Cooling Out With …
Marc Donovan is the subject of this week’s Cooling Out With feature.
The 43-year-old Aberdeen resident has a background in show jumping, both as a rider and trainer, although these days he spends much of his time designing courses. He’s actually the first “r” licensed Eventing Show Jumping Course Designer.
Q: Where did you start riding?
A: I grew up in Northport, on Long Island. I rode equitation and did hunters. I started eventing in 1985.
Q: Who was your best event horse?
A: Middlemarch, an Irish gelding. We went intermediate and did a couple of two-stars.
Q: Who were some of your early trainers?
A: I rode with Raul De Leon. He trained Tad Coffin. I also rode with Denny Emerson, Mike Plumb and Jane Savoie ... I spent a lot of time riding with Joey Darby.
Q: Thoroughbreds or warmbloods?
A: For eventing, I like thoroughbreds. For show jumping, I like thoroughbred crosses. Some of the crosses are good for eventing too, but the pure thoroughbreds are lighter and better for endurance.
Q: If not a career with horses, then what might you be doing?
A: I wanted to go into medicine. I went to RIT (Rochester Institute) for biomedical photography. It’s regrettable because that probably would have been a better career choice. But I didn’t like the blood and guts.
Q: How did you wind up in Southern Pines?
A: I met (local eventer) Bobby Costello years ago at Groton House (horse trials in Massachusetts). We became friends and then business partners. He used to winter here, so I’d start coming down for the winters. I’ve lived here permanently for eight years or so.
Q: How did you get into designing show jump courses?
A: (Former Carolina Horse Park director) Lefreda Williams, I don’t know why, asked me to do the Southern Pines Horse Trials in 2001, so I did that event for a couple of years. Then I got really involved with the (world renowned show jumping course designer) Richard Jeffrey program. I’ve designed courses in Boston, Unionville, Va., Houston and Rebecca Farms in Montana. Rebecca Farms is a pretty cool one, because they have three rings running at the same time. Course design has become my main source of income.
Q: What’s a typical day like for you?
A: Mowing, teaching, building jumps ... not so much riding anymore. I’m still teaching a little. The course design work really takes up most of my time. That’s my problem. I wear a lot of hats.
Q: Do you prefer teaching young riders or (ahem) seasoned amateurs?
A: The young hotshots. I like teaching good riders, kids with ambition, drive, talent ... anytime you can teach someone and they show progress, that’s very rewarding.
Q: Do you miss competing?
A: Sometimes. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this is my life. And every year I miss competing less and less. I like the course design aspect of it so much ... really, I’m still participating.
Q: Where do you want to be in 10 years?
A: Designing courses for some big competitions, hopefully. I think it would be fun to do something big.
Q: Finish this sentence: I wish Moore County...
A: Would stay right where it is now, as far as the population. It just seems to be getting larger and larger.
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