Plaidcast 340: Max Amaya by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services

Plaidcast Episode 340 Max Amaya


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Piper speaks with Max Amaya of Stonehenge Stables about his career and how he is developing our next generation of riders. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!


  • Host: Piper Klemm of The Plaid Horse Magazine
  • Guest: Max Amaya is the head trainer at Stonehenge Stables, a leading show jumping training program located in Colts Neck, New Jersey, and Wellington, Florida. Max was a top international grand prix rider and has shared his remarkable success with his students, many of whom are ranked among the USA’s top riders in the junior, amateur, and professional divisions. Max’s program is focused on building a strong riding foundation rooted in traditional equitation principles, leading to success across all levels. Max provides a range of training from short stirrup to grand prix, but one priority is always shared: the horses always come first.
  • Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services, Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
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This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.

Piper Klemm [00:00:48] This is the Plaidcast, I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of the Plaid Horse magazine. And coming up on today’s episode 340, I talk to Max Amaya of Stonehenge Stables about riding, training and moving up in this business. This episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services. 


Piper Klemm [00:03:00] Max Amaya is a head trainer at Stonehenge Stables, a leading showjumping training program located in Colts Neck, New Jersey and Wellington, Florida. Max was a top International Grand Prix rider and has shared his remarkable success with his students, many of whom are ranked among the USA’s top riders in junior amateur and professional divisions. Max’s program is focused on building a strong riding foundation rooted in traditional equitation principles, leading to success across all levels. Max provides a range of training from short stirrup to Grand Prix, but one priority is always shared. The horses always come first. Welcome to the plaidcast, Max. 

Max Amaya [00:03:37] Thank you so much for having me. 

Piper Klemm [00:03:39] When I see you train or ride horses, you seem to have like a very calm sense that the horses respond to. And I’m around a lot of people who have almost trained themselves to be calm. But you seem like just very naturally in the moment and calm. Can you talk about your approach to horses and how you how you view them and how you view that mentality? 

Max Amaya [00:04:04] Well, you know, first off, I think. Probably I can speak for myself, but I believe most people, you know, they love horses. I particularly love them. They’re an unbelievable animal. And then I never forget that the reason why we are able to do what we do and achieve the things we sometimes are able to achieve it just because of them. Without the horse, we we will do nothing. You know, they’re actual athletes. They’re the ones winning the whole war. So my approach to them, you know, is always in a gentle way. I always try to be, you know, friends with them. I always try to create some sort of relationship. You know, the body language in between the horse and the rider is basically the only way that we communicate with them. We can talk to them, but we really don’t know whether they understand what we say or not. So body language and, you know, gestures are pretty much what you know, you communicate with your horse. So I always thought, you know, with a very calm and peaceful, you know, and soft way, and then I work my way in and try to identify what each word needs and how and word what part of their body and what part of their mind. And that’s basically how I approach. 

Piper Klemm [00:05:25] You’re very known for really focusing on the fundamentals with all your riders. Can you talk about what that’s like in in today’s world, where everyone wants to go faster and rush things? How do you keep people focused on on that foundation, which is not always the most exciting or sexy part of the process? But we see when you don’t have it as you go up the ranks, it’s very obvious. 

