Written by S. E. Morris. From the March/April 2015 issue
Instructor, trainer, judge, and professional rider Carol Hawley was the first equestrian inducted into the UMW athletic hall of fame on Jan. 24, 2015. Called “one of the most influential figures in the riding program’s history at [the University of] Mary Washington,” Hawley coached the UMW equestrian team from 1984–1998, leading the team to numerous national competitions and awards.
“I have not been nominated before and never expected it,” stated Hawley. “Not only do I not think of myself as ‘all that and a bag of chips,’ I also recognize that equestrian activities, although a recognized varsity sport at colleges and universities everywhere, are often square pegs trying to fit into round holes…I never thought something horse related would ever be translatable into a career.”
She credits her veterinarian parents for instilling in her a love of all things equestrian. Hawley attended Mary Washington College from 1980 through 1984, and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English; she rode on the varsity team all four years. During her senior year, she was approached by Ed Hegmann, the athletic director of UMW during this time, to become the coach of the UMW equestrian team when the current director left at the end of the academic year.
“I asked Carol if she would take over as the coach for the team after she graduated,” said Hegmann. “She was a bit reticent to take on the job of coaching her peers and friends, but she was very successful.
“Carol has super high standards for herself but demanded the same from her riders. She has an incredible attention to detail and high standards, and brought these qualities to the team,” he stated. “Carol is also very intellectual and quietly competitive.”
“And she can disarm you with a wink and a few ‘dahlings,’ in her perfectly practiced Southern drawl,” Hegmann added with a smile.
“Carol taught me so much about the equestrian world and the sport; she explained it to me so I could appreciate the hard work and time involved,” stated Hegmann.
“I have so much respect for these riders, for this sport,” he said. Hegmann attended his first equestrian meet in 1982, held at Hazelwild Farm; he did not have any knowledge of the sport, and compared the draw for horses to “everyone tossing their tennis rackets into a barrel and whichever one you pulled out, that was the one you played with.”
“I couldn’t believe it! Watching this gave me a keen appreciation for the riders,” said Hegmann.
Hegmann is grateful to Hawley for “letting [me] be a small part of the equestrian world” and enjoyed working with her during her tenure as UMW equestrian coach.
Hawley also worked with Anna Elizabeth Morrison, who owned Hazelwild Farm where the college team practiced.
Hawley said, “Mrs. Morrison, affectionately known as Aunt Sis, set me down in her living room [in the farmhouse on the property] and interviewed me for the coaching position.
“She asked me, ‘What makes you think you can teach riding lessons?’ I said I didn’t know but I was going to try,” laughed Hawley.
“So, with Aunt Sis on one arm and Ed on the other,” Hawley began her UMW equestrian team coaching career for the next 14 years. During this time, she directed the collegiate lesson program, coached the equestrian team, and privately trained horses and riders for local and rated events. Hawley also served for many years on the Intercollegiate National Board and as regional president and zone chairperson for the IHSA.
After leaving Hazelwild Farm in 1998, Hawley began working at Quad J Farm (Fredericksburg, Va.) for another 10 years, continuing to teach, train, and show horses. Her daughter Koelber was born in 2002, “and at two weeks of age we set up her world in the barn office and kept right on teaching, training, and showing,” said Hawley.
In 2007, Hawley joined Whitestone Farm (Fredericksburg, Va.), owned by Kristen and John Pruitt, where she continues to train and show. Kathleen Bonner, whom Hawley refers to as “my dearest friend,” manages the horse shows at Whitestone Farm and has known Hawley for 30 years.
“My career in the local horse show community was made possible because of Carol,” said Bonner. “She has been my trainer and my mentor.”
Bonner joined the UMW equestrian team during Hawley’s first year of coaching and continued to ride for the team during her years at the college.
“While I was at Mary Washington, Carol started a student teaching program for training the trainers; this was a class offered through the education department,” Bonner described.
“The class had required reading, including George Morris and Sally Swift, tests and papers, and lesson plan development. Many current trainers attended the program. We had to submit lesson plans; we were given beginner students to teach, all under Carol’s supervision, and were held accountable to our submitted lesson plans. It was a challenge because with beginner riders you could spend your entire time just adjusting stirrups, so you needed to have goals and objectives, all while Carol was standing right there,” Bonner said.
“I took the class because I wanted to be a horse professional and I didn’t know how to be one, but I knew this was my passion and Carol made it possible,” she added.
“I’ve spend many hours observing Carol, how it all worked, how she puts it all together,” mused Bonner. “What impresses me most about Carol is her commitment and dedication, year after year; she even preps all of the horses for lessons and shows. I call it ‘horse show in a can!’”
“She is the master of language in the way she can break down things and unlock a lot of the mysteries riders face; she can say just the right thing to the riders. She makes you be the best you can be—she can find a way to help a rider visualize where they want to be,” said Bonner.
