When Boyd Martin finished the cross-country course on Tsetserleg TSF, there was a new person at the Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L vet box with him—Ruben “Gu Rubee” Mahboobi. Mahboobi, dressed in all black and an assortment of earrings, rings and bracelets, stood near Martin during his post-ride press interview.
“Rubee has been helping me all week,” Martin said, explaining Mahboobi’s presence, saying he’s working with a wellness coach. “He does a lot of stretching and yoga, breathing techniques, and he’s been a good help. … And he’s good fun to be around. I joke around saying he’s [Tsetserleg’s] bodyguard. But it’s wonderful having a good team around you, you know, a good vet, good blacksmith, and now my wellness coach.”
On his web site, Mahboobi lists his specialties as martial artist, yogi, bodyguard, personal trainer, spiritual advisor and healer. Martin said he got to know him in Aiken, South Carolina, where Mahboobi boards his dressage horses. Martin said because he’s had so many injuries and surgeries, including a broken leg, a dislocated elbow, a broken collarbone, a separated shoulder and torn ligaments in his ankle, having someone to help him stretch physically helps.
Working with a Wellness Coach
Each day at Kentucky, Mahboobi would worked with Martin for about an hour at the stable, stretching, manipulating his hips, groin and other bumps and bruises he’s acquired. But they don’t just work on strengthening Martin physically. Martin and Mahboobi discuss mental focus and the challenges of being under pressure in competition. “At this top level, your emotions and staying calm and thinking carefully is a huge component of your performance too,” Martin said. “It’s very easy to lose your marbles under pressure.”
There are also a lot of competing responsibilities at a big event. “You get pulled in every different direction with course walks, friends and family, sponsors,” Martin said. “To block off an hour of a day where [Mahboobi] puts on a bit of his African jungle music and puts me on his table and stretches me. It’s a good moment to switch off. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to concentrate on your event and visualize your competition and think through your warm-up. So [working with Mahboobi has] had a number of positive effects on me.”
Mind, Body, Spirit
Mahboobi has been practicing wellness of mind, body and spirit for about 30 years. He’s a bodyguard to celebrities, which he calls an “executive protection specialist,” because he protects not just the body, but the mind and spirit, too. “What I’m concerned with when I work with my clients is, ‘How are they living? How are they being, and what are they taking in? What are they hearing? What are they ingesting?’ You know, diet isn’t just about food,” he said in an interview after the show-jumping phase in Kentucky.
Introduced to the horse sport about five years ago, Mahboobi quipped that he “attempts” dressage and his sitting trot is “terrible, but I’m getting better.” But he says that for riders, mind–body–spirit wellness is an integral part of being a competitor. “I know a lot of horse people who take care of the horses better than they take care of themselves,” he said. “Unfortunately that’s not good. We’ve got to make sure that it’s an equal relationship because if you’re good, then your horse will be good.”
The work helps riders deal with competition nerves. “Nerves get the best of most people. We have to safeguard our nerves and safeguard our bodies,” Mahboobi said. When riders get ready for competition, they need to “rest and digest” so the mind and body can repair themselves.
Flexible and Fluid
Regarding Martin, whom he’s worked with for a few years, Mahboobi said they’ve focused on making him more flexible in mind and body. “Everything’s much more fluid in movement, flowing,” he said. “And so that’s how we really prepare him to remain calm under pressure, like breathing. We can live weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without air. So breathing becomes a very important practice. The horse has the ability to channel its breath and kind of tune in with you, with your breathing, with your heart rate.
Horses are very spiritual and how people relate and connect with them in mind–body–spirt wellness is very powerful, Mahboobi said. In addition to the work he does with sports athletes, Mahboobi said he and his wife, Andrea Brandon, a psychiatrist, work with a people who have a variety of additions, and disorders, using horses to help heal. “Horses are part of the wellness program because they are reflections,” he said. “Anyone who loves horses, knows what they’re capable of doing. They’re my therapists. They’re my greatest teachers. And so from that perspective, that makes them pretty amazing.”
While some may have thought when Martin and Thomas had two rails down and 1.2 time faults during their Kentucky show-jumping round, was a disappointment, Mahboobi said that’s not the focus. Competitions are not about winning and losing. First, it’s that they finished safely. Then it’s about the experience and doing your best. “If you’re a true athlete, you can’t really live your life that way. They’re in it for the experience, and for the amazement of what they’re able to accomplish. … [Boyd] did his best. What more could you ask? … He gave us a really great performance this weekend.”