Max Amaya [00:05:50] Yeah, I mean, it’s a balance. You know, I always tried to keep learning every day. You know, I’m lucky enough that I surround myself with some of the most, you know, reputable and best, you know, professionals in the industry. I try to gravitate towards that so I can I can actually learn from them. You know, I try to watch, you know, and understand, you know, basically one of you know, the most important things is to take the right time for development, whether it’s a rider or a horse or both. And I’m a little conservative in that matter, you know. I like to take my time. I like to develop, like you said, the fundamentals, the basics, You know, without a good foundation, any building will collapse. So I apply the same theory to when I’m riding a horse or developing a rider or developing a horse or both. You know, you got to create a good foundation. And a good foundation comes at home, you know? What do you work on? You know, flat work, you know, small jumping, the things that will basically create good habits for the rider on the horse. And as we know, even in life, when we have good habits, they turn in, you know, into good behavior and good behavior, normally gives you a chance to have good performances, and good performances will give you chances to win. So all that goes in all that I don’t like to approach. First, let’s go for the win and then worry about it later. So sometimes, you know, like you mentioned in today’s sport, you know, things have gotten faster. You know, jumps are, you know, more delicate and the classes are, you know, really competitive. There’s there’s more people involved in the horse show world, you know, internationally than before. So to find the right partner being a horse, it’s very complicated. Now it has become, you know, quite a challenge. So when you do come across a good horse, you know, you like to take a little bit of time to develop a good partnership and a good, you know, friendship with that horse, that the partnership will probably, you know, last a long time, you know. And also, you have to be quiet, careful, you know, about the injuries today, a day, you know, I mean, the footing have gotten better. They you know, science is always trying to, you know, improve the ground that we jump on. But at the same time, these horses are much more delicate and much bred in a much more sensitive way that they have a tendency to get injured a little bit more often. So that being said, you know, you have to manage and think about, you know, what each horse’s problem is going to be show by show, month by month, year. While, you know, normally when I get to Florida for the WEF, you know, season, I like to most likely grab at the top of the sport the horses that I have and the riders and I sit down and we make a little bit of a plan that includes all the way to the devon horse show in the beginning of the the summer and of the spring. So all that is probably about five months of planning. And those horses, we we work backwards, you know, from the last week of WEF or Devon, and then we make the plan where they’re going to go to Europe, whether they want to stay stateside or whatever. We try to stay with that plan and tweak it as it goes very little, but have a good plan. A good program gives you at least a little bit of a structure to maintain the horse’s health, fitness, you know, and and organize a little bit what that horse care is going to be for six months. 

Piper Klemm [00:09:27] It’s so counterintuitive because the special ones you are you have to go slower with. But they also are the ones that, you know, human nature we’re like more excited about. And I think people are so tempted to to push the special ones too fast, but it requires kind of double level of patience. 

Max Amaya [00:09:48] Yeah. You know, I mean, look, at the end of the day, the way society in general is changing. You know, social media and communications have gotten to a level that basically whatever happens anywhere in the world, we hear it within a second, whether it be a Facebook, Instagram, you know, news articles, whatever it is, you know, even TV. I mean, things we get communication constantly from things like that. So that being said, it puts on us a little bit of a different, you know, perspective before, you know, 20 years ago, you had your plan, you did your plan. Nothing got affected because you knew what you were doing. And it was a little bit different to compare yourself with other people’s plan, other people’s horses, what other people do. But today they were influenced as much as we influence others by what we do in what others do. So you have to keep a real level head in what your job is and what your goals are and what you know is good to do. And sometimes, you know, it’s a little bit hard. You know, when you have young riders with all the drive and all the desire to do, you know, good, better and, you know, faster. And you know, you have to manage that too, because the rider development is as important as the horse. And, you know, there’s cases where you you take a little you, me as a trainer, I come out of my comfort zone. I said, you know what the rider these was, they’re ready to do it. And, you know, most likely you can make a good call. Very, very, very not often you probably make a wrong call, but normally I learn with the time that if I feel like he’s not going to be the right call, he probably not the right call. But you had to learn also how to manage. The horses are easy because they do what you tell them to do, most likely. So if you pull the horse in a smaller class because you think is the right thing to do, they just do it. But the riders, you know, they have different desires, different idea, different everything. So you have to manage and explain the reason why. And most likely no good rider, they always understand. They follow your lead and eventually, you know, they grow up. Some of my former students have gone and they they develop their own judgment on what to do and most likely the influence you gave them as they were growing as riders, helped them have that good judgment. 

Piper Klemm [00:12:02] Developing their own judgment is a super interesting concept that I’m not sure that many barns that’s actually the goal of many trainers or many teaching programs because back to the foundation, developing your own judgment takes so much work and so much more time in the beginning on the on the less, let’s say, rewarding parts of training. 

