Senior Feature: Maggie McAlary
Sept. 30, 2011
by: Michael Stagno, Auburn media relations
For her third birthday, Maggie McAlary got her first pony, Rosie. Shortly thereafter, she developed a love for what she does so well today, equestrian. Little did her parents know that when they bought the pony, Maggie would develop into not only an Auburn standout, but a world competitor as well.
"My parents knew virtually nothing about the sport," McAlary said. "We all kind of learned together, but for them to support and help get me to this level means a lot. I definitely couldn't have done it without them and thanks to them I've loved this sport from a very young age."
Competing in a sport that requires the command of animals can be a daunting and dangerous task. Equestrian requires a lot of work, both physically and mentally, but it also requires an ability to develop some type of bond with the horses too.
"I like to spend a lot of time with them because I feel like if I have a relationship with them, then they're going to try a lot harder and have a little more heart," McAlary said. "When you're traveling, it's a lot harder to develop with the horses because you only have four minutes with them. You have to learn quickly on how to work with them and you have to be patient with them. So keeping an open mind in getting a feel for the horse is important."
This past summer, McAlary spent three months showing in Europe. She visited countries like France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany. She credits the trip with helping improve her skill set, but also in gaining valuable knowledge on what it takes to succeed in battling the best riders in the world at international equine competitions.
"It was the best thing for me," McAlary said. "They are so far ahead of us and equestrian is one of their biggest sports. Being over there and competing against some of the top riders in the world was something that I think made me better."
The summer of 2009 saw yet another achievement for McAlary as she was named the USHJA Rider of the Year. Having claimed such an impressive individual accomplishment allows a scratch on her `to-do list', but it also contributes to her goals of competing and winning at the collegiate level with her team.
"That was something that was very exciting," McAlary said. "It's nice to be recognized as an individual, but it's definitely all about the team. If winning that helped make the team better then I'm all for it."
Having competed individually most of her career, coming to Auburn was special for McAlary because it taught her the value of a team and she cherishes the support that the team gives each other on a daily basis.
"It's the team that makes the difference," McAlary said. "Coming together and riding as a team against other schools is what it's all about. Coach Williams helped teach us that a little more emphasis on the team is more important than any single rider."
Greg Williams has been the equestrian head coach at Auburn for 16 years now and his enthusiasm for equestrian is contagious. McAlary points out that he not only pushes the team to be the best they can be, but that his excitement and love for this program makes the girls want to be that much better.
"I think he has a really good idea of what it takes to be one of the top coaches," McAlary said. "He keeps us wanting to do the best that we can without overwhelming us. He has a great attitude and because of that, we want to be at the barn, we want to be at practice and we want to compete hard."
Last season, McAlary earned double All-America honors in both equitation over fences and equitation on the flat and was the MVP on the flat at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships. With such an impressive list of accomplishments, she has career aspirations of competing internationally in representing the United States and hopes to one day do so in the Olympics.
"Coach Williams always says that, `we are planting a seed for a tree that we're never going to shade under,'" McAlary said. "I hope that I can make some type of impact so that 10 years from now when we come back, we can be proud of the fact that we started something bigger than ourselves."
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