Discover or rediscover our ambassador riders through their stories. Today, we present Maxime Livio.
“We should never forget why we ride”
When he was a child, Maxime Livio would start crying in the family car if he saw horses by the side of the road and his parents didn’t stop to let him get close to them. He is thirty-four years old today, but he is still just as drawn by the horses’ magnetism, their mystery.
“We should never forget why we ride. In my case, it was originally because I found the animal beautiful, intriguing and kind. It is paradoxical because it commands respect, but you can still have a very close relationship with it.”
Maxime likes the idea of starting from scratch with each horse he meets. It’s an endless cycle that he doesn’t find tedious at all: “It’s fascinating to discover the specificity of a horse, its personality, what will suit it. It is a new path each time and if you think that one horse is going to behave like one you’ve already ridden, you soon realise that this is a mistake. You need to move forward step by step and there are no shortcuts“.
Team bronze medallist at the 2018 World Equestrian Games with Opium de Verrières, sixth and highest scoring Frenchman at the 2021 European Championships with Api du Libaire, Maxime chose eventing for the intense relationship it implies with his horses:
“I also compete in show jumping and it is very interesting from a technical point of view. But training for eventing is much more varied: teaching a dressage routine to a horse, building up its stamina and making it round over show jumping obstacles is quite a feat! We need to find out how best to work, so we can bring out the best in each horse.”
“I’m not interested in beating others so much as being the best I can be”
Leading up to an event, Maxime Livio systematically sets himself a very precise goal, depending on his partner.
“Obviously, you always say you’re going to do your best, but that’s vague. However if you have a goal of a certain score in the dressage, or getting maximum points on the cross-country, etc… It’s easier to analyse things afterwards if you fail. At the last European Championships, with Api, the dressage result exceeded my goal, but I got 4 points at the end of the show jumping round, and that bar still sticks in my throat! I wasn’t able to adapt to my horse, and I consider that sixth place as my worst result in the French team.”
Without that fault, Maxime would have been on the podium in 2nd place, alongside the British riders Nicola Wilson and Piggy March… As soon as his round or competition is over, the rider from Dénezé-sous-Doué, near Saumur, breaks his performance down and puts it into perspective.
“I’m not interested in beating others so much as being the best I can be on the horse I’m riding. For example, my fifth place at the Quatre étoiles de Pau with Vittorio du Montet in 2021 felt like a win to me. Still, I might have won with Qalao of the Seas, he had more class.”
“I have learned to only listen to those who are close to me”
Maxime Livio’s career has had its share of major setbacks. In 2009, at the age of 22, he fell at the Grand National in Jardy and fractured his femur, pelvis, four ribs, sternum and collarbone.”I had just got my first selection for the Senior European Championships, so it was very hard to take.”
There was another ordeal in 2014 when Qalao des Mers was tested positive at the World Equestrian Games in Caen. Maxime Livio protested his innocence, but he was disqualified from his fifth place in the individual rankings, and the French team lost out on Olympic qualification.
“The most difficult situations to cope with are the ones where, like at the World Championships or after my fall in Badminton with Vittorio at the beginning of May, the way I treat my horses and how I take care of them is called into question. Because they are really the stars of the stables, and our lives revolve around theirs.”
So how do you roll with the punches and get back on track? Maxime has chosen to create a tighter circle of friends and family, to be selective in his relationships.
“The people around me and who are essential to me, are my partner Mathilde Montginoux, my parents, my friends, I listen to them and I analyze my mistakes with them. I don’t think it matters what others think. Before Caen, I wanted to show who I was, my door was wide open. I then realised that there was no obligation to do that, and that it was better to protect my system than to put it on show. Ultimately what is absolutely fundamental is to never stray from my principles and the course of action I have set for myself.” In short, to let his conscience be his guide.
It is with pleasure that we count Maxime among our Horse Pilot’s ambassadors & athletes and that we will accompany her in these projects. Thank you to her for sharing her experience with us.
Interview by Céline Gualde
Photos credits: Solène Bailly, Morgan Froment