Max Amaya [00:12:26] Yeah. I mean, you know, when it comes to my approach to that, I really like my riders to think for themselves we can bounce ideas with each other. But, you know, I can give you an example, you know, Briane Goutal she’s 33, 34 years old. We met when she was 12. I was involved in her career, you know, on a daily basis for 12 years. And when it was time for her to go out on her own, you know, I was hoping that she had that, you know, judgment to basically train in order for her to start making her own decision. Then, you know, we stayed in touch. And then after, you know, four or five years, you know, we are working together again in a different level. You know, she’s a top professional. She runs a very successful business. But, you know, we call each other, obviously I’m the older one, you know, on the relationship. So she feels, you know, ask me for advice and sort of things. But, you know, at the same time, I call in and I ask you for advice on certain situations that she have experienced, too. So the reason why I gave you that example is because my goal is to be able to have, you know, riders develop their own judgment, a habit character, and be able to function on their own. You know, it’s a little bit of a missconcept that, you know, a trainer just wants the rider to depend on on the trainer. So that way he keeps getting paid that that’s not what I am for. You know, I’m I’m here to train people to teach them what I know, to help them, you know, improve, to help them increase, you know, the level of knowledge and and try to achieve all their goals. And in that journey, you know, as much as I need to be, part of it is great. But it’s it’s the idea of it and the you know, the goal is not for me just to be needed all the time. 

Piper Klemm [00:14:14] But there’s this other side of this where you have to, like, relinquish some control for for people to learn to make their own decisions because they have to practice a small decision and they might make a wrong decision under your tutelage. And I think a lot of trainers are afraid of that. To me, it’s like less about trainers wanting the clients to depend on them and more being afraid that, you know, a small mistake will damage the relationship. 

Max Amaya [00:14:40] Well, yeah, that’s you know, I agree. You know, but the reality also is in life is the same way. And, you know, a recent example, you know, Alessandra Volpe went to represent the U.S. in Two Nations Cup in Denmark and Norway. And I work very closely with a friend of mine from Holland, William Grab, you know, one of the top, you know, Dutch and worldwide riders and he’s a good friend. And we worked together last fall, you know, with her and won the First Nations Cup. He could go for just a day and a half. So that was good. The Second Nations Cup, you know, was during the open week on day one. And they had other riders, you know, jumping the Grand Prix of their own, including McLain was riding one of my client’s horses. So it was too much for me to leave all that and go and help Alex. So I said, Listen, this is a good opportunity for you to develop your skills about being by yourself , Anne Kursinski being the chef d’equipe, I know her very well. You can use her as a source of information or advice if you need to, but you’re more than capable to do this, you have to do it on your own and you’ll be fine. And then we were in Old Salem, you know, about three weeks prior to that and with her old time partner in Oberlander that I said, okay, I’m going to be in the schooling area and I want you to do everything by yourself and tell me what is it that you want? And I will not wait on your decision one little bit, and I want you to go in the ring and execute the course like if I’m not here and we did and she was second in that class. And it was great. And I said, okay, that’s the same idea you use when you are by yourself representing the U.S. in a three star nations Cup. Whatever either situation comes, you know, you’re capable of doing this. It’s good to have a relationship and to keep, you know, ourself a little bit connected. And that I help because she’s still, you know, 23 years old and with a lot to learn, very talented. And, you know, that’s what I’m there for. But at the same time, when opportunities come that she can develop her own judgment and her own confidence about the things, you know, it’s always good. You know, if you look at, for example, Lillie Keenan works with McLain Ward really closely, but he’s not at every shop and she can go and win a five star like she didn’t pull medals, you know, two weeks ago, being there by herself, McLain wasn’t there. You know, I’m sure they talk on the phone like, you know, I do with Alex, and they discuss this idea. But then it’s on her to read the course, you know, watch the other riders, know what training her horse needs and whatnot. And then she did quite well. So that’s the goal. The goal is to have somebody be somewhat confident enough that they can do it on their own. 

Piper Klemm [00:17:17] You grew up in Argentina with a horse family. Can you talk a little bit about what riding was like for you growing up and getting started and kind of your pathway through through horse shows as a young rider? 

