Meeting Maya Denis: A Grand Prix Champion and Her Equine Companions

June 29, 2024

Equine photography

Witnessing Maya Denis’ stunning performance at the Show Jumping Grand Prix FEI CSI 2* at WEC Ocala was an unforgettable experience. Her skill, grace, and the powerful connection she shares with her horses were evident as she soared to victory. As avid equine enthusiasts and photographers, we knew we had to meet this incredible athlete.

A Day at Maya’s Farm

We were thrilled when Maya invited us to her farm, a beautiful haven for her and her beloved horses. Stepping into her world, we were greeted with the serene atmosphere of the countryside, where the bond between horse and rider is nurtured daily.

Maya graciously answered our many questions about the jumper equestrian sport.

Q: Maya, How did you get started in equestrian sports, and what inspired you to pursue it professionally?

A: It started very much as a hobby when my parents put me on a horse just for fun. I fell in love with the animals and the sport and with the help and support of my parents I kept progressing and riding more horses over the years. Wanting to pursue it professionally was almost obvious since it really is my passion and I enjoy doing it so much, even after all these years. 

Q:What’s your daily routine like when you’re training for a competition?

A: I ride the horses almost every day of the week but I make sure that I alternate the exercises or environments where I work them so that it doesn’t get boring for them. I will usually jump the horse a few days before the competition if I consider it to be necessary, otherwise I will just work on fitness and suppleness leading to the competition. I normally ride between 4-6 horses a day and I also try to go to the gym and workout pretty much every day.

Q: How do you handle pre-competition jitters? Do you have any rituals or mental exercises?

A: Luckily, I do not get nervous very often, but whenever I have a very important competition or class, I like to keep myself busy before it starts so that I do not have time to overthink the situation. The closer I get to the start of the competition I also enjoy being alone and not around too much noise or too many people. I feel like focusing on myself allows me to concentrate better for when I need to compete and therefore, I can have a better result.

bridle bits - Equine photography

Q: What’s the most challenging/unique horse you’ve ever ridden, and what did you learn from the experience?

A: My most challenging horse has been “Jantien”, or as we call him in the barn “Juancho”. I bought him in Europe without trying him first, so everything was a bit of a surprise. He was very sweet but could also get very stubborn when riding him, which made everything much more complicated. This was due to some past issues that he had and that was his way of defending himself since he was scared. He really taught me that patience and love is what gets you’re the farthest on the long run, and that it is easy for us to get carried away and want to do thing quickly, but we have to remember to take our time.

Equine photography

Q: How do you approach building trust and a strong bond with a new horse?

A: Spending time with the horse and understanding its individual personality helps a lot when it comes to building a strong bond. Learning what the horse likes or dislikes in all aspects of its life can give you a much better understanding of what is more beneficial or more enjoyable for that individual horse. This can lead to a much successful partnership both inside and outside of the competition arena.

Q: What advice would you give to young riders aspiring to become professional equestrians?

A: This sport can be very humbling and hard, so it is very easy to get discouraged and not want to continue. Thankfully things do get better, and if you really love the sport and are passionate about it you can work your way through it and become a successful professional equestrian. It is just very important to understand that things might get complicated, but you have to stay positive and keep working hard.

Q: What are some of your favorite resources for staying up-to-date on training methods and best practices?

A: My main resource is the internet since it is very easy to access it. I think videos are what’s most helpful to me because I am a visual person and it makes the learning process much easier in my case.

Equine photography

Q: Can you share some tips for maintaining the health and well-being of your horses?

A: I believe that it is very important to keep your horses’ hooves and legs healthy since that is basically what makes them the athletes they are. I check their hooves daily and make sure that their legs have no scratches, and in case they have some I take care of it. For their overall body and mental health, I really like letting them be horses, go out in pastures and socialize with other horses.

Equine photography

Q: What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a professional equestrian?

A: I love being able to see the progress that a horse makes both physically and mentally when I start working with them. This could be a young horse that is starting to train for showjumping or maybe a horse that had a rough past and starts to trust me and get better over time.

Maya Denis - Ocala equine photography

Behind the Scenes: Maya’s Personal Life

But it wasn’t all about the sport. Maya let us into her personal life, sharing stories about her early days in riding, the challenges she faced, and the triumphs she celebrated. We learned about her favorite horses, their quirks, and the unique personalities that make each one special.

One of the highlights of our visit was getting to play with her horses. From brushing their coats to feeding them treats, we felt the love and care that Maya pours into her equine friends. It was heartwarming to see how these majestic animals reciprocated her affection with nuzzles and gentle whinnies.

saddled horse - jumper sports Ocala

Q: Besides horses, what are some of your hobbies and interests?

A: I enjoy going to the gym to stay in shape since it is also important for me to be fit. Apart from that I enjoy spending time with friends, but I also enjoy my alone time at home.

Q: What’s your favorite restaurant in the Ocala area?

A: I really love Elevation89. The food quality and taste is always good no matter when we go.

equine photography Ocala

Capturing the Connection: Equine Photography

As photographers, we were particularly excited to capture the bond between Maya and her horses. The trust and understanding they share were evident in every interaction, and it was a joy to document these moments. From candid shots of her brushing her favorite mare to action shots of her in the training arena, each photograph told a story of love, dedication, and excellence.

We offer specialized equine photography, and working with Maya Denis was a perfect example of why we love what we do. The connection between horse and rider is a beautiful thing, and capturing it through our lenses is a privilege we cherish.


Meeting Maya Denis and spending an afternoon at her farm was a remarkable experience. Her dedication to her sport, her love for her horses, and her warm personality made a lasting impression on us. It was a day filled with learning, laughter, and the joy of being around these magnificent creatures.

If you’re looking to capture the special bond you share with your horses, we offer professional equine photography services. Whether it’s a casual day at the farm or an exhilarating competition, we aim to preserve these precious moments for you to cherish forever.

Stay tuned for more stories from our adventures in equine photography and the amazing people we meet along the way!

~ Maya, one last thing, Suggest someone in the equestrian community we should photograph / interview next!

A: I think you should interview/photograph Hunter Holloway.

Photo credit: Visual Arts Wedding Photography – Ocala Equine and Wedding Photographers

📸✨ If you’d like us to capture you with your horse(s) feel free to reach out!

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