Career perspectives from an equestrian athlete

Staying in the same job may have been common just a couple of decades ago, but in today’s day and age, it’s quite uncommon to find someone in their 30s who has been working in the same job for over ten years.

Maxime Livio, a French equestrian athlete and coach of the Thai national team, has been horse-riding since he was three and turned professional 12 years. We speak to him to find out how he keeps himself motivated in his career and how he maintains a growth mindset. 

 

Max, before we talk to you about your career, I think most of us are unfamiliar with equestrian. Can you tell us more about it?

There are 3 equestrian disciplines which compete at the Olympic games – which are dressage, jumping and eventing. The main one I’m doing is eventing, which involves dressage, cross-country and jumping. To give a simple analogy, it’s something like a triathlon for horseriding.

 

As an equestrian athlete, you’ve been to the WorldChampionship twice and been to five-star competitions multiple times, achieved positions within the top 5. How do you motivate and push yourself to perform consistently?

In equestrian, it’s not just about me. There are two parties involved in this sport, both the rider and the horse, and problems can occur at any time – sometimes you succeed, other times you don’t. Understanding and accepting this fact and knowing that things may happen at any time is key.

By anticipating difficulties, it not only helps to minimises the occurrence of mistakes, it also allows me to be ready to overcome any challenges that come along. By having this mindset, I prevent myself from becoming overconfident and making unnecessary mistakes – and this allows for more consistency in my performances.

 

After such a long time in the same career, doing the same thing every year, how do you keep yourself motivated and what advice do you have for professionals who are looking to build a long-term career?

Perhaps from some people’s point of view, I’m doing the same thing over the years but to me, it’s always different every day. For eventing, which is the equestrian discipline I’m most involved in, we train for different aspects of the sport so it’s a different type of training daily. Also, we get to work with different horses every few years. When I get a new horse, it’s like restarting everything because every horse is different and even if I use the same types of training, the work is going to be different.

More importantly, even after 12 years, I don’t see myself as an expert or someone who knows everything. I’m always seeking new challenges and I don’t wait for challenges to come to me. I once changed trainers – from someone I’d trained with for years and was incredibly familiar with, to another new trainer – because I knew that I needed to break out of my own comfort zone to grow further.

Of course, I appreciate that in a more “regular” office working environment, it may not be quite the same. You may not get new horses or be able to change your trainers but you will get to work on new projects and new colleagues and I think its all about appreciating the challenges that result from these, while looking for ways to break out of your own comfort zone.

 

You’ve are also now the coach of the national equestrian team in Thailand – and have successfully brought them to the Olympics! How did you transition from just being a rider to being both a rider and a coach, and what learnings can you share with professionals who are struggling with the transition from being just a team member to a manager?

Most coaches only start training teams at the end of their careers as riders. However, the Thai team came to me with the opportunity a few years ago, and it was too good to pass up. However, I was very clear with the Thai organisation that I had my own riding career and I would not give it up.

At the beginning, truth be told, it was a bit tough to manage. I tried to be on top of everything all the time and it just resulted in me being unable to focus. What has worked for me is to clearly block out my time and communicate with everyone clearly about my working style. I told them that when I’m training as a rider, I’ll be 100% focused on myself and my horse and when I’m coaching the team, I’ll be thinking about the Thai riders and how to help them shine. This has not only helped me become more efficient and effective, it has also made everyone happier because they know what to expect.

I’m not sure that blocking out your time will work for everyone but what I would tell new managers is to really understand what works for both yourself, and the team. You need to set the right expectations with your team. There will be a period of adjustment at the start and it may be challenging for yourself and the team, but I think you need to ensure that you’re consistent with actions and communications. Being inconsistent is often a cause of real unhappiness because people aren’t sure what to expect. Of course, if you try it over a period of time and things aren’t working out, then it’s time to improve, but I think you need to give everyone time to adapt first.

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