Key note from Area 8 meeting...

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Area 8 was kind enough to invite me to speak about my adventures through the last 11 years with the O'Connor Event Team - I was also reminded that I had a blog and would I please post again... so, per request, here is my dinner speech: I have just gone through the exercise of going through my career to date. We always look back and remember the very highs and the very lows ? Its not always easy to remember why we were successful. Its interesting looking back at my career and seeing when the team (in that I mean the O?Connor Event Team?) was and wasn?t successful; is there such thing as bad luck? Sure ? but no one makes bad luck. Circumstances linked together can be viewed as bad luck. Good luck can also be a series of circumstance, or it can come from being the person who makes the fewest mistakes. It makes me think about each horses career ? did they get to where they were supposed to? The change in the eventing format from long to short format at the upper levels is a change we can't fight anymore. The long format at the lower levels is not only very educational for both horse and rider, but it is also REALLY fun! Getting to run around the steeplechase teaches balance, speed and rhythm ? also a good lesson for life. It also teaches horsemanship ? Asking questions from other riders and vets and farriers and massage therapist ? reading articles ? watching ? all part of opening the world of horsemanship. The process of getting a horse fit, listening to them on how they are feeling ? tired, sore, energetic, what scares them, what makes them go ? can be so great ? the phrase ?enjoy the journey? is said quite often, but something that gets forgotten. The journeys can what defines you. Sometimes the journey doesn't end the way you want it to, but it is still a journey. In our crazy world of cellphones and texting, face book and Eventing Nation ? it promotes instant gratification. We need things NOW. We expect things NOW. Horses and NOW don't always mix. We can get so wrapped up, and it happens to everyone, in getting to the next goal that we sometimes miss steps along the way. Horses are amazing because they can find our weakness so quickly and quite loudly ? Goals are great to have ? long term and short term. Make realistic goals ? realistic for you AND your horse. They are your partner, your buddy, your listener ? part of being a good friend is listening back. And sometimes goals need to change and that's OK. I have learned that pushing a horse or riders career can lead to disappointment, and then you are very far away from those goals. Prioritize those goals too ? make them within your reach. And get excited even when the littlest ones are met. In the upper levels without the long format, we have been to quick to press horses along because ?they don't need to rest, its only a big horse trials? - horses careers are shorter in this country than anywhere else, something we should think about ? what we forget is that it isn?t necessarily the event itself, its all the work leading up to that event that we all need a rest from. All of us ? not just the horses? There needs to be a balance in our lives too ? husbands, wives, kids, dogs, family, job, hobbies, travel ? we can't let ourselves get so consumed in our little world when there is a big world out there. Sure there can be an inner family within your horse world ? and they will be the only people that will know why you are worried when your horse is colicky, or how much it sucks when your horse has an abscess ? and yes, these horses do depend on us, but there needs to be a balance. I remember David asking a group of younger professional riders, and a few older ones too, ?if you could be remembered for being successful or being a good horsemen, which would you choose?? The group thought and some said right away ? ?Successful? some said ? ?well, maybe a horseman? and others reminded them that being a good horseman wasn?t going to make them famous? The answer? If you are a good horseman, you will be successful. You also don't have to be a competitor to be a good horseman. I have found that many of the best horsemen out there are vets, coaches, grooms, managers? That has been a big part of my job over the last 10 years ? to listen to these horses and communicate that with my team (rider, vet, farrier). I have learned so much and will continue to learn what needs to be listened to, how loud each horse speaks, how stoic they are and how each horse in an individual, just like humans. This team is invaluable ? and many of them have become my greatest friends and confidants. We may not be the one actually standing on the podium, but I know, and I can tell you, that with each medal won throughout the world ? Germans, Brits, and soon again the US ? there is a team that has put that rider on that podium. NO ONE CAN DO IT ALONE ? from the working students, to the people that drag that ring, to the people that are home riding horses behind, to the owners, to the people looking after the dogs ? that type of success can't happen by yourself. Everyone that rides as a kid has a dream of going to the Olympics, and unfortunately those dreams are rarely fulfilled. The people that I grew up riding with are now married, have kids, careers ? and when I am lucky and get to Boston I visit with them. I think they are so lucky to have all that, and I tell them ? They look at me and tell me the same thing, how lucky I am. I have gotten to live that dream. And I have many friends that don't do horses at all ? they played hockey with me, or went to high school with me and I finally have gotten to catch up with many of them over the last few months ? and they introduce me to their kids and say ? ?this is your aunt Max. She was in the Olympics, twice, for horses? and their eyes get all big, because they know what the Olympics is ? and I get all bashful and then I think about that statement and think ? Yes, yes, I did. So my messages to you: Enjoy the journey, listen to your horse, ask questions, be a good horseman, success comes in many forms, respect everyone because no one can do it alone, and continue to dream because someday, somewhere, somehow, you may get there. I leave you with a quote from ?The Phantom Tollbooth?: ?? And remember also? added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme ?That many places you would like to see are just off the map, and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond reach. But someday you will reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.??

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