Max Amaya [00:17:29] Yes. You know, I was born in Argentina, in Mendoza, which is the nice fine, you know, region of Wines. But when I was seven years old, my dad got transferred to Buenos Aires, the main city. You know, he was working for the airline company, and he got a big promotion. Anyway, he went to we went to the main city of Buenos Aires and my older brother Victor, which I had the, the like the he would me and he we worked together here at Stonehenge, you know, he was always the most talented rider. He was a couple of years older than me and he won a lot. So when we were little about I was maybe 11, 12 years old and he was maybe 14. He was already winning at some level of jumpers. You know, we don’t have what they call junior jumpers. He was winning somewhere at that level and I was 12 and just starting to ride. Our grandfather was very involved with horses. He was in the Army and he competed in a lot of big events and he knew he was a good horseman, not a great teacher, even though he taught us a lot. He was not a great teacher. He didn’t have any student. He was just my brother and myself. But I was very afraid of horses. And then one summer, you know, I went to a farm, you know, outside of Buenos Aires, and there was this what they call gauchos, which is like a cowboy, very old guy. And, you know, he taught me he taught me how to approach a horse, you know, not to be afraid. He basically introduce me to a very nice horse that led me to start trusting horses and then off I went, I start riding, my grandfather coached me. But then when I was probably about 16, I was a little bit I shouldn’t say self-taught, but I was going to the shows and I was you know, I really didn’t have a coach. I was looking at the top riders and trying to learn a little and see what they did. And then my last year of high school, you know, my father was very insistent that I going to college and, you know, I applied and went to business school for about four months, five. And then I quit. I realized that wasn’t for me and I was already jumping at a probably, soft junior jumper level. And I told him that I wanted to go to live in North America. That was a dream of mine. And he said North America, why? I said, well I want to, you know, work with horses. And he didn’t really believe that was a good idea. He told me I was not very good at it and I was not going to succeed. But anyway, for some reason, the passion for horses and the passion for the sport led me to take a flight and I ended up landing in Canada. And the show was happening at the time, the three day event. And I met Mr. Roger Deslauries, which is Mario Deslauries’ dad, wonderful man. He gave me a job and there I was, you know, doing some stalls, cleaning horses, riding. And Mario was in and out obviously, he was living in Virginia at the time, so he was in and out going to shows. And I did about two years with them. And then my mother got sick. So I came back to Argentina for about three years and I landed a really nice job for a nice family. And I jumped some small grand prix, a couple of grand prix towards the end. And in 99, you know, I decided I really wanted to move to the States. And with the help of Joe Fargis. I ended up with Beacon Hill in 99. 

Piper Klemm [00:20:52] So it’s it’s really you know what? But we talk a lot about on this podcast it’s it’s making connections, putting yourself out there and when you do get an opportunity. Putting the work in and impressing the people you’re around and you’re a testament to that. 

Max Amaya [00:21:07] Well, you know, I’m a real big believer. Everyone has an opportunity. We all get opportunities someday in more than one, but we all get one at least, and capitalizing on it and capitalize on what you just said. You know, you have to work hard. You know, to this day, I sometimes I encounter this, you know, young professionals that they are worried about, you know, the hours they work at the barn, they’re worried about not getting paid enough. They’re worried about not getting enough opportunities. And, you know, I understand that. But at the end of the day, I’m also lucky enough to be encounter with professionals like, you know, T.J. O’mara, he never cares about how many hours he puts in. He never cares about how many horses he has to ride. He just he he has everything that it takes for him to be a very successful. He’s already doing very good. And I believe, you know, with time, he’s going to take over my business when I’m slowing down or earlier or, you know, he is doing all the right things to be successful and to achieve all the goals he wants. So for me, you know, it’s it’s it’s hard to encounter, you know, these young professionals sometimes that they want to do everything, but they’re not willing to put in the work the time, you know, and and fight for it a little, you know. 

Piper Klemm [00:22:21] Absolutely so. Okay. So you come into Beacon Hill and 99, 2000. What does that look like there? What what is your role look like? What does your life look like in the early 2000? 

