Harvard, Massachusetts –Mary Bahniuk Lauritsen grew up in Harvard, Massachusetts, with an educational foundation honed by great coaches since the age of 9, including Kathy Connelly and Lendon Gray. She participated in North American Dressage Association (NEDA) competitions and Gray’s Youth Championships, and worked her way up through the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) program in the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC). Now 25-years-old, Bahniuk Lauritsen is using her solid education and clear work ethic to train two horses through the FEI Small Tour Pan American Games qualification process. Teaming together with Nicole Polaski's U.S. Elite mare, Wench de Jeu (Jazz x Contango), and Dutchbred gelding, Ansgar (Special D x Formateur), Bahniuk Lauritsen works with Danish dressage rider and coach Lars Petersen to set her goals. With talented horses and a world -class trainer, Mary Bahniuk Lauritsen is poised to become a future powerhouse for the United States Dressage Team.
Her debut with Wench de Jeu’s at the FEI level took place during the final 2014 Adequan Global Dressage Festival competition of the Wellington, Florida, season. Their first time down centerline in the open Prix St. George class the pair scored just below a 68 percent. The mare has proven herself not only as a competitive FEI horse but also with impressive breeding accomplishments.
The 11- year- old “Wench,” owned by Nicole Polaski and bred by the 2013 KWPN breeder of the year, Emmy de Jeu, was imported from Holland in 2012. The dazzling 17-hand mare is the only “de Jeu” bred horse in the United States at this time. A chestnut Jazz mare, Wench produced a colt, Che de Jeu. “Che” spent two years at Edward Gal’s stable and placed 10th in the Pavo Cup at age 4. No stranger to the prestigious Pavo Cup, Wench he placed 13th in the final as a young horse with rider Ellen Bontje, Most recently, Bahniuk Lauritsen and Wench de Jue scored a 74 percent in the Prix St George at White Fences Equestrian Center.
The rider’s immediate goals include competing at the CDI3* in Saugerties, New York, and Dressage at Devon in Pennsylvania in preparation for the 2015 Adequan Global Dressage Festival winter season’s qualification competitions in Wellington, Florida.
Ansgar is a 16-hand, 9 -year- old black Dutchbred gelding with Ferro blood (Special D x Formateur. His first CDI-level Small Tour competition with Bahniuk Lauritsen delivered solid scores and approval from the Florida ground jury. Their first Intermediaire 1 in his first CDI earned consistent approval from the judges, scoring 65.307 percent.
“I've been riding and training this horse since he was 5,” Bahniuk Lauritsen shared. “I was pleased with Ansgar’s performance at his first CDI given he is green in comparison to the seasoned big guns we were up against. I have always believed in him.”
From First Level to Intermediaire I, the pair have scored an upwards of 71 percent at every level and earned various champion year-end awards. Ansgar was Region 8 Fourth Level Champion in 2012 and his highest score to date was a 78.90 percent at Third Level in Florida in 2011. Recently, Ansgar proved he is maturing into an FEI-level horse when he scored a 71.60 percent and won the open Intermediare I at the White Fences summer show in June.
For the year ahead, Bahniuk Lauritsen and Polaski have big plans for the Wench and Ansgar. Under the training guidance of Petersen, their eyes are set on competing in the Small Tour in CDI competitions set for late summer in New England and for the winter season in Wellington.
“I feel honored that Nicky believes in my partnership with Wench and I am so grateful for her support,” Bahniuk Lauritsen said.
When Bahniuk Lauritsen was younger, she apprenticed as a working student for Lendon Gray. The daughter of Joy Bahniuk, owner of Cadence Farm, also a dressage rider and coach, Bahniuk Lauritsen grew up with access to top quality dressage horses in an atmosphere where she could observe FEI riders. With an outstanding work ethic and a solid understanding of the business side of running a barn, she learned how to provide expert horse care and to experience all aspects of working with others to achieve goals. In 2003, Bahniuk Lauritsen and her mother purchased an Iron Spring Farm 4-year-old named Rossignol as a horse she could ride up the levels. The young Bahniuk Lauritsen proved that, with the right attitude, even a green, not-so fancy horse could progress up the levels. Together, they competed successfully at NAJYRC in the Young Rider division and, only a few years later, Bahniuk Lauritsen showed “Rossi” in the Young riders Grand Prix.
“I’m so proud to have trained him through the Young Rider Grand Prix,” she said. “He was not an easy horse, but I learned through many ups and downs that even those horses that are less talented for the job can make it to the top level with patience and correct training.”
Now Rossignol is “paying it forward” by helping another Young Rider move up the ranks.
Moving into her professional career after Young riders, Bahniuk Lauritsen went on to work as an assistant trainer under Diana Mukpo at Windhorse Dressage for three and a half years.
“I learned a tremendous amount as assistant trainer there, and am truly grateful to Diana for all her mentoring in and out of the saddle during that time,” Bahniuk Lauritsen said.
She also has a passion for developing youth and has coached Young Rider Regan Salm for the past four years. The Young Rider and her horse Karat EG scored a 67.730 percent at the U.S. Festival of Champions and Bahniuk Lauritsen helped them achieve the ranking of fourth in the nation in the Junior division. At this year’s NAJYRC, Regan helped the Region 8 team to a sixth place finish and the pair made it into the Junior Freestyle scoring 67.6 percent and were in the top 10 placing.
“Mary takes the time to really coach me through a whole host of challenges in climbing the levels to FEI,” Salm said. “She really helps me through the learning process instead of just fixing the problem by riding the horse herself. She cares that I have the knowledge forever and that says a lot about her as a person.”