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WO ME N ARO UN D THE WO RLD
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M a r y Tr o w b ridge
Women Around The World—Mary Trowbridge
Mary with H Mobility H.
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WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD
WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD M a r y Tr o w b r i d g e T ROW BR I D GE ’ S LT D.
B R I D G E WA T E R , C O N N E C T I C U T, U S A
How did you get involved with the Arabian horse and who was most instrumental in sharing this breed with you? When I was growing up, the daughter of my parent’s best friends had a few Arabian horses. Her parents were also the town’s doctors, and she used to put her Arabian magazines in the waiting room. Since I was a horse crazy kid from the time I could walk, my early memories of the doctor’s visits were of looking at the Arabian News and World magazines, rather than scary needles and such. And also the fact that Herbert, the doctor, could also pull quarters out from behind your ear when you were in his office, but those early magazines were a big part of forming an opinion of a beautiful and athletic horse. When I started begging for a horse, my parents told me I could get one as soon as I could carry a full bucket of water to the barn from the house, so I saved some of the quarters from visits to the doctor and went to the hardware store in town and bought the smallest bucket they had when I was in first grade. Not being ones to back down on a deal, my mom started reaching out to find “just the right horse” for me. Contrary to today’s approach for finding just the right first horse, attitude, ability, and breeding weren’t at the top of the list; price was. Apparently, they did dimly register my plea for an Arabian, so when they found a free horse several towns away who just happened to be named Ahab The Arab, two of the three prerequisites were filled. The third, of course, was some semblance of safety, which was answered by the news that he was “old enough to vote” at a time when the voting age was 21. Of course, no one happened to mention that he’d been voting for about half a decade by the time
he came to live with us, but this ultimately was probably the safest part of him, simply because he ran out of energy whenever he would run away with me on the gravel roads that were the only place I had to ride growing up long before he rounded the last corner for home. “Rab” also had a very strong opinion of what was and was not an appropriate job for him, which he communicated to me by simply camping his legs out and refusing to move whenever I asked him to do something that wasn’t safe. For him, that is. Eventually my folks needed some more serious leverage over a rebellious pre-teen, so they agreed to buy me a horse if I would tow the line in school and at least graduate. We found an actual purebred Arabian in southern N.H. named Tsahd, and again, simply because he fit the bill of price, he was ours. I showed him all over N.H. and Vt. throughout my teenage years, towed everywhere by a mom who was my greatest advocate as a horse person. The family had had horses for two of my three older siblings previously, but with four kids, my mother didn’t have time to indulge her passion the way she wanted to back then. Since I was 14 years after my closest brother, I quickly became an only kid when the rest went off to school, and my mother began to indulge her passion for horses with me. I think ultimately, she and I grew up together, since she was honestly always younger at heart than I, and I ended up teaching her to ride and show. Her horses were her respite and her passion, and without her I would not have been encouraged to follow my passion to be a horse trainer. You have shared some amazing horses over the years; is there one horse that stands out in your mind that was extremely special? There certainly have been many, and I
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Mary and Emperor Hadrian (El Ghazi x Northern Empress), 2004 U.S. National Champion English Pleasure.
will have to pick two, just because I’m ornery that way when someone asks me to pick just one. The first is the Half-Arabian gelding Emperor Hadrian, bred by Mike Nichols shortly after we began managing his horses and leased his farm. Mike was mainly a purebred guy, but in one of our early meetings with him and his accountant (one of my least favorite people in the world), we told him that if he were to let us pick up two or three great Saddlebred mares and breed them, that these could be a more assured money source then the greater roulette wheel spin of breeding purebreds. Mike Whelihan helped us find Northern Empress, a Supreme Sultan daughter being sold by Joan Hamilton of Kalarama Farms. Empress was 19 at the time, and we still paid a lot for her, especially considering she couldn’t carry a live foal, but Mike bought her and we sent her to Vaughn Cook in Colo. for embryo transfers. She had 3 foals a year for us for 4 years, and Hadrian was one of the first, sired by *El Ghazi.