Max Amaya [00:22:34] Well, when I came, you know, they they had a barn, Caesar barn, they call it. It was called Synergy Stables, and it was about three or four miles down the road. And it was owned by the Diego family. Pam Diego was the the lady that owned it, and she was a rider that never competed. She rode, you know, some 3ft, you know, lessons. But she wanted to have a business and she wanted to have a trainer. And somehow they met, you know, at the time for Stacia and they established a relationship. They put a few trainers in, and that really worked. And then somehow, you know, Stacia and Frank believed that I was the guy for that job and they hired me through them. So I basically I was working for Synergy, not really for Beacon Hill. I end up at Synergy through Beacon Hill, and Beacon Hill oversaw the the activities there. But I was thrown in there as basically trainer, rider, manager, whatever it took. And I had, you know, very few green grooms that were already there. And then, you know, there were about 17 horses in a 30 stall barn. And I think the first real break came in 2000 and I believe was 2002 or one, one or two. I don’t remember exactly when the Goutal girls came. You know, Clementine and Brianne, they went to ride with Beacon Hill, but Beacon Hill were full. They didn’t have room. So they said, oh, we can we can put you in our sister barn with our trainer Max and blah, blah, blah. So the Goutal sister’s came. And you know, we just right off the bat it was such a wonderful relationship they stayed there for. I mean basically the six years that I worked there and then when I opened Stonehenge Stables, they, they came with me for another six years, you know. So it was interesting because that was a nice opportunity. Obviously, the salary wasn’t that good. It was normal, you know, it was very respectable, but I didn’t know enough, you know, and I live in a small house. And all I wanted was to progress. So it didn’t matter. I had to drag the ring. I drag the ring. I had to paint jumps, I paint jumps. You know, I had to change the course, had to do, whatever I had to do. I did because I wanted to make the best out of that job. And I wanted to improve and I wanted to impress and I wanted to grow. And, you know, my biggest, biggest break as a rider came in 2004, the end of 2003 four, when I met Church Road through Sarah Baker. And then, you know, things really took off for me. 

Piper Klemm [00:25:01] So the Goutals were were young. Were they still on ponies when they came? Are they’re just moving the horses? 

Max Amaya [00:25:07] No, no. They were on ponies that were just Brianne was just moving into a children’s jumper, junior jumper named Lacoste that they got through Joe Fargis when they rode in the ponies. They rode with Peter Lutz, so they bought that horse. Clementine was in ponies, She had Silver Spring and then she just got a horse named Charge, which was an equitation horse and Light Feet, which was her children’s jumper. So they were just transitioning from ponies to horses. 

Piper Klemm [00:27:35] Tell us about your big break and tell us what Church Road was like. 

