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!’”
The 2018 defending champions, Auburn University, sent three teams with 12 riders to the 2019 USEA Intercollegiate Championship at Chattahoochee Hills Horse Trials in Fairburn, Georgia. The University has riders competing in the Beginner Novice, Novice, Training and Preliminary levels this weekend, and they have returned this year to defend their title.
The first Hylofit USEA Classic Series Three-Day Event of the 2019 season took place last month at the Fresno County Horse Park (FCHP) Horse Trials in Fresno, California. While five-star riders were busy galloping over the bluegrass at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, riders at FCHP were experiencing the thrill of endurance day, complete with the roads and tracks and steeplechase phases of the old long format three-day events.
The fourth annual USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship kicks off tomorrow morning at the Chattahoochee Hills Horse Trials in Fairburn, Georgia. There are a total of 22 teams from 16 schools entered to compete for the 2019 Championship title.
First up on the show this week is Fylicia Barr, winner of the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event CCI4*-L with her longtime partner Galloway Sunrise. Next, past USEA President Denny Emerson comes on the show to talk about the time he spent at the helm of the USEA.