Mary Richmond Brown juggles teaching, riding, judging, and parenting. But her busy schedule didn’t stop her from winning the Great American/USDF Region 6 second level open freestyle championship class on her own Romantic Rose.
Brown, 41, is from Post Falls, Idaho, and scored a 73.90 percent in the regional class at Nampa, Idaho on Sept. 21-24. Riding is a family affair, with Brown’s parents, daughter and husband all riding to some degree. “Pala” (Rotspon—Romance’s Holly) is a member of the family too; she’s been with Brown her whole life.
COTH: Can you tell us about Romantic Rose?
Brown: She’s a 9-year-old Hanoverian mare. I bought her when she was 2 years old and my mom actually bred her. My mom was trying to sell her but my husband—who is very supportive, thankfully—said, “We need to buy her for you so you have your next horse.”
She has a pretty different barn name. We actually call her Pala, but not like the woman’s name. My mom used to have a big Swedish Warmblood mare named Impala and she was chestnut with a blaze and four socks. She was an awesome horse but the fall before Pala was born Impala was just old and it was time to let her go. Pala was born that spring and when my stepfather saw her—this chestnut filly with a blaze and four socks—he said, “Oh, it’s a little Pala!” And the name stuck.
I started her myself and I’ve taken her through the levels. She’s super cool, she has a great temperament and a very good work ethic, I really enjoy her.
COTH: What do you do professionally?
Brown: I’m a dressage rider and instructor and I’m also a USDF L Education Program graduate with distinction. I was previously competing a Percheron/Thoroughbred/Quarter Horse gelding named Montana. I got him in 2004 and he’d done some hunters but I started him training level and we went to Prix St. Georges. I got my bronze and silver USDF medals with him.
I started teaching on and off as a part-time job that eventually grew into a full-time position. I really enjoy teaching. I love being able to see my students have successes of their own—not necessarily competitive success, just having a lightbulb go on. In fact, just the other day I was teaching a lesson and you could see the switch flip in the student’s head. She put a little piece of the puzzle together and I love that process. I’m honored to have the privilege of being able to help them in that process.
COTH: Can you tell me more about what drew you to the USDF L Education Program?
Brown: The L program is such a super education, I highly recommend it to anyone, whether they intend to go on as as judge or not. I definitely had some friends encourage me to go for it, but I was first inspired just by a desire to learn.
I’m going back to audit the session this fall. I’ve judged some schooling shows and Pony Club rallies. I would like to get further certified. I think the horse I have now is capable of getting the scores I need to advance to the next stage so I’m looking at it in a few years.
COTH: How did you get involved with horses?
Brown: I was lucky enough to grow up with parents who were in the horse industry—though it was the opposite end of the spectrum from dressage. They were riding Western and did rodeo and my grandfather trained calf roping horses for a living.
When I was 10 I started 4-H and in 4-H you do a little bit of everything so I got into English riding through jumping. When I was 12 I went to the Deep Creek Horse Trials (Wash.) with my family and saw eventing for the first time. I was hooked instantly. I started taking dressage lessons and evented lower levels in high school.
COTH: Why did you decide to focus on dressage?
Brown: I went to the University of Idaho and I didn’t have my own horse, so I was riding anything I could. Often that was retired event horses or other horses who were mostly suited to the flatwork. Through that I really started to enjoy the dressage work.
I really appreciate the mental discipline and the mental challenge and the process of bringing a horse along. I think embracing that process is a big part of being successful in this industry.
COTH: How did you develop your freestyle?
Richmond Brown: This was my first freestyle ever, I just wanted a different challenge and the freestyle looked like so much fun. However, I started out knowing this was not something I could do on my own. I decided if I was going to do a freestyle I wanted to do it well and professionally. We have Karen Robinson who comes to do freestyle clinics in the Spokane, Wash., area. I did that in April, then I asked Karen to put a freestyle together for me. I rode it six or seven times before championships.
COTH: Was it more difficult to learn and ride a freestyle than a standard dressage test?
Brown: It was certainly challenging in new ways. Keeping up with the music was tough at first and there’s even more pressure to make sure the transitions happen when they need to and that each gait is on the right beat. It’s so much fun though, and definitely more interesting than riding the standard tests.
COTH: How involved is your family with the horses?
Brown: My wonderful husband of 21 years did not start out as a horse person but he’s grown to love them. He has his own horse and rides Western now and does some trail riding.
I also have a daughter, Mackenzie, she’ll be 11 years old in October and she’s getting more involved in riding. I’m actually the District Commissioner for her Pony Club, River’s Edge. She really enjoys the jumping so we’re doing more of that. It’s really great to be able to share my passion with my family.
COTH: How do you balance teaching, riding, and being a parent?
Brown: There’s a lot of juggling! And trying not to think too much about what my schedule actually looks like, just taking it one day at a time. I put one foot in front of the other, dive in, and start doing what needs to be done every day. I love it, the horses are absolutely what I want to do with my life, so that helps.
Like this story? We’re featuring lots of GAIG/USEF Regional winners on www.coth.com—including a neurosurgeon amateur’s bittersweet win, how North Forks Cardi helped his amateur rider overcome nerves, and more. Read about them all!