What are your New Year’s resolutions?
January 1 every year is an exciting day. It’s the beginning of lots of high hopes, goals and dreams. Usually, as a professional rider, you’ve got a stable full of fresh, sound horses that are looking ready to roll. For me, the New Year always brings a moment of reflection as I develop a game plan. On the strike of the New Year, my mindset usually shifts: December is usually a pretty easy month with lots of coaching, clinics, holiday drinks and overindulging in food. Come January 1, all of that changes and it’s time to get back to business. I start focusing on the horses’ training and fitness, I start getting myself back into shape, and I start getting dialed in for the big events that are upon us in spring.
The end of this year has not been typical, though. With Tryon being so late in 2020, I found we kept riding and training later into the year, and stayed fit and light longer. Usually our last three-day is at Fair Hill in Maryland at the end of October, and we take a break after that. The later events this year forced us to stay fit and healthy. On top of that, I’ve been doing physiotherapy three times a week, which helps maintain health and fitness. And the reality is, with COVID-19, we don’t seem to be invited to so many Christmas parties this year!
Throughout this year, I’ve found myself coaching and teaching a lot more. I think the main reason was I was injured, so I was off riding, and with events canceled, people have been focused on their training. While we’ve lost out in some areas of the business, the clinics have been very strong this year.
Do you have New Year’s resolutions for your horses?
It’s amazing; at the beginning of the year, you’ve got this stable full of horses raring to go. Each New Year I map out a schedule for the spring and summer. But one thing I’ve found with horses is nothing goes to plan! Some of them are obviously disappointing and heartbreaking, while some really rise up to the occasion.
While the mapping and goal-setting can be helpful, looking back at 2020 I couldn’t have had a worse prep for Galway and Tryon! I think it’s important to have a game plan, but even more important to have the ability to make it happen and work things out when nothing is going right. It’s easy to talk yourself into an excuse, like the ground’s too wet or I didn’t have the right preparation run, but the people I’ve admired over the years are those who find a way to get the job done even when things are falling apart around them.
Which was your best January ever?
To be honest, every January is a good January for me. It’s a fresh start: On January 1 we move to Aiken, South Carolina, where we’re based at the beautiful training facility at Stable View. We’re coming out of winter in Pennsylvania, where my stables are definitely not built for winter! I find my staff and I are inspired. There’s a certain spring in my stride, knowing there are some fantastic events ahead of us, some championships on the horizon and it’s the beginning of exciting things as we take on the year.
It looks like you’re having fun with your boys. You recently shared some adorable videos of them riding and tumbling off their pony. What does it mean to you to have them involved in horses?
One of the positive aspects of COVID shutting things down in 2020 has been spending more time with my family. Nox and Leo both show interest in all sports and I’m glad we’ve been doing a little training on their pony Emma most afternoons. Nox doesn’t seem too receptive to my training and coaching — he tells me he knows just what he’s doing and to stand back and watch! Little Leo holds on for dear life, giggling and laughing the whole time. For me, it’s a good time mucking around with the boys. I will say, George Morris and Jimmy Wofford probably wouldn’t approve of their riding turnout and my methods in coaching, as it’s all pretty wild and rugged. Who knows if they’ll turn into riders, but we’re having good fun riding Emma in the afternoons.