Max Amaya [00:27:39] So Church Road came from Beezie and John Madden. They bought the horse from a three day event lady in upstate New York. You know, they keep coming for lessons with Beezie the horse was about five years old. If I don’t remember wrong and Beezie kept giving the lady lesson once or twice a week up there, and one time, you know, I recall she called me, I called John and I said, John, you have to come see this horse, its a nice jumper. And long story short, they decided to try to buy the horse from the lady. And the horse had a little bit of a bolge cheap on a left ankle. So they told the lady that they will buy, half the horse and do the surgery. Anyway, they they struck a deal. They bought the horse and they developed the horse in the six year old year. And then somehow the horse came from Spruce Meadows doing some smaller classes like 120, and they sent it to Stacia and Frank to see if it was a good horseedrf3e for any of her, for any of her students at the time. So when he came I remember I remember the horse came off the track and he looked like, you know, big air look like a cartoon. You know, I was like, What is this? So the nickname of the horse was Goldie, because his hair was really shiny and he looked a little goldish. If it was a bay, light bay horse. So the horse was tried by Callum Solemn with Carol Thompson in the indoor at Synergy, which was quite a small indoor and the horse jumped very well it jumped like a one 30, 140 track and I was impressed by the horses jump and Sarah Baker was flatting a horse at the time there and I remember when they left, she asked Frank about the horse, oh its the horse that and my brother sent da da da. long story short, she said, I want to try the horse. So she tried the horse, she liked the way the horse jumped and she bought it. So the horse was, I believe, maybe six or seven, no six. So we went to Florida. She jumped it in some smaller classes. It was so good, the summer, and then the fall in Florida when the horse was 8 years old. We were at the Goutal’s farm in Florida and she overheard I was already very good friends with McLain Ward, and she overheard that I was having a conversation with McLain, saying hey McLain they’re going to do the First Nations Cup here in Wellington, you know, in March. I like to have a horse. If you have any sale horeses that I can catch ride I’ll be happy to to do it. And he said, Yeah, no worry buddy, let me see what I, what I bring in and maybe I have a horse for you. So when he left, she approached me and said Max, I overheard, you were asking McLain for a horse, I’ll be happy to offer you any of mine. She had two horses and a gray one named Candino and the bay one named Church Road. And I was like, These horses are jumping, you know, low amateurs. I don’t know that they can jump a nations cup, but, you know, they were capable. So I said to her, Well, we can give the Bay one to try. Church Road, she said okay. So that was the biggest break in my career because I believe the following weekend, you know, I jumped the meter 35. Then the horse was clear and gave me a great feeling, then I jumped the meter 40 and he was clear and he gave me a great feeling. And the following week, we had basically two weeks prior to the Nations Cup. So I’m going to do a meter 40 and and then a meter 45 and then let’s see what we got. So meter 40, you know, he was clear, meter 45, had one down, but I feel like the horse had a lot to give so I said, Sarah, If you’re okay, we can give it a shot, you know. And Argentina had a very put together team with great riders, you know, but it wasn’t a very put together team at the time. He wasn’t like something planned or it was like we were just, you know, a group of four guys, you know, that was like you have a horse, I have a horse, let’s give it a try. And, you know, to my surprise, you know, my team members did very well. I had eight faults in the first round and then we end up third. You know, it was it was quite a Big you know, a push for me. I felt so, you know, satisfied, so excited, so happy. And I thought, okay, this is what it’s all about. So after that, I remember Sarah Baker told me. So listen, I really enjoy watching you ride him. I like the horse in the Grand Prix. I want you to keep riding him. So from 2003 to 2008, I rode the horse. And, you know, I don’t know. I had several. Several. You know, I mean, I would probably be able to tell you at every weekend, and I got a ribbon in the Grand Prix, you know, eighth or fourth. But it was always a ribbon or very close. And obviously, you know, I ended up jumping the world championships in Aachen in 2006 with him, which was amazing because it was a feeling that I could never replicate. You know, I was clear the first day then I had one down in the First Nations Cup, and then I had two down in the second Nations Cup. But it was probably the biggest course that I ever the championship I ever jumped in my life. And, you know, even said by my good friend McLain it was one of the biggest championships he had ever to jumped. And it was big, you know, Aachen is never small. And then I jumped the Pan American Games also very good, you know, and several nations cups with him. And anyway, when the time came before Beijing, you know, the owner wanted to go, but he was he was done. He didn’t want to do that. So we parted ways. And I believe my career already changed after that. You know, that was my big opportunity. And I tried to capitalize on that and, you know, learn as much as I could, you know, create relationships with people, transmit all that knowledge to my students and, you know, just keep growing from it. 

Piper Klemm [00:33:08] A long time ago, like ten years ago, I interviewed someone and I wish I remembered who it was. And, and and they were like. The difference between the good riders and the great riders is like one great horse like that. That sense that you’re you’re you know, if you’re putting in the day to day and you’re doing this and you’re good at this like that, one superstar horse can be so transformative to your career. And and what you’re saying totally reflects that. And I think it’s so inspirational. And, you know, being at the World Cup this year, there are a lot of writers out there in Omaha who were on that one transformational horse. I mean, they hadn’t done this long. They hadn’t been at that level for for a long time. A lot of them hadn’t ridden at that level for especially the U.S. team. And they were on that one transformational horse that was like taking them to stratospheric places. And it was so exciting to like watch and as a spectator, like be part of. 

