2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year for five-star eventer Maya Black. Earlier this year, she was named to the US Equestrian 2019 Development Potential Training List, a component of the new USEF International Eventing High Performance Pathway Program. A few weeks prior to our interview, Black and FE Black Ice (Stakkato's Highlight x Co-Co), her own 9-year-old German Sport Horse gelding, made their Advanced debut at the Pine Top Advanced Horse Trials.
In between setting fences for her next horse of the day, Black set aside some time to chat with Event Clinics about riding, mentors, and teaching. Currently based out of Mardanza Farm in Micanopy, Florida with five-star eventer Sara Kozumplik Murphy and Grand Prix show jumper Brian Murphy, Black told EC, “I have quite a few horses down here in Florida this year, which is wonderful. Sara and Brian have been extremely supportive. Being on the same farm and living in close proximity means they provide both riding and life guidance.”
Black’s career has also been largely shaped by her working student experiences. “I worked for Jan Bynny a few different times - she has helped shape me into the rider I am today. I’ve also worked for Debbie McDonald and my cousin [Olympic Dressage rider] Adrienne [Lyle] over the years. They’ve been a huge influence for my stronger dressage background.”
Having achieved her United States Pony Club (USPC) Traditional “A” Rating, Black can also attribute some of her values as a horsewoman and a rider to the USPC system. “I really like helping people who want to learn with their horses,” Black said. “In a clinic, I try to pick something to help each rider. I want to give them something to take away. It might be something your instructor at home is already telling you and I am able to word it differently, or maybe it’s something completely new. But I think that takeaway is important. As a rider, if I can learn one thing per lesson then that is ideal.”
“I’m one who opens with a discussion of riders having to be their horses’ own advocates. I remind riders that, ‘Nobody knows your horse like you do.’ I want riders to realize that, for the most part, I don’t know them and I don’t know their horses. But, I’ve also watched and ridden in clinics where clinicians - due to no fault of their own - have over-faced horses and riders. Generally I like to build exercises in a productive way. I find it’s easier to create a good experience for the horse and rider if I start with simpler exercises and then build from there”.
As far as turnout goes, Black said, “I really appreciate appropriately fitted tack and clothing - nothing needs to be fancy or shiny. I grew up in Pony Club, so I appreciate the [Pony Club] ‘neat and clean’ attire.” Looks aren’t everything, though. “Riders really should be willing to learn when they step into a clinic. Yes, be an advocate for your horse, but really try to listen, too!”
To hear Black discuss her teaching experiences, it seems the riders aren’t the only ones learning invaluable lessons. “As a clinician you have to be open minded and extremely flexible. When I’m teaching at a completely new venue, I’ve learned to go in with eyes wide open and think on my feet.”
Black is incredibly driven to compete at the upper levels, and is passionate about bringing her own horses up the levels. The very same weekend that Black and FE Black Ice, aka "Nigel," completed their first Advanced run at Pine Top in South Carolina, Black also competed a few youngsters at the Three Lakes Horse Trials at Caudle Ranch in Florida. That’s two horse shows in two states with four horses. No small feat! “I wanted to take the upper level horses to Pine Top and I wanted the younger ones to have an outing closer to home so they didn’t have to haul so far. Really, I would rather have a busy weekend followed by a weekend off from showing instead of competing every single weekend.”
While the thought of crossing state lines to compete multiple times in just a few days might be stress-inducing for some, that doesn’t seem true for Black. “Generally, I’m not a very stress-y person. I have a very calm demeanor, so even if things are chaotic my way to keep calm is just to be calm.”
We should all strive to emulate Black’s positivity and dedication to the sport. “This lifestyle can be heartbreaking and really hard. I try to find the bright sides - it makes it much more enjoyable. I think it’s important to try to find the positives - you really can learn something from every situation. Find those positives in every day, even if it’s ‘I have 30 stalls to clean today . . . but look at the great workout I will get!’”
All the major contenders passed the eventing final horse inspection at the Tokyo Olympics and will carry on to contest the show jumping phase in a few hours’ time.
The ground jury (Nick Burton, GBR, Christina Klingspor, SWE, and the U.S.A.’s Jane Hamlin) and vets only failed to accept one horse - Fantastic Frieda, ridden by Poland’s Joanna Pawlak, who had completed the cross-country in 41st place with a refusal and 25.2 time-faults.
The FEI has announced that the Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel has had to be euthanized after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest Cross Country Course during Equestrian Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 1, 2021.
In 2002, at the age of 15, I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Maine while Tremaine Cooper was there building some cross-country jumps. I helped him build a trakehner, not realizing that this day would set the course for my future. A few weeks later he called asking if I could help him at Millbrook Horse Trials. From there I helped Tremaine during most of my school vacations and throughout the summers. After graduating high school I kept at it never looking back. I lived the gypsy lifestyle for about six years going from coast to coast and event to event. In 2013 my wife Kathryn and I settled down in Lexington, Kentucky. These days I spend roughly 60-75 percent of my time on the road preparing events or building private schooling areas. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some really great events around the states and have cultivated many friendships all over the country. In 2019 I was asked to be a part of Team Evans Olympic cross-country building crew. As I write this I am on my third trip to Tokyo. Here’s a day in Tokyo . . .
The British team cemented their gold medal position at the Tokyo Olympics with three magnificent cross-country performances, all clear inside the time. Added to that, their first rider, Oliver Townend, holds pole position individually after the dressage leader, Germany’s Michael Jung, picked up 11 penalties for triggering a frangible device.