‘We can’t leave you alone on a horse for five minutes’: the real-life struggle of one man trying to make it in the horse world

  • In The Middle Are The Horsemen is a book newly written by Tik Maynard, where the international athlete and equestrian bares his soul to the world. It is a must-read for all those involved with horses. The ups and downs of his career with horses rings true, particularly if you are trying to make it in the horse world.

    In 2008, 26-year-old Tik, who was a university graduate and modern pentathlete, faced a crossroads. He suffered both a career-ending injury and a painful break-up. The Canadian decided spend the next year as a working student.

    Over time, Tik evolved under the watchful eyes of world-renowned figures in the horse world, including Ingrid Klimke, David and Karen O’Connor, Anne Kursinski, Johann Hinnemann, Bruce Loagn and Ian Millar. He was ignored, degraded, encouraged and praised. He was hired and fired, told he had the “wrong body type to ride” and that he had found his “destiny”. He got married to US eventing team member Sinead Halpin and lost loved ones. Through it all, the book’s blurb describes, he studied the horse and human nature, and how the two can find balance. And in that journey he may have found himself.

    Taken from an extract in the book, here Tik recounts his time as a working student at Johann Hinnemann’s German dressage yard:

    “Around the time I started my twentieth stall, Hinnemann wandered out, dressed in a dark suit with creases like knives. I watched his polished black leather shoes make their way through the courtyard to his Audi. I watched them step into the freshly vacuumed interior. I had been up already for almost two hours, but my arms and shoulders were used to the work by now, and I felt fresh. This will be every day and every week, I told myself: stay positive. This will be the day when you finally start getting more help. I still craved the feeling that this was all for something. I wanted a lesson. I wanted to learn so badly my brain itched.

    “Sure, a part of me realised I was getting better, and though time has given me other perspectives, I felt like I was getting better despite Hinnemann, not because of him.

    “‘Good morning,” I called neutrally.

    “Hinnemann looked at me. We made eye contact. And then he turned his back to me and lowered himself into his new car. As he shut the door, I thought I heard a reluctant ‘Morgen’, but perhaps not. As his car wound along the tree-lined drive out to the road, I stood in the doorway of the barn, pitchfork in one hand, staring after him.

    “The afternoon passed quietly, but monotonously, as did the following morning. It wasn’t until Monday afternoon that my suspicious that something was up were confirmed. Herr Hinnemann, his secretary, and his head rider were meeting in the glass-fronted office that overlooked the indoor. I was riding a young horse so I was taking plenty of walk breaks. I could see them as they talked earnestly, studiously avoiding looking into the indoor arena where I circled below. Only Hinnemann glanced my way a couple times.

    “That evening while I was untacking my last horse, Julia marched in her efficient step down the aisle. She paused and looked at me. She looked so warm and clean. I felt like a ground-beholden soldier that see a pilot wrapped in fur walking to his plane. Her head held high, Julia, it seemed, flew in the sky above the sludge and muck of normal barn life.

    “‘Tik, please come to the office when all the work in the barn is done.’”

    “‘Of course,’ I said quietly. I made myself meet her eyes.

    “For the last three weeks my motivation to sweep, muck, clean tack, and clip horses had been waning.

    “You’re not here as a volunteer, I told myself. You’re here to learn, and in exchange, to perform physical labour.

    “Shhh. I said to myself. Stop whining. Be patient.

    “And then, No! Stand up for yourself.

    “To muzzle the voices in my head, I concentrated on finishing with the horse, then cleaning the saddles and bridles, then sweeping.

    “Back in my room I gathered my thoughts, and quickly prepared myself for the discussion I expected by making some notes. I took my notebook with me.

    “In the office Julia sat at a desk, her hand around a steaming mug. Steffi stood, her arms crossed, not looking at me. Hinnemann was not there.

    “The whole meeting lasted less time than it took me to clean a stall, and with me talking just about as much. There was no preamble — Julia just jumped right in.

    “‘You aren’t good enough to be here,’ she said unemotionally. ‘And you aren’t improving.’

    “I looked at Steffi, who briefly made eye contact but remained silent. I waited.

    “‘This is a professional stable,’ Julia continued. And then just to make her point clear she added: ‘We can’t leave you alone on a horse for five minutes.’

    “I said nothing. I felt myself turn inward and get in my own head, a weakness that admittedly often came far too close to self-pity for my liking. The only advantage, if I could call it that, was it meant a lot of potential arguments were avoided. I sat and looked at her, and kept my hands in my pockets, my notebook full of observations remaining closed on my lap. As Julia talked on, I studied her closely. There was a certain light in her eyes. She was beautiful, like a bird. A falcon maybe… or a hawk. Her mouth was still moving. Her lips glistened, and I wondered if she was wearing lipstick.

    “‘Did you hear me?’ she demanded to know.

    “I nodded.

    “Then she said, ‘It would be better if you left’.

    “I nodded again.

    “She then offered me the chance to work until the end of the week.

    “‘No,’ I said, speaking for the first time. ‘I’ll leave tonight.’

    Price: £19.95 paperback, or from 10.46 on Amazon
    Published by: Quiller Publishing, 2018

    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine out every Thursday

    You may like...