By Lauren R. Giannini
When equestrians on the circuit do well consistently, campaigning brilliant horses that inspire dreams in riders of all ages and levels, they often acquire a following. One good example is amateur owner hunter rider Lindsay Maxwell, 27, whose show-ring achievements and philanthropy have been attracting a small, but growing, unofficial fan club. Lindsay takes ‘walking the walk’ to heart when it comes to paying it forward to the sport she loves and helping others in need.
“Just this year, I started the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund — an extension of the philanthropic spirit that my family instilled in me since I was a child,” said Lindsay. “My brother Benjamin, who passed away in 2003 when I was 14, is a constant inspiration for my family’s mission to provide support for at-risk, under-served and special needs children. I really appreciate my trainers — Bradley Spragg, Archie Cox, and R. Scot Evans — for their important roles in my development as a rider and also for encouraging me to support our equestrian community.”
Scot is a founding member and former president of the Equestrian Aid Foundation, now in its 20th year of providing support to the horses’ humans. He said, “Lindsay is a great example to those who have a desire to give back with an open heart.”
Children Live What They Learn
“I’ve known Lindsay since she took her first riding lesson with me — she rode with me from the age of 4 to 20,” said Bradley Spragg, owner and chief trainer at The Atlanta Hunt Club. “She was the ideal student. As far as her work ethic, she was a bit of a barn rat and always doing something — wrapping horses’ legs, cleaning tack. She took Spanish at school and spoke it with the guys who worked in the barn. She’s very outgoing, always a beautiful smile on her face. She can talk to anyone. She’s sincerely interested in who they are, what they do, where they’re from. She’s very serious about what she does, but she loves to have a great time and be around people. She’s a very gracious person.”
Lindsay’s also a successful amateur owner hunter rider. Her first pony was Farnley Dolphin, who went on to other riders including Caitlin Campbell and Sophie Gochman. One of the most famous small ponies in the show world, he passed away in November at age 32. Lindsay competed a medium pony, then transitioned to horses, most notably Tico, small junior hunter, and Been Swayed. Both qualified for Devon, Harrisburg, Washington and the National. Bradley found Been Swayed, who turned into a very successful large junior hunter, when he was in Europe on a buying trip for another client.
“It’s a funny story. I found two horses I really liked, and the client picked one and I called Lindsay’s mother and said, ‘Jessica, I found a horse and I think you’re going to love it’,” recalled Bradley. “She said, ‘I’ll have Grover [Lindsay’s father] call you – this sounds terrific.’ Then, Grover called me and said, ‘Thanks, but I don’t think we’re really in the market for another horse.’ Then, Jessica called me back and said, ‘When do we get our horse?’ I said, ‘You don’t — Grover said no.’ She said, ‘I’ll call you right back.’ About six hours later, the name Grover Maxwell showed up on my caller ID.
“I answered and he said, ‘I’ve been swayed,’” continued Bradley. “I said, ‘You’ve been what?’ He said, ‘I’ve been swayed. Buy that horse. My wife won’t speak to me and my daughter has locked herself in her room, crying.’ So that’s how we got his name. He’s been a great horse. He’s actually at my barn — in retirement. He’s a legend.”
Lindsay learned several huge lessons from her years with Bradley. “He helped me to keep perspective throughout my pony and junior career,” she said. “He didn’t allow attitude. He never let any sort of brat come out, and I’m forever grateful for that. I learned respect and appreciation early on. It’s important to Brad that you recognize and appreciate the people behind the scenes, the ones who make everything happen. I know that he still does it. It takes a village, and he makes sure that you thank everyone — the groom, the show staff, management — and that you’re nice to the people in the office, that you thank your parents. He won’t stand for anything less than absolute respect and appreciation for the whole team.”
Another aspect of her early foundation is horsemanship and care of the horse. “Again, I owe thanks to Brad and to his head groom, Guillermo Chavez,” said Lindsay. “Any time I was at the barn, I was working — rolling bandages, cleaning stalls, cleaning tack — doing everything. Guillermo never let me rest. He worked with me every summer and I’m so grateful for that. I realized in recent years that a lot of people don’t know how to do many of the things I’m proud I can do. Some days, I go to the barn for a few hours and never sit on a horse. I simply enjoy spending time with my animals. I feel privileged to have them.”