From the time he was born he was mighty, but not pre-possessing in the Half-Arabian way of things, sizewise. What he did have was a great, joyful outlook on all things human, and incredible ability which he had an intrinsic knowledge to utilize when it mattered. He was famous for breaking me in two in the paddock, leaping and bucking before he went through the gate, but in all the years I showed him, he never put a foot wrong in the ring once the gate closed. He was always the “dark horse”; there were others his entire career who were supposed to win, but he never listened to that scuttlebutt, thankfully. He won his first national championship at three when he won the H/A English Futurity class in 1997, was Reserve National Champion H/A English Pleasure AOTR in 1998, Reserve National Champion H/A English Pleasure Junior Horse in 1999, and went on to win three more reserve championships in the amateur division, along with two reserves and a national championship in the Open Half-Arabian
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English for three different, great owners: Mike Nichols, Oma Hodges, and Susie Schramm respectively, all while in training with us. Mike always had an innate ability to name his horses, and Hadrian lived up to his moniker in every way, always. He was a proud and heroic horse that I’m so blessed to have known, and I think of him every single day. The other very special horse is one currently in our lives now, H Mobility H, and it’s an incredible blessing to be involved with a horse of his magnitude in a day when great ones are fewer and farther between. “Mo” is one of the most intelligent individuals I’ve ever met in my career, and a gifted athlete as well as a phenomenal sire, and he finishes the package by having a great owner. It takes a lot for a stallion to be able to truly impact their breed, and Mo has all of those ingredients. I’m most excited about him as a sire, but also as a mentor in this second half of my career, and we feel really blessed to be a part of his journey. Your husband, Pat, plays a big role in who you are as a trainer. What does it mean to you to have him share this love with you and how do you find balance in your business and personal life? Well, without Patrick Trowbridge, God only knows what the Arabian industry would have gotten with me on my own, that’s for sure. I tell people that he does absolutely everything for the business BUT ride, although he will tell you a few stories about that too, if you’ve time. Pat has a lot of barn names, but one of my favorites was in a story Mary Kirkman wrote just after we bought the farm in 2004, titled, ‘The Anchor.’ It’s the truest description of this man that I can think of, and I am sure blessed that he hasn’t gotten really sick of me yet. Of course, all of our clients know how lucky they are to have him, too, and so they are on board to spoil him when I forget to, thankfully. It takes a village, for sure. We were lucky to work separately professionally for twelve years before we decided to go into business for ourselves, and so we had some time to build a relationship before being stuck with each other 24-7. Of course, there’s sure enough to do on any farm so that we don’t really see each other much during the day, but there’s no question that the demands of your own business can invade every corner of your life pretty easily. I don’t know that we really find balance between business and personal as much as we are just fortunate to share the same pride in what we do, and who we do it for, meaning the people who invest in us, and the horses that they share with us. We both came from childhoods that taught us to work hard and do a lot with very little, and also, we don’t have much choice at this stage of the game. But truly, I think that ultimately we’re blessed to share the same values and to have been able to find a business that requires everything that both of us can bring to
the table. It’s sure not a business that anyone can do alone very easily, especially today. Trowbridge’s LTD has had longevity with their clients; what makes your relationship with your clients so special and how do you promote that family atmosphere? In one word … Gratitude. We are always grateful that people choose to share their dreams and their horses with us, and we give everything we have in us to honor, protect and fulfill both of those things for every client. Certainly there have been plenty of times when we haven’t gotten it right, but I’d like to think they were the minority. We’re also really fortunate to have always had great people who want to work alongside of us, and that share our love of sharing the horses and the farm with the folks that invest in us. You have been very involved with the Horsemen’s Distress Fund; how did you come up with the idea of starting this? Is there one moment that stands out for you? The AHDF just evolved because I have always hated hearing the bad news that’s endemic to life with animals; there are so many things that can happen to horses to begin with, and then add to that the fact that so many of us put everything we have into our passion for our animals, there’s always more than just one life affected. Plus, I have such a great revere for the type of people that are drawn to Arabian horses—these horses have introduced me to people that I never would have met in any other line of work, and I believe that people share traits with the animals they are surrounded by. The AHDF was just a natural progression to wanting to do something besides just talk about it when things go sidewise. I also happen to believe that money is the last thing someone struggling with a catastrophe should be having to focus on—it draws our attention, strength and energy away from the skills we really need to overcome these life hurdles, and it also gives those of us on the outskirts something that we CAN do to help. We’re all going to have our turn at the misfortunate wheel of life; what happens to us is not the important thing, it’s how we deal with it that matters, and the choices we make for the path we take coming out the other side, and helping with the immediate financial questions right after something catastrophic happens is the best thing I can come up with to help someone get their mind on moving forward. What stands out for me the most is meeting the inherent strength of our Arabian community during times of misfortune. Many of the people I get to know during bad times are people I didn’t know before, and we stay friends long afterwards. Our “poster guy”, Ron Copple, was the first person that the AHDF came together to help after he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and I didn’t know Ron
