Buck Davidson needs little introduction, building a career for himself that includes a stable full of top horses and supportive owners. Who did Buck look up to growing up? What would he be doing if he wasn’t a professional event rider? He answered all of our burning questions, and we’d like to thank Buck for taking the time to chat on his drive home from Rocking Horse this week.
EN: What’s your strategy for balancing your time when you have 10 or 12 horses at an event?
Buck: I am super lucky to have that many horses and that I get to do for a job what most people do for a hobby. I’m very fortunate that people trust me to have their horses with me, and I’m flattered to be able to do it.
EN: If you think back to the long format days, what are the biggest differences you see in how you condition and train your horses?
Buck: It’s a much longer season now. Back in those days, like with Trans Am, I remember I’d do one event, go to Kentucky and then he’d get a month or two off and then he could do one event before Fair Hill. Now it’s definitely for the better, but the horses go out to more competitions and the season starts in January and doesn’t end until November.
You have to work in breaks for the horses, and I’m fortunate to have enough horses that when one needs a break I can just give him a break. They tell me what’s going on and if they need a break, and they get a break.
EN: What is one of your basic training philosophies that you try to instill in all of your students?
Buck: Honestly, the main thing that I try to do is encourage them to be good people. One of the things for me growing up is having coaches that taught me life lessons. It’s more about being a good person and working hard and that’s really what we try to do in my barn.
EN: Who was your riding idol growing up?
Buck: Andrew Nicholson. He still is. I grew up in probably a different situation than a lot of other kids that grew up with horses, my father was close with Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd, and I didn’t know at the time they were superstar riders. They were just “Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Todd” to me as a kid.
I didn’t really look up to anyone as a kid as far as the riding part — I looked up to Wayne Gretzky. As I got older and started to study the sport more, certainly my dad was a big role model but Andrew was always a big one for me because of his work ethic and sheer determination.
EN: Growing up with your dad as a big influence, what is one of the biggest things you’ve learned?
Buck: He was better than everyone else because he worked harder than anyone else. I don’t think that I’m better than anyone else, but I try not to get out worked by anyone else. That’s one thing I can control, is how hard I work. I can’t control if there is someone who is more talented than me.
EN: What has been your biggest career highlight?
Buck: Probably winning a timber race when I was around 12 or 13 years old. I was in the lightweight race and I had so much lead that I couldn’t even carry the lead and the saddle. That was really something, though, it was something totally different and at that point in my life all I wanted to do was going faster. When I got to the finish line before anyone else, that was really awesome.
EN: If there was a horse, past or present, that you could take a spin on, who would that be?
Buck: I would love to take a spin on Secretariat. The way his stride was so massive and the way he did it so easily — that would be awesome to experience.
And there’s also a lot of horses in my past that I wish I could have ridden better. I thought I was doing ok, but if I knew then what I knew now, I have way more appreciation for those horses and what they put up with from me. I wish I could have a do over with Trans Am; I feel badly about what I didn’t know back then. The only thing I can do is try to do better on the other ones.
EN: If you were not a professional event rider, what would you be doing?
Buck: Oh gosh. I would definitely do something with sports. Probably anything in sports that anyone would have me at. I’m probably not built to play basketball, and too short to play hockey, but I maybe would have played baseball. I’m not exactly sure what I’d be doing — at this point it would probably be anything that someone would hire me for. I’m not sure I’m any good at this, but I’m not very good at anything else. I guess I would love to be professional golfer, but I’m terrible at that too!