The first time Sinead Halpin Maynard sat on I-Quid J, she knew that he was the horse for her. Never mind that she was eight months pregnant. Never mind that he wasn’t in the budget. She arranged a vetting and decided to figure out the details later.
She had called Sharon White about a different horse that was in her budget, but White also had “Squid,” who had come over as a 6-year-old from Dirk Schrade in Germany.
“He was way more money than what I had, and he was 9 years old, so older than I was looking for, but as soon as I sat on him, I loved him. Unfortunately he really did suit me, just like Sharon thought he would. It was wild—I had no idea how to buy him, but I set up a vetting anyway. We have a lovely owner, Alyssa Cairo, who owned Oldcourt Grafen Dance, a mare that we’d just sold. Alyssa is very smart and very involved and knows what she likes. I wasn’t sure she’d be interested, but she said, ‘We’ll figure it out.’ I was literally on the side of the road calling her on the way to the vetting.”
Maynard credited Cairo and her “awesome” husband, Tik Maynard, for encouraging her to go with her gut.
“In my early 20s, I’d do [stuff] like that and figure it out. In your 30s you have to make better choices—but that can turn into not taking any risks at all,” she said. “[Tik] encouraged me to take a chance, and thank God for Alyssa, because he went and passed the vet! I was eight months pregnant and only jumped him over 18 inches, but I totally felt like he was my horse.”
Sinead gave birth to daughter Violet five weeks before the Tryon Spring International Three-Day Event, May 13-15, and was back in the saddle just days later. She and Squid competed together for the first time at Tryon, winning the CCI1*-S.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” she said at the event. “He’s a real dude, he has a cool confidence and likes to work. I’ve found the harder you work with him, the more he steps up. He was a stallion until he was 6, and he likes a bit of a challenge. In the dressage I could go in and really ride the test; my other horse, Icytonic, has a lot of Thoroughbred in him, and you have to be a little careful with him, but this horse you can really ride. I was noticing my lack of fitness though! I told myself, it’s four minutes, and you can do anything for four minutes!”
While Squid bucked and played a little in the show jumping warm-up, she said he’s a very careful jumper and was perfect in the ring. And the one-star level was an ideal challenge for their first outing together, she said.
“When the one-star and modified first came out I was like, ‘What is this?’ but I loved it,” she said. “The questions were like prelim without the height, so it didn’t feel like too much pressure.”
Although Sinead has jumped around some of the biggest five-stars in the world in the past, it’s been a while since she last set out on course, and she admitted she felt it.
“I haven’t been galloping fast, so cross-country was my rustiest phase, but the horses were great,” she said. “I only had 10 minutes to warm up, and he was awesome.”
‘I Want To Go All In’
Sinead said that after their son Brooks, now 3, was born, she and Tik really weren’t planning on a second child.
“I told Tik, if we’re doing this, I need a nice freaking horse! Some people buy clothes, but when I found out I was pregnant, I flew to Germany and bought two horses,” she said.
To afford the horses in Germany, the Maynards sold a nice horse into the hunters, invested first and created a syndicate, Copperline Elite, which owns one horse for Tik and another for Sinead. Icytonic, who was 6 at the time, was vetted before she flew over last October.
“He was produced by German team rider Julia Krajewski, who won the gold medal in Tokyo. She needed a new lorry and was selling a few horses, and he was the easiest of her horses to ride,” she said. “He did the Bundeschampionat (German national championship for young horses) as a 4- and 5-year-old and had done a couple of two-star events.”
(Icytonic also competed in the Tryon one-star and was fourth after dressage but was eliminated when Sinead missed three fences on cross-country—a part of the course she neglected to walk: “Can we call that mom brain?!” she said. “I don’t know what happened there. I got through most of the cross-country though, so I got a lot of information, which was great as it was my first event with him as well.”)
The syndicate, which also purchased Tik’s horse SKM Lux Sonata (“Sam”), who finished 11th in the CCI3*-S division at Tryon, is a product of a serious evaluation of the Maynards’ goals and business, Sinead said.
“We sat down and talked and said, looking at our life and our age and goals in the sport, we want to put everything we can into good horses,” she said. “A few years ago we pulled back from competing and bought a farm and had our son Brooks and built a foundation. After considering it, nothing in me wants to step back. I want to go all in. Tik is amazing and said, ‘Let’s find another horse for you right now.’ He already had a couple of good horses going, so that’s why we invested in the horses for me to ride and compete and go after my goals.
“We really have some high hopes for Tik on the Canadian team, and I’m hungry to get back on the American side,” she continued, adding they have a few shares left in the Copperline Elite group. “I want to show you can do the family thing and do the best you can for your country. Anyone with that kind of vibe, we’d love to have on our team. If they’re good at holding babies it’s even more helpful!”
Back With A Plan
Sinead only stopped riding about three weeks before Violet was born, then got right back in the saddle a few days after her arrival.
“I honestly got back on a horse three days after Violet was born,” she said. “It was a natural birth, and it’s super uncomfortable, but I’m more comfortable in the tack than not; my delivery went really smoothly, but she was a really big baby [8 pounds, 12 ounces], so I was a little anxious about recovering, but I felt fine.”
Sinead said she lost a lot of fitness during her first pregnancy and threw herself into an intense, rigorous routine of dieting and working out to get back in shape after Brooks was born. Through her second pregnancy, she said she maintained her fitness better so that it wasn’t such a struggle to get fit to ride again.
“I definitely was a lot more aware this pregnancy and was running and working out up until Violet was born. My son goes to school next to a great YMCA, so I drop him at school and run for half an hour. It’s harder now, though—babies really take a lot of time, and you can’t just pass them off on someone! We also bought an RV and have a wonderful au pair from Ecuador helping with the kids during the week.”
She and Tik purchased the camper with the intention of having a home away from home while they teach and compete.
“We host a lot of clinics at our place, with a lot of different people who will kind of go ‘on tour,’ and we’re planning to do that in July—we’ll bring everybody with us and go on the road to teach about four clinics,” she said. “I also just started a podcast with Ride iQ, which has been super fun; we’re building an apartment on the property and building a podcast room for recording.”
Balancing a family while competing at the elite level of a high-risk sport, and teaching clinics around the country, is a juggling act that Sinead and Tik have learned to embrace.
“Before I had kids, I used to run when I saw a baby,” Sinead said. “I also used to think you couldn’t do all of it. Now I’d say it’s certainly hard, but it’s possible. When I didn’t have kids I was in the barn until midnight, now I just have to be better at time management.”