Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Watch Your Back: Max McManamy, 2009 Youth Equestrian of the Year

'Watch Your Back' is a new Three Days Three Ways series focusing on the hot young riders today. First out of the starting gates is Max McManamy. She's is so sweet and thoughtful you might be lured into thinking she's the kind of rider who cheers her friends on and then settles for whatever comes her way. But, in fact, she's the kind of rider who cheers her friends on and then promptly wins the blue ribbon. And you can't help but love her for it. Most recently she won gold at the 2009 Young Rider Championships on her intermediate horse Beacon Hill followed by winning the 2009 USEF Junior Equestrian of the Year. Seriously? Yes. All I have to say is watch your back, this one is hot on the heels of the best riders today!

Max on her youngster Project Runway

photo by Josh Walker

Q. How old are you?

A. I am 17, I’ll be 18 this January 22nd

Q. Where are you from?

A. I grew up in a small town called Ojai, CA, where Tiana Coudray is from. It’s south of Santa Barbara. I live in Templeton, CA now, just south of the eventing facility Twin Rivers Ranch.

Q. Is your family supportive of your riding?

A. I live with my mom and when she was younger she was a horse crazy girl. She didn’t show much, she just rode. I was the first one

to event big time. I had seen videos and International Velvet. Once I saw cross-country then I really wanted to do it. My mom gets worried and nervous but she really trusts both of my horses. She used to get nervous when she would watch-- I had a horse that would buck me off almost every single warmup about the first year I had him. We finally got it all figured all.

Q. You said you have two horses. What are they like?

A. I have two very different horses. My current 2-star horse is thirteen this year. He’s a 17h dark bay gelding off the track named Beacon Hill. I did my first Training event on him when I was fourteen. He’s been the one to show me all the ropes, he’s been such a great teacher for me. He has a heart of gold and is a cross country machine. I recently won Young Riders on him. My up-and-coming young horse-- he’ll be six this year. He’s a Trekhaner gelding named Project Runway. His barn name is ‘Devon’ and he’s out of Darren’s stallion Windfall. He was Reserve Champion at the Young Event Horse competition in the four and five year olds. He did his first preliminary at Galway Downs this past November and won the dressage. By rider error I pulled a rail and so we finished 3rd. He is a total puppy dog. If he could, he would come home with me and sleep at the foot of my bed.

photo by Josh Walker

Max and Project Runway

Q. What about school?

A. I was homeschooled since 3rd grade and once I went into highschool I’ve been doing independent study. My close friends ride with me. I take classes at community college to get high school and college credit. I started riding pretty much before I could walk. The first time I fell off I think I was two. I got bucked off. I decided there I wanted to ride.

Q. What’s your schedule like?

A. Riding takes up all my time during the day. I have classes in the morning and then rush home and ride my horses and some others then rush back to class till 9:30pm. Then I do homework and go to bed and start the whole process all over again the next day.

Below: Max and Beacon Hill

photo by Emily Daily

Q. Who do you train with?

A. I was training with Gina Miles for about three and a half years but I recently started training with the Di Grazia’s. They are two and a half hours away. This last summer I would stay home monday through friday and on weekends I would stay with them and take both horses. It’s hard work but I love them. They’re great, they have been my young rider team coaches since 2007. They’re fantastic trainers and coaches and people. It’s like a big family.

Max with good friend, Jennie Brannigan

Q. What was the vibe like at the Young Rider’s Championships?

A. I thought it would be really competitive and tense but it was so fun. Everyone was there to do their best. It’s a team competition so it was great getting to know my teammates. I’ve made some really great friends and they’ve stuck with me since then—like Jennie Brannigan. I didn’t know her at all until 2007. In 2008, that’s when we really started becoming closer. She’ s a really great person. I really respect her. She’s a great rider and a great friend.

Q. Is conditioning a horse for a 3-Day very different than for a Horse Trials?

A. Well it kind of depends on the horse. For Beacon Hill, I pretty much do the same thing because he’s a thoroughbred and he’s natuarally so fit. One gallop for him equals three for another horse. He doesn’t need to be too fit or he’s a little too wild. My young horse is just now getting into the conditioning part of his career. Because he’s a Warmblood he’ll do more-he’s much littler. It also matters where you’re competing. In California it’s all flat. If you go back East it’s all hills and rainy and wet and grass and slippery and hot and humid. Here the weather is pretty much the same.

There's more to come with Max. Check back soon for her favorite horses (think mighty mouse!) and how to catch a foothold in the competitive world of young riders. See you soon!

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