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at all. I met him a few months after the first Scottsdale fundraiser when I was judging in the Northwest and he came over to say hello after the show—he was in the middle of chemotherapy, radiation, and showing horses, all in the same weekend, and he was still just grateful to be at a horse show—there’s always a plus to every negative, and one of the biggest pluses to hard times is realizing how very much we have to be thankful for, and Ron was a great advocate of that. We’ve been dear friends ever since, even though now he’s gone from obscure trainer to multi-national champion trainer guru, he still keeps his balance. Alexa Nichols and her family are another family that continue to inspire me; ultimately, the courage and strength that people find during the toughest of times is a huge gift to me that gives back far more than I can ever repay. You are also very involved with AHA. Why is it so important to donate your time to this organization? Simply that I guess I would rather do something to improve things rather than bitching about what isn’t right. If you don’t like something in this country, you are free to step up and do something, and I’m not interested in talking about what’s not right—I’d much rather be doing something to try and make it better. It’s much more interesting, and a way better hobby then complaining. I love this breed of horse, and am passionate about its survival. I want to do whatever I can to insure that the Arabian horse is here to continue to take people forward in life long after I’m gone—the world would be a much less beautiful place without our horses. This past year, you were involved with and showed at, the U.S. Open in New York City and also in Toronto; what do you feel makes these two events so special? We’ve always been very committed to bringing new people into the Arabian industry—one of the things I dislike the most about our current state of affairs is that as we have let our circle diminish in size, the amount of poaching clients to survive escalates. There’s always going to be a certain amount of movement within any industry as people look for like-minded people to do business with, refine their needs from a trainer, or have to change barns because of life or residence changes, but what’s going on today in the industry is much more than that, and in my view it is a direct result of us all not being more focused on building new clients and Arabian aficionados. We have a great product to market to today’s world, from our horseflesh, to our horsemen to our owners, better than ever before, and I think it’s paramount for us to showcase our best beyond the borders of our own goldfish bowl. Both Central Park and Toronto are phenomenal exhibition opportunities for our horses, and
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Mary, Emperor Hadrian and Dozer.
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mailbox to make the mortgage payment, and that pretty much ices the cake. When you are away from the barn, what do you enjoy doing? I like to read, write, ski, and clean the house! Love to visit the ocean and wade around it, and visit places I’ve never been before—I really enjoy traveling, meeting new people and judging Arabian horses around the country and the world. What would be something our readers would be shocked to know about you? I have no idea!! I think I’m a pretty open book, so I really can’t come up with what that might be! Pat and Mary
a wonderful chance for them to be seen in comparison to some of the other venues in a way that is exciting for the public. Arabian horses are some of the most approachable and interactive equines in the world—all you had to do to realize that was to watch the people walking through Central Park in September be drawn to the horses, almost magnetically. If we don’t expose our horses to a broader audience, we can’t expect people to just come find us. We need to put our best horses in a situation where people can see them and then connect with them, and both venues were fabulous for that. What made both Toronto and New York extra-special is that they are destination events, in beautiful cities that offer exhibitors, spectators and owners a lot to see and do besides just show, and they also have populations that don’t get exposure to the horse world. New York, especially, because of the venue in the Park and the distance the horses traveled between the barn and the arena, gave us an opportunity for the horses to literally reach out to people to make a one-on-one connection. We took horses back in on Sunday morning for the breed demonstration, and afterwards stood out with the horses in the park, and it was amazing to watch them literally reach out to people and draw them in. One of the most exceptional things about Arabian horses is that they make eye contact with people and draw them in literally by a mental force—it’s awesome to watch and you really see it in a venue where folks haven’t really been one-on-one with horses before. What is the perfect day for Mary Trowbridge? Any day over 30 degrees where the horses and the people that own them go to bed smiling. Add enough checks in the
If there was one horse whose life you could have been a part of, but never was, who would that be and why? Cass Ole! I would love to have been his companion when he was in training for the movie, “The Black Stallion’, and involved in all of his breed promotion outreaches afterwards—what a trip that would’ve been! Mr. Ed and Trigger would’ve been cool too, but Walter Farley’s books were my first introduction to horse training, and it would have been a blast to be involved in that project. Where do you see yourself in 15 years in the Arabian horse business? I would love to be able to make a living promoting the breed through the type of outreach events we’ve done for the AHDF in Tulsa, and continuing to build the non-profit educational and equine-assisted learning opportunities that I think are going to be crucial for keeping horses relevant in the coming century. Every horse that we all have in our barns is a therapeutic companion to someone, and that is the message we need to share. What would you like your legacy to be in the Arabian horse industry? That I left the horse and the people they own in a better situation than when they found me, and that I left them both with a smile on their faces. What is your favorite color? Turquoise. And Roses Red. What is your favorite meal? Yes. Please. What is something you never leave home without? Well, I forget everything pretty much, but so far still remember to get dressed, so there you go. Hopefully that will not change. What is one misconception that people have of you? That I was a swearing sailor in another life. I couldn’t have been—I hate being away from the shoreline. n
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Lori with a huge leatherback sea turtle in South Africa. H Mobility H (MHR Nobility x RY Fire Ghazi) with Mary up.