Keeping an FEI Career and Family in Balance

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mary-Haskins Gurganus - Dressage Rider/Trainer

“I have a fabulous family – my husband and two wonderful children,” Mary-Haskins beams. “We are very traditional. My husband goes to work and I’m a stay-at-home mom. I get up very early, get the kids ready, drop them off at pre-school at 9 a.m. and pick them up at 1 p.m.”

During the hours that her son Banks, age three, and daughter Liles, age one, are in school, Mary-Haskins is at the barn training her two stallions to be national champions and international competitors. “The hours I have to myself I devote completely to the horses,” she says. “With this schedule right now, I can take a maximum of four horses into training.  As the kids get older and are in school longer, this will increase.”

Her husband Scott is a builder, not a horse person, but very supportive of his wife’s career. “He loves me and loves what I do. I’ve found that the key to happiness in trying to mix horses and family life is having balance,” Mary-Haskins shares. “I try to have a very normal life. Most of our friends are not horse people. We all know how much time and effort it takes to be at the top of this sport and it’s easy to get wrapped up and consumed with it, but I try to disconnect and be a down-to-earth wife and mom.”

Mary-Haskins reserves weekends for her family and rides only on weekdays. “There are times, of course, when I go to clinics and horse shows on the weekends,” she notes. “Then the kids go with me or they’ll stay with one of their grandmothers – Page Gray or Lottie Gurganus. If the shows are nearby, Scott will come or the grandmothers will bring the kids.”

This summer, after receiving the Honey Locust Farm sponsorship and the two stallions to ride, Mary-Haskins immediately wanted to get Richmond and Wilmington in the show ring. “My husband thought I’d lost my mind!” she laughs. But with her family’s full support, she competed at the Raleigh CDI, showing Richmond in the FEI Five-Year-Old classes. Next, she took the stallions to show at Leesburg, Virginia, and then Hamilton, Georgia. She showed Wilmington at Second Level and won every class they contested. Then it was off to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she rode Richmond in Robert Dover’s World Symposium Tour.

“We’ll stay home now and train until the late winter/early spring of 2010,” Mary-Haskins says. Her plan is to compete Richmond in the FEI Six-Year-Olds and Wilmington in the Developing Horse classes with the goal of qualifying for the 2010 Young Horse National Championships and the Young Horse World Championships in Verden, Germany. “My goals are to be at the top of the sport at any level I compete in.”

She acknowledges that as a wife and mother, she is an atypical professional. “My path is different from most and my journey might take longer, but I intend to represent my country,” states Mary-Haskins. “I’m a highly motivated, hard worker.”

Team Gurganus