photos jessica rodrigues - EEM
The Olympus rider
After winning the first Longines Masters of New York last April, McLain Ward has joined the ranks of today’s top riders. Let’s meet the two-time Olympic gold medalist (2004 and 2008) and team World Champion in 2018.
What do the Longines Masters of Paris, Hong Kong, and New York mean to you?
These are world-class events. The venues are extraordinary and the audience can feel close to the action. Showcasing our sport in these 3 incredible cities is simply amazing.
How does it feel to have won the Longines Grand Prix in your hometown of New York?
I’m proud to have won the first edition of the Grand Prix in New York. I’m also thrilled for the owners of my horse Clinta, the Gold and Sweeney families, who rank among New York’s major sports families. I would also like to thank Susan Heller, teacher and lecturer in this magnificent city. It’s a huge victory for us.
Do you have a message or advice for young riders? Work hard, develop your talent, and all that. Those clichés are the foundation for everything. So they need to focus on the basics! If success just means becoming an Olympic champion, then maybe this isn’t the best life choice for you, because that will only happen for a very small number of riders. But if you find passion and joy every day in the sport, then you will become successful.
Who helped you advance in the sport? Which athletes inspire you?
I find inspiration every day in the little things, thanks to my family, my professors, and also my parents who have always been involved in high-level sports. I believe that you have to put aside your ego to make progress and learn from the talent of younger athletes. It’s one of the keys to staying on top for a long time. One of the best things that has happened is the arrival of Kent Farrington. Thanks to him, everyone has had to keep stepping up their game. That’s what makes this sport so great. Healthy competition like that can produce incredible results.
When did you know equestrianism would become your job?
My parents were both strong riders, so it wasn’t really a question for me. It made sense for me to pursue a career in this sport, and obviously it’s a very fun way to earn a living.
What keeps you motivated and how do you keep your horses in great shape?
I think my mild temperament pairs well with the horses when they try to give their best. I motivate myself by thinking about all the things I haven’t been able to win yet. I think my horses receive a good care and training regimen. They appreciate all the attention we give them and they like to be treated differently.
How do you organize your training regimen to stay at the top of your game?
My team and I all work very hard. But it never feels like work because we find so much joy in everything we accomplish. We’re so lucky to earn a living this way! I’m also lucky that every member of my team gives everything they have, because you need a whole army behind you to have success in the sport today. For my part, I stay in shape, work on my mental game, and always stay focused.
Do you have a message or advice for young riders?
Work hard, develop your talent, and all that. Those clichés are the foundation for everything. So they need to focus on the basics! If success just means becoming an Olympic champion, then maybe this isn’t the best life choice for you, because that will only happen for a very small number of riders.
But if you find passion and joy every day in the sport, then you will become successful.
What do you think could be done to generate more interest in show jumping in New York?
We have to show the personal and exciting side of the sport. For us, and perhaps especially in the United States, it can be difficult to win over the public because it’s an exclusive sport. If we can communicate the incredible adventure that riders go through, with their share of highs and lows, then we can start to connect with people. In this way, audiences who are not riders can still cheer on the success riders have and their athletic skill. I’m not a great tennis player, but I like watching tennis and I’m interested in the players’ stories.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I always say that this is a blessed life, but you have to want it, you have to fight for it, like anything in life where you have to push yourself. I also think more people should come watch equestrian championships. It’s a lot of fun, and the audience is not far from the course, which makes it easy to get into the action and feel the excitement.
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