Transitions in the Sport and Life

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mary-Haskins Gurganus - Dressage Rider/Trainer

Achieving smooth gait transitions comes naturally to Mary-Haskins Gurganus, but she notes that ‘life transitions’ can be a challenge. “After Young Riders I went right into the small tour competing against pros because the Brentina Cup wasn’t in place yet to help young adult riders make that transition. That was a bit of a shocker!” she laughs. “Another transitional period was going from single professional in 2006 to married professional with two children.”

Mary-Haskins commenced 2004 as a college junior and continued training with Denny Callin and David Taylor. She and Fregat made their debut in the professional league, contesting the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I. She finished the year long-listed at 19th in the nation and missed the top 12 cut-off for Gladstone. “That was a disappointment, but it was also a reality check for me about the transitional periods in the sport,” she says. “I was really young, so it was OK.”

During her senior year at North Carolina State University in 2005, Mary-Haskins focused more on her college education and campus life. “I had always chosen horses over college life, so for my last year I participated in college activities and had fun,” she says. During her last semester, she met her future husband, Scott Gurganus.  

The year 2006 was a series of transitions as rapid as a line of one-tempis. Mary-Haskins graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education, married Scott, and had her first child – son Banks. Her longtime trainers Denny Callin and David Taylor moved to Europe and she started training monthly with Jessica Ransehousen at Lynn Leath’s North Star Training Center in Chapel Hill. Jessica put her in touch with Robert Dover.

During the winter of 2007, Mary-Haskins and Fregat traveled frequently from Raleigh to Wellington, Florida, to train with Dover.  The USEF had added the Brentina Cup for riders 28 and under, so she aimed to qualify for the championship. Mary-Haskins and Fregat competed up and down the east coast and while they did not make the cut-off for the Brentina Cup, they did qualify for the Intermediaire II National Championships. However, Mary-Haskins determined that “it was time that we retire from competition together.”  Fregat spent his last two years in Southern Pines, North Carolina, with his co-owner – Mary-Haskins’ dear friend Sidley Payne. Fregat and Sidley successfully competed the Grand Prix. Fregat passed away in the fall of 2009.  

The year 2008 marked another series of transitions for Mary-Haskins.  She rode for Ellendale Farm, a breeder in North Carolina, and focused on training rather than showing. She gave birth to her second child, daughter Liles, in July. Scott, a builder, accepted a job opportunity in a coastal community of eastern North Carolina and the family moved from Raleigh to Oriental. Mary-Haskins put the word out that she was looking for horses and sponsors. Longtime friend Judy Arnold of Stonecrop Farm put her in touch with Lucile Broadley, owner of Honey Locust Farm, a topnotch breeding operation in Chapel Hill. Lucile had two young breeding stallions, Richmond HL and Wilmington HL, she wanted campaigned by a first-rate rider. “I made a presentation of my time and the financial obligations. We hit it off,” Mary-Haskins recounts. “Then I rode the horses.” Robert Dover called Lucile to confirm Mary-Haskins’ talents, securing the sponsorship.  

The stallions arrived at Jasmine Meadows Equestrian Center in Vanceboro, North Carolina, in May 2009 and began their training and show careers with Mary-Haskins.

Keeping an FEI Career and Family in Balance