Tammy Tucker also rode for the UMW equestrian team under Hawley.
“I rode with Carol at [Mary Washington College] and was on the team for three and a half years. During that time, we won the Region twice and went as a team to Nationals in 1989 and 1990,” said Tucker.
“Carol is one of the most positive people I have ever known. She is encouraging and upbeat but at the same time instills a high level of discipline in her students. I strongly believe that is the reason for her coaching success at [UMW]. We all worked very hard at what we did and no one worked harder than Carol. It showed in our success as a riding team but also in our success academically as well; we always had one of the highest team GPAs,” she said.
Tucker, who lives in the Charlottesville (Va.) area, continues to ride at A-rated Virginia shows, and credits Hawley with her own riding ability.
“Carol is great at teaching riding theory; when I was in high school, we could teach the lower levels of riding classes for education credits and Carol was our instructor for those classes. I learned a lot about riding theory, horsemanship, and how to give instructions in those teaching classes—and it has helped my own riding enormously,” Tucker said.
Another former student of Hawley’s, current UMW equestrian team coach Teresa Seay, was the person who nominated Hawley to the athletic hall of fame.
“Carol spent years and years developing the equestrian program at Hazelwild and has taken numerous teams plus individuals to Nationals. This is a well-deserved honor for her, and I’m very excited for her!” said Seay.
Seay added, “This is the first time someone from the equestrian field is being inducted into the UMW athletic hall of fame. Carol should be this first person because of all she’s done for the college.”
Seay graduated from Mary Washington College in 1999 and has been the UMW head equestrian coach since 2009. Seay trained under Hawley during her freshman year at the college, and continues to work with her through the horse show circuit.
When Hawley learned she was nominated, “I was just so shocked!” she exclaimed. “I just think that [being nominated] is so cool! I am so touched that Teresa nominated me…I told her it didn’t matter the outcome—whether I’m inducted or not—this has made my life!”
Clint Often, sports information director at UMW, was “thrilled” to receive Hawley’s nomination for inclusion into the athletic hall of fame.
“Carol is without a doubt the most influential and important person in the riding program’s history at Mary Washington,” said Often.
“In addition to being an outstanding rider during collegiate career, she served for 14 years as the team’s coach and brought the team to unprecedented national achievements. Her impact is still felt at UMW and at other institutions as she continues to mentor riders, many of whom have remained in the sport as professionals and coaches, including our own coach, Teresa Seay,” he stated.
Often, who has been with UMW since 1996, has served as the athletic hall of fame chair since its inception that year. He is also familiar with equestrian terminology, and joked, “I am proud to know the difference between ‘on the flat’ and ‘over fences,’ and how high-point riders and teams are selected!”
During her acceptance speech at the athletic hall of fame induction ceremony, Hawley reflected that “winning” isn’t necessarily about “beating the other team and gathering points and ribbons”; instead, she stated, it is “students overcoming their challenges and giving it their all.”
“After all,” she said, “Ribbons come and go, but respect lasts forever. It’s the little things that make a difference.”
Hawley professes her goal as “to be of the utmost service to all of my students.”
“My favorite thing about teaching and training is seeing a horse or rider break through a barrier, whether it is fear, physical difficulties, lack of experience, limited resources, or false beliefs, and witness the excitement, happiness, and confidence they feel upon their success,” she stated.
“Confidence comes from skill building, you can’t just pat the horse on the shoulder or tell the rider, ‘You can do it!’ and the confidence wand is waved; horses and riders develop their skills, and their confidence naturally follows.
“Horses depend on us to help them do their jobs, and they do so much for us, we owe it to them to do everything we can to help them be comfortable and productive. Also, when I train a student, my first focus is helping them work on their body, helping them tune the only real instrument they have in helping the horse with its body. And from an intellectual standpoint, I teach them to view things from a horse’s perspective, the true facts about horses that they wish riders knew!”
She added, “The horse industry is a circus; horses are magnificent creatures, but they are also stressful, expensive, and fragile. They will bring out the best and the worst in people. Horses can make your heart sing or break it into a million little pieces.
“…And what students can count on is that I truly believe
they can solve their challenges, if they are willing to open up and do the work,” Hawley added. “And I’ll transform them, doing whatever it takes to help the students and their horses overcome their obstacles and reach their goals.”
Hawley closed her acceptance speech by sharing her favorite poem, copied by her husband for her, which she has kept in her wallet for many years. The poem defines “success,” and included the familiar lines, “To laugh often and love much…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.”
Carol Hawley truly has succeeded in the equestrian world.
For more information about Whitestone Farm and training with Carol Hawley, visit http://www.whitestonefarmva.com or call 540.786.9124.