Equestrian sport can sometimes feel like a solitary endeavor, even when you’re winning. For Amerian dressage rider Mary Bahniuk Lauritsen, however, the joy of competing in the sport of dressage is equally matched by the joy she takes in sharing it with her students. Based seasonally in Harvard, Massachusetts where she was born, and Wellington, Florida, Mary, 28, was mentored not only by her dressage coach mother, Joy Bahniuk, but by legends in the sport including Lendon Gray and Kathy Connelly. In part, it is the great trainers Mary has had that have spurred her desire not just to compete, but to become a coach and mentor herself.

“My plans for this year are to focus on my students’ success in the ring, namely this summer on my two FEI Young Riders vying for a spot on the Young Rider Team for NAJYRC,” Mary says, adding that she is also looking forward to returning to the FEI/CDI ring herself while continuing to expand her own Millenium Dressage training and sales business.

While excelling as a junior/young rider USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold medalist, Mary brought her own Rossignol-ISF up through the ranks as a four-year-old, eventually competing him in the Open Grand Prix division. In more recent years, she’s also earned top placings and wins in national CDI Small Tour divisions at AGDF, Saugerties, and Devon.

Here, Mary talks to NF Style about her favorite training moment of the year, her love for craft beer, and why you should never debut a new hairstyle in Devon’s Dixon Oval!

1. NF Style: At what exact moment did you fall in love with horses?

Mary Lauritsen: It’s hard to say, I was riding before I could walk and while my mom was pregnant with me—I think I was born in love with horses!

2. For riding, do you prefer black boots or brown boots?

Brown for training, black for showing.

3. If you could do any other equestrian discipline what would it be and why?

Possibly showjumping, while I’m a dressage girl through in through, my boyfriend has put me over a few fences on his jumpers and…I liked it! The thrill of the fence balanced with correct flatwork is attractive.

4. What is the most embarrassing thing to have ever happened to you while riding?

It would have to be at Dressage at Devon a few years ago when I was warming up around the perimeter of the Dixon Oval about to ride my Intermediare I Freestyle. I was more focused than ever going into the Freestyle with some of my best scores in the I1 the day before.

As soon as the bell rang to start, I felt all of my hair fall out the back of my hairnet and start bouncing around. I had less than 30 seconds to pull off to the side of the ring, lean over the rail while mounted, and have my mom try and bun-up my hair from the ground while time was running out to get into the ring! (Note to self: do not try a new type of hairnet/hairstyle the day of competition!)

5. What is the most inspiring thing to have ever happened to you while riding?

Riding with Edward Gal. In 2007, I was invited to ride in a wonderful clinic in Wellington designed for Young Riders. For years leading up to this, I’d idolized Edward and his horses and when I had this opportunity, we jumped for it. In fact, we drove from Massachusetts to Florida (before I lived there seasonally) just so I could ride with him! In just this two-day clinic, I learned so much, and left feeling more inspired than ever.

6. What is your favorite #TwoHearts Moment of your season?

Watching one of my Young Rider students come out of the stadium at Global [in Wellington] with a big smile after completing a beautiful FEI Young Rider test. Isabelle had been working so hard with her horse and dreamt of competing at Global for some time. To see her not only ride in the stadium at Global for her first time, but also to ride in her first CDI, really warmed my heart and gave me pride in her and her horse.

7. What was the hardest lesson you have had to learn in your riding?

A lesson I think horses teach us time after time: patience. Everything with horses requires patience, whether you are working with them on the ground or under saddle. Whenever I have run into something difficult with a horse, be it a movement in particular or their general progression, I always remind myself that with patience, it will come.

8. Who is your mentor and why?

My mom. She has been my backbone through thick and thin my entire life. There has never been a moment where I felt she was not there for me. She always has a solution or a different perspective on any given topic and she is my biggest cheerleader. I feel fortunate to have parents who supported and understood my passion and my decision to pursue horses as a career.

9. If you could ride a horse from the past, who would it be?

Blu Hors Matine. Watching her in one of her last performances at the WEG in Aachen was spellbinding, and she was a horse that truly looked to love her work.

10. If you could ride a horse right now, that is not your own, who would it be?

Glock’s Zonik.

11. How do horses keep you grounded in the industry?

No experience is more humbling than being in the presence of a horse. The horse is almost always right, and we, as humans, have to dig deep within ourselves to understand them, which, in many ways, is like living in constant self-reflection. Being reminded to self-reflect on ourselves as individuals is very healthy and always grounding.

12. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

A cold one! I love trying different craft beers, especially after a long, hot day of riding.

13. When were you most happy on a horse?

Finishing my very first Grand Prix test with my 15-year-long-partner, Rossignol. We bought “Rossi” when he was a green four-year-old, and I was merely 13 years old. What sounded like a crazy idea at the time played out to be one of my proudest journeys and accomplishments having finished him to Grand Prix myself.

14. If your top horse were a famous person, who would it be?

Gordon Ramsay; a fiery, quick-witted, and food obsessed personality! While Rossi may not have the skills to actually cook, he is a foodie like no other and truly cares about food and only food. If he’s not fed exactly on time, you can be sure you’ll hear about it. On top of his love for bananas, Peeps, and everything in between, he also is a very comical horse and “speaks” his mind both on the ground and under saddle—just like Ramsay himself.

15. What is one piece of riding clothing or equipment you could never do without?

My Kastel Denmark shirts! I discovered these shirts years ago at the Nationals in Kentucky at a small boutique when they had just come on the market. Years later, they are all the rage, as they should be! I love how cool they keep me, protected from the sun, and how Charlotte’s designs are ever-changing and stylish!

16. What is your helmet of choice and why?

Samshield; style, comfort, design, and safety! These helmets make me feel my very best and most safe while riding.

17. Which famous clothing brand do you wish would come out with an equestrian line? 

I do the majority of my shopping at Nordstrom. If they offered an entire equestrian section to their stores featuring various designers, I think I would spend even more time there than I already do!

18. What is your biggest splurge to date when it comes to your riding and/or horses? 

The last investment horse we purchased—he recently sold, so it is time for the next one!

19. What is the best piece of riding advice you have ever received and from whom? 

“Do nothing,” from Lendon Gray. In riding, one of the most difficult things to maintain is the art of doing nothing and being absolutely quiet with your aids. Too often, riders become overly involved and “loud” with their aids when we should really be training ourselves and our horses to react to the lightest aids possible.

20. What is your life motto? 

Do what you love, love what you do.

-Photo credits (from left): Brigitte Voelk; Emily Finger/RJ Classics; Katlyn Swett; Joanna Jodko. All images courtesy of Mary Lauritsen.