Mary Babick Leads By Example

November 1, 2012

0This New Jersey-based trainer and educator has been nominated for president of the United States Hunter Jumper Association. Babick will be presented for election at the USHJA Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday, December 4, during the USHJA Annual Meeting, which runs from December 3-6, in Miami, Florida.

Nominations from the floor close at 5:00 pm EST November 10.

Whether Mary Babick is standing at the in-gate of a national championship horse show or a local one-day competition, her philosophy never wavers: If a student has the desire and capacity to learn, than Babick will take her wherever she wants to go.

“If you are willing to learn, I love to teach,” she said with a smile. “It’s as simple as that.”

For more than three decades, Babick, 52, of Freehold, NJ, has trained students and horses out of her Knightsbridge Farm, earning championships, victories and medals at such shows as Devon, the Pennsylvania National, the Washington International, the U.S. Pony Finals and the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, to name just a few.

In spite of a showing schedule that keeps her primarily in the Northeast throughout the year, Babick’s students—including Whitney Roper, Abby and Meg O’Mara, Tilden Brighton and Maria Schaub—have earned countless state, zone and national championships over the years, from the small pony to the national equitation finals and the junior and amateur-owner jumper sections.

Babick’s facility, located in Atlantic Highlands, NJ, currently houses 45 ponies and horses, ranging from those specializing in short stirrup to junior and amateur-owner jumpers. Likewise, her students encompass beginners learning to post all the way up to those competing at the fall indoor horse shows at the top levels.

“We are very goal-oriented,” said Babick. “Whether a client is showing or not, we sit down with each person every year and map out a goal. Then, we attempt to reach it or exceed it. When we reach it, we stop and reflect and move forward from there. It’s an ongoing educational process.”

Knightsbridge may not be a typical A-rated show barn, but Babick intends it to be that way. A walk down the aisle will include youngsters learning to pick out their mount’s hooves, an adult client interacting with the farrier as her jumper is shod and a working student mapping out a course with the help of a senior instructor.

“For us, the education of a horseman starts with the first lesson,” said Babick. “We teach our students to properly brush their horse and to put on the tack. After every riding lesson, they learn more and more about the care of their horse, and we introduce them to the veterinarian, the farrier and the chiropractor.

“We build a network for these people so if they should ever want to care for their own horse they could,” Babick continued. “We teach them to touch their horse every day, to know its legs and even its expression. It takes a lot longer to create a horseman than a rider, but that time spent creating a horseman is repaid in spades.”

Indeed, that’s how Babick got her start, first in the dressage and eventing disciplines as a rider and working student. After marrying and relocating to New Jersey in the mid-1980s, Babick found her niche in the hunter/jumper world and has risen steadily up the ranks.

She’s also taken her educational goals beyond the ring and into the USHJA, where she’s a member of the USHJA Board of Directors, Planning Committee and Emerging Athletes Committee, as well as chairing the Youth Committee. She’s been an essential part of developing several programs, including the Emerging Athletes Program.

As she prepares for the role of the next USHJA president, Babick will continue to observe this same philosophy of continuing education as she delves into a new leadership role, with the goal of strengthening the sport at all levels.

“I’ve always spent time studying and figuring out how to be successful through trying and learning through my errors,” Babick said, thoughtfully. “I’ve always asked those who had more experience, and I’ve spent time in the schooling area listening and watching.

“People who know me know I will not compromise my values, and that’s one of the reasons I am who I am,” she added. “But in my mind, you build a base and then you go higher if you want. As a trainer, my responsibility is first and foremost to the horse and then the student, and as a leader in this sport, I intend to follow that same path.”

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