, watch, do, be-involved-with, and absorb what was happening around me. That’s what I would tell anyone who wants to be a groom.”
Beyond observation, Corcoran shares some concrete advice for day-to-day life as a professional groom. “Never leave home without a sleeping bag, flip flops for dirty showers, a hammock, and a towel. You never know when you’re going to be somewhere for a long time. The horses are always going to come first, but at some point you have to look after yourself a bit!”
You can find opportunities to #learnfromthebest in an upcoming grooming clinic with Max Corcoran at www.eventclinics.com.
"No matter how old you are, be open to all disciplines, learn how to ride a dressage horse, a gaited horse, a show jumper. Go fox hunting and point-to-pointing and horse showing. You’ll learn from all of them and when you do decide which discipline you want to do, you’ll be better at it anyway.”
The University of Findlay’s Three-Day Eventing Team was established in 2013, the same year USEA voted and approved the USEA intercollegiate program. The UF team has over 30 members encompassing a variety of majors at the university. The team has access to two indoor arenas, a large outdoor arena, and 70 acres of on-site cross-country fences.
Bellamy, an Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding of unknown breeding, came to Tamra Smith’s farm in Southern California with his mane half-way down his neck and filled with burrs. Bellamy had been sitting in a field for a little over a year after unseating several riders in a row and Smith, known for being good with tricky horses, agreed to take him on.