‘Riding a horse is like flying a plane’: Ben Maher on the secrets of his success

If there was a magical formula to succeeding in the Longines Global Champions Tour (GCT), then Ben Maher would appear to have a good idea what it is.

The Briton is the reigning LGCT champion and is currently leading the standings in this season’s competition — earning over $2.7 million in the last three years of equestrian’s elite competition.

His career accolades also include a prestigious Olympic gold medal which he won competing at London 2012.

So what are the secrets of his success?

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Building relationships

You need to form a lasting bond with your horse and knowing how your ride feels before, during and after competition is a vital ingredient to winning on the biggest stage, Maher says.

“Riding a horse is like flying a plane, they’re not machines but it’s a lot of hours, a lot of time to go into building the relationship,” he told CNN Sport’s equestrian show.

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Creating and maintaining that special bond is something that tests every rider at the top of the sport but Maher must also balance it with his booming equestrian business.

In addition to competing, the 36-year-old also trains riders — including some of his competitors — as well as horses.

“We don’t spend every day of every week with these horses. We have to fly around to different locations juggling the horses,” he said.

“It’s the rider’s job to really understand what makes the horse work and try to think ahead of the horse so we understand what’s going to happen and how the horse feels on that day.”

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Mental fortitude

Such prolonged success at the top of any sport can only be achieved through hard work and Maher says staying in good physical condition is an important factor.

He also credits communication and mental fortitude as vital ingredients for success, especially when things are going wrong.

“As a sport, we lose a lot more than we win,” he said.

However, looking after yourself is only one half of the battle when it comes to showjumping, you must also rely on the quality of your horse.

When both components are in place, success becomes a whole lot easier to obtain.

“Some of the best horses have the biggest hearts,” he continued.

“The best horses walk through the gates and they grow and rise to the occasion. They feel like they can do anything and that gives the rider confidence in return.”

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