Max Amaya [00:34:07] Yeah, you know. Like I said at the beginning of our conversation, the horses make the whole difference. You know, like you said, a good rider its a good rider with a good horse. But when the great horse comes, they become a great rider. You know, I haven’t jumped, you know, big classes since 2006. You know, I got injured in 2011. My my groin and my pelvis really gave up. And I tried for another four or five years, but then it was time for me to, you know, hang my boots on the big level, which, you know, I don’t miss a lot. You know, as a matter of fact, two weeks ago, I decided I want to jump a National Grand Prix with one of student’s horses. And I did. And I had two fences down, but I felt great. And it was a good reminder of what I love about this. But that being said, I stayed very close to the big level with my students and my friends, including, you know, all with with Down With McLain, which is he’s one of the best in the world for me being biased. He’s the best in the world. But, you know, it’s it to me is. It’s outstanding what what he does in order to stay at that level. So. You know, when you see the opportunities that come to him, he doesn’t let go of any of them. He creates opportunities and he capitalize on them. And he absolutely understands. You know, I was with him this past Sunday when he had to retire Azul in the Aachen Grand Prix. And he was you know what? People can speculate or not. I was there with him and I actually witness what he went through, how he handle it and what his thoughts were. And it’s remarkable. He was nothing but grateful for the horse. He was, you know, understanding. You know, it’s a sad moment, but every horse, every top horse, gets to a point that they need to retire. It’s how we handle it. And what kind of grace do we do it. And I think he deserved to give that horse a shot. And he did. And not to get too far away from your question, that’s a horse that probably really marked his career, among others. He’s just such a phenomenal rider that he defined horses more than a horse defined him. But I would say HH Azul is probably the horse of his lifetime, you know, you can call Clinta, you can know he can talk about a lot of horses. But that horse, he’s been his partner for a good part of ten years. 

Piper Klemm [00:36:26] So kind of to that to that question. Like what? What do you think makes the difference between a good horse, between a good horse and a great horse? I mean, we have we have so many exceptionally bred horses right now, and with advances and in breeding, you know, and and world wide advances in breeding, like there’s so much more access to, I would say like really just exceptionally bred horses. But like what? What is that magical quality of it that goes from a good are great horses that is it heart is it understanding the game. I mean I think about the horses you know in my very small subsection that I’ve ridden them and the ones that are so much fun are the ones that understand what we’re doing. And there’s so many horses you can train forever. They still don’t understand what we’re doing. 

Max Amaya [00:37:15] Yeah. You know, I mean, look, if we knew what horses thought would be genius, you know, would be so much easier. I think the passion and the the the attraction to horse sports in a ways, trying to figure out what the horses are thinking, why when we do is just always a guessing game, you know? Now, to answer your question, what makes a good horse a great horse, You know, the great horse, whether they know it or not, to our opinion, they just don’t want to lose. They find a way to win. You know, you as a rider can make mistakes and you can help and you can be in the way. But those great horses, they just find a way to win. You know, great examples of that are Hickstead that, you know, he had an amazing ride in Eric Lamaze, but the horse wanted to win. I saw Eric ride with many other horses and he won with a lot of horses horse, but he also lost with other horses with a great ride but this horse just wanted to win. Azul, she just wanted to win. She wanted to win. You know, if you remember the last Grand Prix he jumped last year in Geneva, it was an unbelievable jump off. He got faster and faster, faster. And McLain took a shot to the last fence, the Rolex oxer that, you know, probably another horse would have just not been able to to manage and she found a way to clear the fence and win. So a great horse is those ones that just want to win. You know same in the equitation. You know, you have the great equitation horse. They always they just want to win. They minimize the mistakes. They don’t get bothered by the rider move or something that the rider did that will cause a mistake. They just want to win. 

Piper Klemm [00:38:50] So back to your career. So in the midst of of having Church Road is when you decide to start Stonehenge Stables, what does that kind of look like? What was rolling out your own business? How is that different and how do you how is it different from what you expected and how is that what you expected from from working for so many people and and being around so many other businesses for so many years? 

Max Amaya [00:39:17] Well, you know, interestingly, now, for some reason, I always, always wanted to have my own business, even before I knew I wanted to have a horse business, which was quite an early age. But I always wanted to have my I don’t know why, you know, if you ask me the question, I really don’t know why. But within myself, I wanted always to have my own business and be a leader. I don’t know why, but the other interesting part is I didn’t really work for too many people. I had 1 to 3 jobs in my life, you know, The first one was in Canada for the Deslauries, then in Argentina,  I worked for the Worthtime family. And then when I came here for synergy stables and then I opened my own business and it took a lot of preparation. You know, I was probably working on it for a good part of two years, you know, in educating myself in what I needed to know, what I needed to have, what I needed to face, and all that being said, the first probably the first four or five years of the business were quite rocky because I didn’t know any better. I almost went bankrupt a couple of times. You know, I just I didn’t know enough about, you know, managing funds and, you know, how to spend a lot. And, you know, so I was on the red a couple times and obviously I didn’t want to give up. It was never an option. So I had to learn the way out and learn how to, you know, improve from that. Those mistakes. It was quite stressful and challenging because, you know, you always, you know, I felt support from a lot of, you know, good professional. But some of the professionals, they whether they fear you as a competitor or whether they not like for you to say whatever their reasons are, they don’t support you or they push back a little bit, I guess is, you know, human nature, you know, with any industry. So you have to break through a little bit for that. And, you know, the only way I found out that it was predicted to so is just to work hard and, you know, keep trying to deliver results and keep doing your thing. Because if you just keep doing what you know and you keep doing it hard and with passion, you know, I always say results speak for themselves. 

