Amateur Like Us: Brooke Mallin Learns And Teaches At Shows

Jul 9, 2014 - 7:16 AM
She's currently taking a break from showing to focus on her family, but for years Brooke Mallin competed in the adult amateur hunters on catch rides like Let's Tango. Photo by Teresa Ramsay

Brooke Mallin might not be a household name in the horse world as a competitor, but she is known around the showgrounds for a very different reason. The former public school teacher and lifelong horse enthusiast works as a private tutor to junior riders on the hunter/jumper circuit in addition to serving on the USHJA Youth Committee. Mallin also faces the age-old amateur conundrum of balancing her work and family life with her riding. As a young schoolteacher in Maryland, Mallin began tutoring young equestrians as a method of funding her horsey habit, but she soon realized that she really connected with the kids she tutored and shared their passion for all things equestrian. Growing up Mallin was fascinated with horses despite a very rocky start in the riding ring. When her mother, a former foxhunter, took 9-year-old Mallin and her Girl Scout troop to a farm to ride for the first time, the day ended in tears. But Mallin didn’t let a disappointing first equine encounter quell her desire to ride a (smaller) horse. She asked her mother for another pony lesson and soon after found herself on the back of a small pony at a local farm in her hometown of Holmdel, N.J. “I didn’t make it halfway around the ring before I fell off!” said Mallin, 35. “It was pure determination after that that made me want to get back on.” Mallin brushed herself off, hopped back on her pony and never looked back.  Eventually she transitioned to bigger horses and competed as a junior hunter and equitation rider throughout high school. “I loved simply being with horses,” said Mallin. “I loved figuring them out and learning about them and the peacefulness of the barn. I was often found in the barn early in the morning or late at night cleaning tack for hours and my trunk sat next to the stall and I would study there. But I also loved the puzzle and the thrill of the competition. “My favorite time in the barn was the night before a show, getting your tack clean in a quiet barn and getting your horses scrubbed up,” she continued. “I’d be the last one at the barn before the braiders got there; that was always my favorite time. It’s the time to reflect and prepare yourself for the show. It’s the calm before the storm!”Work Where You Play Mallin took a break from riding when she moved to Washington, D.C., to play field hockey at American University. “Always in the back of my mind while playing [field hockey] in college was that I was so close to [horse country]. I found myself sometimes driving out to some horse shows and just standing and watching. “The summer I graduated, I found myself in between school and the start of my teaching career,” Mallin said. “I was grooming at a horse show and I just stood at the edge of the ring thinking, ‘this is what I’m going to do again!’ and I made it happen for myself and had a nice run as an amateur.” She spent the next few years riding in the hunters out of Dream Chaser Farm in Adamstown, Md., with trainer Melinda Cohen. She worked full-time as a high school teacher while catch riding any and every horse she could find in her spare time. Almost immediately after she started riding again, she saw an opportunity to combine her passions for both her career and her hobby and by word of mouth developed a tutoring business among the local horse community to help supplement her teaching income. Trainers and parents alike hired Mallin to help junior hunter and jumper riders with their schoolwork as they attempted to juggle their competition and training schedule with high school.   Mallin’s goal was to teach her students the importance of their education alongside their sport, mostly because she completely understood their desire to spend all day in the riding ring. Often riding and competing alongside her tutees, she could relate to their time constraints and they could relate to her on a personal level. “It was like, ‘You have a test tomorrow? I have to grade 30 tests tonight! And yes, I’m trying to figure out how to get to Ocala this weekend, too!’” said Mallin. “It’s just trying to balance out the expectations of school and understanding that riding is really a passion,” she continued. “So [tutoring the kids on the circuit] is about being able to see what the trainer needs, what the teacher needs and what my student needs and working it out.” As an effort to share her knowledge as an educator with the wider horse world, Mallin also got involved with the USHJA Youth Committee in 2011. As a member of the committee, she plays a large role in drafting and implementing the Horsemanship Quiz challenge; a written quiz and 30-minute practicum exam that tests young equestrians’ knowledge in handling horses and equipment in a hands-on mock trial ride scenario. Chairman of the USHJA Youth Committee Mary Babick recruited Mallin to help the committee draft the questions for the written quiz because she was impressed with Mallin’s ability to reach out and appeal to young equestrians. “I’m really able to use my knowledge of being an educator alongside my knowledge of horses,” said Mallin. “My expertise isn’t necessarily in horsemanship, so I always default to the professionals for the content of the questions, but my expertise is in how to deliver [the information], write the questions properly, how to appeal to the kids and how to teach in a classroom setting and translate it into the horse world.”Shifting Focus When Mallin became pregnant with her son Jack in 2012, she and her husband, Chris, were in the process of buying a horse of her own for the first time since her years as a junior. “Unfortunately the deal fell through, but I was kind of like, ‘If it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be!’” said Mallin “Life hits and it was time to start a family.” She continued to ride horses as a stay-at-home mother to Jack, though not as frequently. Now pregnant with her second boy, she has taken a break from riding altogether but continues to tutor young equestrians and visit the barn weekly with toddler Jack. “I bring him to the barn or a show and he’s fascinated by it all!” said Mallin. Mallin is grateful that she’s able to stay involved with the horse world through the USHJA and her tutoring business even as she focuses her attention on her growing family. “I will compete again but I don’t know if I’ll make a major run for it,” said Mallin. “I just don’t know what’s going to happen with my family. Though my husband and I always joke that I’m going to make my big comeback one of these days! “I tell my students that this is a sport for life. I’ve had a little break in my riding career but it’s always something you can come back to. It’s always nice to have that dream and that vision ahead of you,” said continued. “My piece of advice [for riders] is that there’s always a way to make time. Life can catch up with you, but the horses will always be there and there is always a way to find time to do the things you love doing; you just have to be creative.”This is the fourth in “Amateurs Like Us,” a series of articles about amateur riders juggling busy careers with show ring success.Read about emergency room doctor Barbara BlaskoRead about eventer and businesswoman Sue ChurchRead about veterinarian and amateur show jumper Hope Batchelor Are you one of those inspiring amateurs? Do you know one? Email us and tell us more and maybe you’ll be next in the series!

Categories: Horse Shows, Hunters

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