Sinead Halpin Maynard Dishes the Goods on How She Got Good

In this excerpt from Denny Emerson’s book How Good Riders Get Good, US Eventing Team member Sinead Halpin Maynard shares the reasons for her success in the saddle.

Sinead Halpin and her great partner Manoir de Carneville. Photo by Shannon Brinkman courtesy of Trafalgar Square Press/Horse & Rider Books.

The first major win of Sinead’s competitive career came in 2005 at the National Championships at Radnor. She was a member of the silver medal-winning Nations Cup Team in Holland in 2010, was the top American at the Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2011, and was the first alternate for the US Eventing Team in the 2012 London Olympics. Sinead represented America in Normandy, France, at the World Equestrian Games in 2014, and was named the alternate for the team for the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Life circumstances: Both of my parents emigrated from Ireland. My mother grew up with horses and ponies as part of life when she was young in the country. My father grew up in Dublin with little education and nothing to do with horses. They moved to the United States in 1980.

Hooked on horses when: When I was six I begged for lessons, and my mom was keen on the idea of horses coming back into her life. Over the next few years, weekly lessons turned into a full- on passion, which both my parents encouraged. We were not a wealthy family but my parents believed in following your passion and working hard.

I think I got good because: I think my parents’ influence is a strong reason for the success I have had, as well as impacting my approach with horses. A strong work ethic and a good attitude was mandatory from my mother in the barn—complaining was not a thing that was accepted. My father grew up one of ten kids, raised by his mother and sisters as his father passed away when he was not yet a teenager. He worked every job available throughout his life. To him, there was no time for excuses, just time to jump at any opportunity and see where it might lead. My parents worked incredibly hard to enable me to have a horse. They never told me no; they just said if you can figure it out, go for it. Because of this, I have always felt if I worked hard enough, anything is achievable.

Being a working student has had a huge influence on my life. I started working in professional barns at a very young age. I got to see what the life of a professional looked like. I got to work with beautiful horses, and although I worked for great riders, I also benefited from working directly under great grooms and barn managers. I learned how to listen to and watch the farriers and vets. I got to see how integral the relationships with stable owners and sponsors were in the well-roundedness of a program. The quality of the team around you weighs heavily on your chances of success.

Location, location, location. If you want to be the best you need to be around the best. People sometimes say, “You’re so lucky to have ridden with the people you’ve ridden with and lived where you have lived.” Luck had very little to do with it. I got in my car, drove to where the people I wanted to be like worked, and I cleaned their stalls.

My most important advice: You should be able to put your head on your pillow at night and feel you have done your best with the horses and the people around you. If you wake up in the middle of the night not certain you have done right by a person or a horse, fix it…do not become a victim of it. Educate yourself. Seek out help from the people who inspire you; read, write, and believe the learning is in the struggle…and embrace it.

This excerpt from How Good Riders Get Good by Denny Emerson is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books (