byLizzy Youngling| Mar 17, 2017
Every Friday night, aspiring junior riders from across the United States with dreams of making a splash on the equitation scene glued their eyes to their television sets. The six-episode series, Horse Power: Road to the Maclay, premiered on Animal Planet on March 3, 2006, and took the junior equitation scene by storm.
Before the era of live streams and social media, Horse Power gave viewers an intimate glimpse into the lives of America’s top junior riders from the powerhouse barns, Beacon Hill Show Stables and Heritage Farm, following their journeys to the coveted ASPCA Maclay Finals.
Winning any equitation final is a dream for junior riders everywhere, however, arguably the most prestigious final to win is ASPCA Maclay Finals. Held since 1933, Maclay Finals is the ultimate test for America’s junior riders, evaluating horsemanship skills along with the partnership between horse and rider. Winning Maclay Finals helps set the stage for the rest of a rider’s career, as evident by its past list of winners. Some of these include legendary names such as Conrad Homfeld, Frank Chapot, and George Morris, and more recently, Jessica Springsteen, Lillie Keenan, and Victoria Colvin.
We sat down with Horse Power alum, Maggie McAlary, who trained under the tutelage of Andre Dignelli from Heritage Farm, to get the inside scoop on how she was chosen to be on the show, how it affected her high school life, and the impact it has had on her career today.
NF Style: How were you chosen to be on Animal Planet’s Horse Power: Road to the Maclay?
Maggie McAlary: I met the producers at Young Riders in 2006 and they approached me there to see if I’d be interested in doing the show. They filmed a few people at Young Riders and got a few people’s stories, and because I kind of did my own thing with my horses in New Hampshire and met Andre at the shows, it was an interesting angle to have for the television show.
Did you feel more pressure to perform in the ring because of the filming crew?
No, the thing that I was most upset about was that I didn’t win that year, and won the following year (2006)—I was like, Where’s the camera now?
Producers made it seem like there was a large feud between Heritage and Beacon Hill involving both the riders and the trainers, was that accurate or just for the viewers?
For sure, for the viewers. Riding at Heritage, everyone that I rode with rooted for each other, and if I couldn’t win, then I wanted one of my barn mates to win—keep it in the Heritage family. I don’t think it was a crazy rivalry we had with the other barns. But for sure, I wanted to win for myself, but if it couldn’t be me, I wanted it to be another one of Andre’s students because I believe he had a very good system and he tried to prepare us the best he could.
You were the main character from the Heritage camp, did that give you more confidence in the show ring?
Kind of. They came to my farm in New Hampshire a few times and they came to school with me one day, which was the first week of my junior year of high school. It was a little bit awkward because I walked in with a bunch of cameras and was like, “Hi guys!”
I was showing all summer and didn’t get to see my friends that often, so they were like, “What are you doing now?” So I had a little bit of an idea that they were going to use me quite frequently on the show.
How long did the filming take place?
They filmed at Young Riders in July, then they came to the Hampton Classic, and then filmed through the indoor season. So, about four or five months of filming.
You were a high school junior during the show, did it impact any of your relationships at school?
I think most of my friends, they didn’t really understand, and I still don’t think they understand what I do. But I think they had a little more respect for me missing school and being gone on the weekends once they knew a TV show was interested in what we were doing.
How has being on the show helped your career?
I don’t know how much it’s necessarily helped my career, but I think it’s given a lot of kids who don’t have the chance to do it at the level myself, or Brianne, or the others members doing it—or a younger kid that has the passion to do what we did—an inside look at the hard work and the time that you put into it. Because I think it’s easy now; you can watch a live stream of a final and see how everyone does, but the behind-the-scenes look and the ups and the downs, and everything that goes into it, I think would’ve been something that I would have been interested to watch when I was young and doing well in equitation was my goal.
You can watch the 2013, Horse Power: Road to the Maclay reunion below.
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