Groom and organizer Max Corcoran will soon be adding another accolade to her already impressive list of accomplishments. As a member of the O’Connor Event Team, Corcoran worked alongside Karen and David O’Connor for 11 years, managing the barn for most of that time. While working with the O'Connors she traveled to the Olympic Games, World Championships, Pan American Games, and numerous CCIs all over North America and Europe. In 2019 she will begin serving as USEA President Elect.
After leaving OCET, Corcoran worked as a freelance groom and has served as stable manager for the Canadian and Venezuelan Equestrian Teams. Most recently, Corcoran has taken up event organizing, working with events including the Middleburg Horse, Great Meadow International, The Event at Rebecca Farm, The Fork, Ocala Horse Trials, Ocala Jockey Club, the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games, and many others.
Corcoran is currently a member of the USEA Board of Governors, but in 2020 she will be taking on the role of USEA President, bringing her unique perspective as a groom and organizer to the table. Corcoran will spend the next year shadowing current President Carol Kozlowski, learning the ins and outs of the job before officially assuming the title at the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting and Convention in Boston, Massachusetts in December.
Corcoran will sit as a guest on the Executive Committee in 2019 as she gets to know what her role as President will encompass. “I’m not a voting member, but I can sit in and get to know the ins and outs of some of the decision-making process,” she said. “I can actually learn a lot from Carol by her leadership, seeing how she runs the meetings and that kind of stuff. I’m going to the USEF meeting so I don’t get dropped in it next year when I am President.”
“For me, it was an honor to be asked to be on the Board,” reflected Corcoran, who joined the USEA Board of Governors as an “at-large” member in 2017. “I don’t really have a dog in the fight – I’m not a horse owner, I didn’t grow up really doing horses – I’m just really passionate about the sport. So, for [the Board] to ask me to be a part of it, I was humbled by that.”
“The Board is a really cool group of people,” she continued, “and all these people are volunteering their time because they’re passionate, same as I am. They might be owners or professionals, but most of them are amateurs that are part of it and that’s actually really cool. They bring their expertise to the Board and I hope that between my background taking care of horses and now doing a lot of organizing I can use whatever knowledge I have to help the Board with whatever they need.”
It was a surprise to Corcoran when the Nominating Committee and members of the Board of Governors approached her about taking on the title of USEA President. “Here’s the true story,” she confided with a smile. “I was at Millbrook Horse Trials grooming for Jenny Caras and I was putting a bridle on when my phone rang – it was Katherine Cooper. She said, ‘Do you have a minute to talk?’ and I said, ‘Look, I’m just putting a bridle on right now, can I call you back later?’ She said, ‘Sure, you’re at Millbrook? Oh great, I’ll catch up with you then.’”
“So, the end of the day comes, and Jenny goes to walk her course and it’s about 4:30 p.m. and some of my fellow grooms and I say, ‘Time for a beverage!’ and I say, ‘Right, okay, I’ll go get some ice.’ I’m walking back from the office with my two bags of ice and there comes Katherine on her bike. She had asked a while back if I’d talk at the Area I meeting, so I thought she was catching up with that and making logistical plans when she said, ‘So, I’m on the Nominating Committee, and we’d like you to be the new USEA President.’ I looked at her and I said, ‘You do realize I’m carrying this ice back to make cocktails at 4:30 in the afternoon?’ and she responded, ‘Yes, that’s why we want you to be President!’”
All joking aside, Corcoran took the nomination very seriously and knew that she needed to consider all the aspects of the job before accepting the role. “[The nomination] shocked me a bit,” she admitted. “I said that I needed to think about it and talk to my boyfriend Scott [Keach] about it, because it is a big commitment. I also wanted to talk to David O’Connor. I worked for him for 11 years, he knows me really well, and he knows the job, so he was another person I really needed to talk to. I didn’t want to take this on and not do a good job.”
Even though she thought at first that the job was going to be way over her head, the reassurance she received from Keach and O’Connor as well as calls from Kozlowski, USEA CEO Rob Burk, and USEA Foundation Board Chair Diane Pitts helped convince her to take on the presidency. “In talking to Scott, he wanted to make sure that there is a legacy that I could leave, something I was passionate about that I wanted to make sure happened. Indeed, in talking to Carol and Diane they said for sure that is something I have to choose to produce and encompass and lead the membership that way. That’s a huge burden in a lot of ways but it’s kind of a cool thing.”
Corcoran has already begun to think about what her legacy as USEA President might include. Anyone who knows Corcoran, or has even listened to her speak, knows that she is incredibly passionate about horsemanship and horse welfare, and she has revealed that is definitely going to play a part in what she wants to accomplish as President. “Our horses have to come first,” she stated. “I think a lot of times we get so wrapped up in the safety and the lessons and the ‘this’ and the ‘that,’ but at the end of the day if we have nothing to ride, what does it matter if we have a frangible pin? But even that is secondary to the major mindset of people being open-minded – people watching and learning and asking questions and being kind to each other and supporting one another because I think we’re missing that right now. I think the world is missing that.”
Corcoran would also love to see a spirit of collaboration that extends beyond the boundaries of a specific group, like grooms or instructors or officials. “For example, for the riders to understand what the officials have to go through to get where they are – it’s not an easy process, it’s a lot of work, it’s very expensive, and they work hard at it – or what an organizer goes through to put on a competition. I want to broaden people’s minds and open them up and have them walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes before they go and say to the organizer, ‘This isn’t good enough.’ You don’t know what that organizer has already done to try and make it good enough.”
“How am I going to do that? I’m open to suggestions!”
About Max Corcoran
Max Corcoran grew up in Manchester, Massachusetts. She started foxhunting with Myopia Hunt out of Pine Grove Stables in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. While attending Proctor Academy and Northeastern University, she competed at the Novice and Training levels. After finishing college, she worked in downtown Boston in the financial district for five years, but the horses kept drawing her back, and she soon found herself managing eventer Jim Stamets’ farm in Massachusetts. She began working for the O’Connor Event Team (OCET) after Jim’s untimely death. Max managed Karen’s competition horses and youngsters for 11 years and enjoyed the opportunity for exposure to the sport’s top vets and farriers, as well as the opportunity for continuing education that being an OCET groom afforded her. Max gives back to the sport by serving on the USEA Board of Governors, the Eventing Riders Association of North America, and the Equine Safety Committee. She organizes Middleburg Horse Trials and helps organize Great Meadow International, The Event at Rebecca Farm, The Fork, Ocala Horse Trials, Ocala Jockey Club, the Tryon 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games, and many others.
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