Piper Klemm [00:41:34] I think it’s so cool that you shared that and so important because it always seems from the outside that every business of this industry is successful. And, you know, I know how scary it is that it’s hard and it all comes down on you because it’s your business. 

Max Amaya [00:41:53] Yeah. You know, it’s also, you know, like I’m really trying to create a path for T.J. because, you know, I mean, look, we’ve been together for almost 14 years, you know, as a student. And now about, you know, a good part of four years as a as an assistant trainer. And, you know, and I really I really think he has everything that it takes to be successful. And he will. But I share all my experiences, I tell him, and there’s a lot that goes along with owning your business, a lot of responsibility, you know, a lot of up a lot of downs, a lot of disappointments, a lot of challenges. You know, many times you want to give up because it’s too much and you don’t want to do it. It’s just, you know, keeping at it, working hard and just not giving up because it’s what you want to do. And there’s a lot of good parts about it. You know, you have freedom, so to speak, because he’s in there working more than you actually would by, you know, just working for somebody, you know. But, you know, you have the freedom also to create you have the freedom to grow as a professional. You definitely grow as a person so that a lot of ups don’t take everything I said as it’s all wrong. It’s not. But there are challenges too you know, not everybody is meant to be a business owner. A lot of people are very content with working for somebody and being the best at that. And that’s also very, you know, admirable. And he’s very respectful, you know. 

Piper Klemm [00:43:19] Absolutely. So what are you looking forward to this year? What are you looking forward to with your horses and what are you looking forward to in yourself coming up through the second half of 2023? 

Max Amaya [00:43:32] Well, I am very, very excited for Alex Volpe he next week we are doing Falsterbo nations cup for the US after that Hickstead. So this is a big jump for her, you know, young rider, very talented. She’s putting a lot of work on it, so I’m very excited for that. I hope that you know of a good outcome if for whatever reason not we keep working and pushing to make it. But I really want to keep watching and helping through her progress and growth as a, you know, top rider for the U.S.. I’m very excited about, you know, Callas, you know, with McLain, she just jumped a double clear in the Nations cup of Aachen. She’s going to do the Five-Star Grand Prix in Denar and then coming home probably, I would guess, maybe Southampton Gold Cup. I’m not sure yet, but that’s very exciting to be a small part of that. I’m very excited for my junior riders. As you know, I have a nice group, you know, on Campbell Hudkins. Carlie Mccutchen, Katie, Kylie, Taryn, kylie They’re all gearing up for young riders, you know, in the end of the summer and then, you know, the finals, you know being Carlee mccutchen’s last junior year. We’re really hoping that she has a chance to, you know, have a shot at any of those finals. She deserves is. She works hard. So that will be, you know, a big focus of my fall and then, you know, waiting Raleigh Hyland had to had a you know, repair a shoulder surgery She had some issues going on for a year. So it was a time for her to repair that. So I’m just anxiously waiting for her to get back in the saddle. And then all of our other riders, you know, to keep progressing and keep trying to find, you know, good horses. 

Piper Klemm [00:45:21] Absolutely Max Amaya. Thank you for joining us on the plaidcast. 

Max Amaya [00:45:25] Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure. 

Piper Klemm [00:47:48] To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show, visit You can find show notes at Follow The Plaid Horse on all the social medias. You can subscribe to the print edition of the Plaid Horse magazine at Please rate and review the plaidcast anywhere you listen to it. And if you enjoy this episode, please share it with your friends. I will see you at the ring!