This week’s up & coming rider is Alexandra Maracic! This past year, Alexandra and her former equitation horse Po placed fourth in the Pessoa/ US Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Finals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. Po also won Best Equitation Horse.
The past year has been peppered with amazing accomplishments and devastating heartbreaks, but Alex has taken it all in stride and remained positive, focused, and ambitious.
Alex is 17 years old and comes from New York. She describes her life as “family, school, and horses.” She has hopes of becoming a top competitor in this sport, much like all of us.
When Alexa was two years old, she sat on her first horse and “fell in love.” Horseback riding is somewhat of a family pastime, as her mother had backyard horses when she was younger. While Alex’s mom was into pleasure and western riding, Alex found her way into English riding with her first pony at 8 years old.
“When my family moved to Long Island, they began to give into my begging of taking horseback riding lessons. They set up riding lessons for me and bought me my first pony when I was 8 years old,” Alex said. “I did the short stirrup to the children’s pony division. Once I grew a bit older they bought me Po when I was 11, and I’ve just sold him recently.”
Alex bought Po when he was just five years old, and together with her mentor, Ross Reisner, made Po into the equitation horse he is today. Alex said Po was “extremely green” when she first bought him, but his accomplishments have shown that “hard work really does pay off.”
“I bought Po as a young horse that didn’t really know much and trained him to be awarded Best Equitation Horse,” Alex said. “It’s so unreal to me that I was able to pull off solid rounds after the what had happened to my trainer just weeks before that final. I owe all of it to my trainer and Po because I don’t think I could’ve pulled off what I did without them. Po definitely deserved that award.”
Alex’s biggest accomplishment thus far and her biggest challenge came not too removed from each other. Shortly before the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, her trainer and mentor, Ross Reisner, was brutally murdered in his home on Long Island.
“When Ross passed away, I lost all confidence and wanted to quit,” Alex said. “I’m really glad I don’t because I’ve come to realize that I have so much ahead of me and so many people here to help me.”
Alex has recently decided to get into the jumpers after competing in the equitation classes for the past 3 years. Because she can only keep one horse at a time, Alex made the tough decision to sell Po and acquire a junior jumper named Coridon Z.
“Moving up to the jumpers was a hard decision I had to make because I had to sell my horse of a lifetime,” Alex said. “I decided to become a working student so it was easier for my parents, and I would be able to have more opportunities to ride many horses and learn new things.”
Alex purchased Coridon Z, ‘Don,’ at the end of August. He was imported from Europe about a month before Alex bought him.
“My favorite thing about Don is that he is so gentle cuddly. He allows my 10 year old sister to walk him around an open field like he’s a puppy dog. He is so forgiving and he is just so much fun to ride. I don’t really have a challenge with him yet because he is so new to my family and I’ve only showed him once so far,” Alex said.
Unfortunately, Don had to put to sleep in early March because of cancer in his spleen. While Alex was heartbroken over the loss of Don, she has stayed firm in her riding goals. She has started riding at Heritage Farm with Andre Dignelli, the well-known trainer of some other big name riders like Lillie Keenan.
“Andre is giving me an equitation horse to ride and hopefully in the future I will find another jumper. I’m taking a little bit of a break from owning a horse because I’m going to focus on school and work,” Alex said. “I plan to compete in the equitation finals again, and I hope to win one this year. When I do get a jumper I plan to become competitive and hopefully move up to some Grand Prix and young rider stuff!”
Alex plans on continuing to ride once she ages out of the juniors. She will be attending college and riding on a collegiate equestrian team. She plans to open her own business, be successful, and take her riding to the professional level.
This past winter, Alex got to live the equestrian dream of being at WEF. However, it wasn’t all fun and games.
“Balancing school and being at WEF is a bit hard because I have really long days of work. I make sure I get all of my work done at the time I’m at the tutoring place so I don’t have much to do when I get home,” Alex said.
A typical WEF day for Alex consisted of going to school, riding, and doing school work. She attended school from 7 am to 12 pm Monday through Wednesday and promptly went to work at her farm. From Thursday to Sunday, Alex would work from 7 am or earlier depending on horse show time until whatever time everything finished.
Alex currently works for Michael Zukerman, a trainer that she has known for a while since he trains at her farm on Long Island. During her time working for Michael, Alex said she has learned so much and that she highly recommends becoming a working student though it can be challenging at times.
“I may not be living the WEF fairytale dream as everyone thinks of it, but I sure am learning a lot about this sport,” Alex said. “I’ve ridden so many different horses, and I’ve made so many connections between so many different people. It really is so worth it.”
While at WEF, Alex got to take a lesson with the famous George Morris. She uploaded a video of her lesson to her YouTube account.
Alex has certainly seen a lot of success in her riding career, but she gets nervous like anyone else.
“I get very nervous and anxious before I go in the ring. Sometime I think as if I forget how to ride,” she said. “I try to block everything out and focus on myself. Treat every jump as if its a single and as if you’re practicing at home.”
Alex tries to ride about 6 days a week, when possible. However, she said she never rides less than 4 days a week. When she isn’t riding, she is reading or going for runs.
When she is riding, Alex said that she doesn’t have a favorite exercise that she does with the horses, but if she had to choose, it would be shoulder-in. She also loves water jumps. Alex said her biggest riding weakness is getting frustrated with herself. (Editor’s Note: Mine too!) Her strength when riding is jumping.
Alex has gotten the chance to ride with many professionals. Her favorite big name riders are Kent Farrington and McLain Ward – both of whom she “really enjoys watching.” As for big name horses, she loves Brianne Goutal’s Nice de Prissey because he is “so beautiful.”
When it comes to must-have equestrian items, Alex said that while it’s hard to choose, she has to pick her Ogilvy pad. She also loves her charcoal Tailored Sportsman breeches, her orange H belt, and her La Mundial boots.
When it comes to other young riders, Alex expressed concern for other riders’ attitudes toward their partners.
“This sport is so competitive, and it really makes me upset when barn teammates are against each other,” she said. “I also feel as if these riders have no relationship with their animals. Po and I had a great relationship. Every time I would walk in the barn he would nicker at me.”
Alex has certainly made great strides in her riding career, and it seems as if she has great things ahead of her despite the setbacks. She has remained positive and determined to achieve her goals.
“You have to believe in yourself. Anything could happen if you work hard for what you want. No matter what division you are competing in, at the end of the day it’s just you and your horse,” Alex said. “Over the years I’ve learned that nobody cares how well you are doing or how bad you rode that one day. Learn from your mistakes and move on to try harder. It’s hard for me to understand that as I know many young riders are facing that problem but it all makes sense. Nobody is perfect but working hard for what you want makes you better.”