Lindsay continues to enjoy success, in and out of the saddle. Currently in second place in the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Hunter Owner standings, there’s no question that she loves to compete. The bottom line, however, is always her horses. Two are in California, including Widget, her wunder-warmblood. Recently retired sound and in great health after a stellar show hunter career, Widget enjoys the good life at Archie Cox’s Brookway Stables, watching lessons in the arena near his daily turnout. The other six relocated east to Spring Landing Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, where Lindsay rides and trains with R. Scot Evans.
“I grew up on the East Coast and it’s nice to be back, but I plan to spend time in California with Widget and Corlando,” said Lindsay. “Widget was the first horse I had with Archie. I leased him until it became clear he needed to be mine. Widget’s incredible, loved his job — a showman through and through, but he started telling me in little ways that it was time to step down. I decided for longevity purposes to retire him. I call him my golf cart. Sometimes he goes to shows and we parade around. I’m very grateful to Widget for getting me back into the sport and re-igniting my passion for competition after I took a couple years off for school.”
In November, Lindsay acquired Checklist, a derby horse. Although she hasn’t shown him yet, her plans include competing in international hunter derbies. Then, there’s a 4-year-old that has her very excited. “Enzo’s an extremely special horse, brilliant and athletic — we hope he’s chomping at Technicolor’s heels,” said Lindsay. “We’re doing him in the 3’3” pre-greens and I’m competing him in the 3’3” amateur owner hunters. He showed last year as Enzo, but this year he’ll be showing as Precedent — we’ll hit the ground running with him at WEF.”
Technicolor might have something to say about a challenge from a young greenie, especially considering the stellar year he’s had. Only a year ago, he was doing the 5-year-old jumpers in Europe. This year, he won First Year Green Hunter at Devon with Nick Haness, a California professional, doing the honors. In his Indoors debut, Technicolor, piloted again by Nick, won the First Year Green Championship at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. He’s also competing in amateur owner hunters with Lindsay.
“This year, Technicolor’s just been wonderful,” said Lindsay. “He’s only 6 and has accomplished so much. I absolutely can’t wait to see what the future brings this horse. We’ve spent the last couple months going back to basics with him and he’s just excelling. Every day he shows me something new and impressive. He’s unbelievable.”
Paying It Forward
Lindsay figured out how to combine her family’s philanthropic interests with her own equestrian passion and benefit horse shows that support local charities and therapeutic riding programs. Menlo Charity Horse Show in California, which supports the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, became the venue where Lindsay retired Widget. Although she hadn’t shown at Menlo Charity, Widget had, earning many rosettes and tri-colors for years with previous riders. A month before his retirement ceremony, Lindsay and Widget made their last competitive appearance at the Blenheim Red, White & Blue Classic where they won the Amateur Owner Hunter Championship and the Classic. Widget retired in a blaze of glory at Menlo Classic between rounds of the International Hunter Derby. He was toasted with champagne, provided by Lindsay for everyone present.
However, it was on the East Coast that the full warmth of Lindsay’s generosity was felt. Harrisburg, as the Pennsylvania National Horse Show is known on the AA circuit, had a unique presenting sponsor for its 70th renewal in October: The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund. The show has connections with local charities, and divides its largesse between the PNHS Foundation, which donates to therapeutic riding programs, and the Harrisburg Kiwanis Foundation, which supports youth organizations.
Lindsay’s Charitable Fund also provides support for underfunded riders — exclusively juniors — in hunters and equitation. Trainers and friends who have encountered a young rider in need contact Lindsay, who evaluates each one on a case-by-case basis.
One question often begs to be asked: Is Lindsay really as nice as she seems? The answer from all three trainers might vary, but they’re in total agreement: Yes, Lindsay Maxwell is the real deal and very definitely a role model for the sport.