Welcome to a new series on NF Style called “Hot Blooded,” which celebrates and highlights the Thoroughbred athlete in all equestrian disciplines, from racing to jumping.
When it comes to retraining off-the-track Thoroughbreds, Tik Maynard always stresses to never take the process personally.
Tik comes from an equestrian family based in Vancouver: his father Rick Maynard is a show jumper on the grand prix circuit and a coach for modern pentathletes at the 2012 Olympics in London, and his mother, Jennifer, is a grand prix dressage rider. Once a modern pentathlete himself, Tik made the hard choice to retire from the sport due to injury and started anew.
His fresh start was three years, working as an assistant trainer under the guidance of Olympian Anne Kurinski. He and wife, three-day eventer Sinead Halpin, now spend time in both New Jersey and Florida, training and competing around the country in CCI rated events while running their own businesses.
We caught up with Tik while he was competing at the 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover Symposium at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. The symposium garners a lot of attention from the off-the-track Thoroughbred and racing community as it hosts hundreds of horses to compete in a wide variety of disciplines from dressage, show jumping, and freestyle to polo, among many others.
On finale day, the crowd helped choose “America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred,” and Tik had two horses in contention this year: Johnny Football (by Colonel John) and Haxby Park (by Exceed). Both horses competed in eventing and freestyle.
Tik himself is not only a successful eventer, but also a natural horseman. His innovative philosophy towards retraining OTTBs speaks for itself with both of his horses finishing in the top 15 of either eventing or freestyle.
We wanted to know how he gets into the mind of his horses to bring them along to new, successful careers after hanging up their racing tack. Here are his tips on how you can find and retrain your next OTTB:
1. Find a horse that has the same goals as you. It’s like getting a dog. If you like to go for runs in the park, you wouldn’t buy a tiny lap dog.
2. Get a good vet check done on your horse before purchasing.
3. Get a professional to help you find the horse itself. Tip: Ask the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center for guidance.
4. Have an end goal, but start from a point of success, not failure. If you say, “I can’t do this,” then what can you do? There is always something you can do. Do you want to jump four-foot [fences]? Let’s start with a pole on the ground. Find something you can do and build from there.
5. Try to understand your horse. There are two real truths: all horses have similarities and all horses are different. Find out what motivates them. Every horse is motivated differently: by rest, play, food, curiosity, comfort, safety. Sometimes a combo.
6. Pick a horse right for you and re-evaluate a few months in. “If you have a horse you want to do jumpers with, you may want to switch disciplines if the horse isn’t a jumper. With horses, people think, My horse is the one in a million that will go to the Olympics, but sometimes that’s not what the horse wants to do. Be careful about finding the balance and doing something that’s unfair.”
7. Once you start getting a strong foundation, start to go out into the world–trails, shows, clinics—and start to have an idea of making the world neutral. All horses have certain things that they like and things that they dislike. Horses like being in the paddock, barn, and some like water, the in-gate. You want to make it all neutral.
8. Try improving your horse and improving yourself. Think of everything as the “Olympic” version of what you’re doing. There are the Olympics of dressage, jumpers, and eventing. But think of it as the Olympics of leading, the Olympics of going to the vet or farrier. Everything can be made better.
9. I’d say as you start to get closer to wanting to compete in what discipline you want to do, start to get outside opinions from those you trust, respect, and admire. Remember that all trainers aren’t created equal. Don’t settle; find a trainer you are happy with. Get their opinions.
10. In terms of horses having anxiety, Thoroughbreds tend to have it. Usually it comes from a place of fear or place of lack of confidences and trust. So probably the biggest tip of all: don’t think your horse is being bad. If your horse is running, hitting rails, don’t take it personally. Find out how to make it better. Your horse isn’t doing it to you.
Photos by Catherine Flowers