Mary Pardee, Director of Riding; Assistant Professor of Equine Studies
For some of us, we are drawn toward career paths that weren't our initial intentions. This was the case for Mary Pardee, assistant professor of equine studies and director of riding at the College.
A native of Lakewood, Ohio, Mary earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in English from the University of Kentucky in 1984. She went on to earn a Secondary English Teaching Certification in 1996 and a Master of Education from Lake Erie College in 2012. If these degrees are any indication, Mary's plan was to become a high school English teacher.
In addition to her love for English, however, Mary has always been interested in horses. "Horses have been my passion since I was a little kid," she said. "I still have letters I wrote to my parents negotiating for a pony--which I never got, I'm sorry to say."
Mary began working as an assistant to her trainer when she was 17, helping with the younger riders and teaching at summer camps. She turned professional in 1983, taking her first job as a riding instructor the following year. Since then, she has taught and trained in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Washington State, Virginia, England and Ireland. She has also been a coach for the IHSA teams at Ball State and Lake Erie College, and she has taken numerous riders to prestigious shows and national finals.
Though Mary worked as an English teacher during this time, she couldn't seem to shake her ties to the equine industry. "I think the discipline chose me," she said. "I have tried to get out of the horse business a few different times and pursue other interests, but I keep getting drawn back in."
Regardless of topic, Mary is an enthusiastic and devoted teacher. "I like seeing my students master new skills and concepts, particularly when they have an 'AHA!' moment," she said. Her job now combines all of her favorite things: discipline, horses, athleticism, critical thinking, training, understanding of anatomy and psychology, just to name a few. "I never get bored and am constantly challenged," she said.
Mary teaches a variety of courses at the George M. Humphrey Equestrian Center, including the upper-level hunter seat classes and a schooling class in which students work with difficult or inexperienced horses. Her courses offer a range of real-world applications, helping equip students with the skills they need to pursue internships with international caliber trainers, breeding farms or equine businesses.
Relatedly, one of Mary's favorite experiences at LEC is the three-day field trip to Lexington, Ky. that her "Introduction to the Equine Industry" class takes. "We have been fortunate enough to have some of the very best people in the world agree to meet with our students, grant them access to their farms and businesses, and show them various possibilities for careers in the equine industry," she said.
These trips have inspired several students from "non-horsey" backgrounds to pursue careers in the industry. Two, in particular, have gone on to work at WinStar Farm, one of the pre-eminent Thoroughbred breeding and training facilities in the world. "The head trainer at Winstar was so impressed with the knowledge and questions the students had that he helped me set up an ongoing internship with the farm!" said Mary. "It is so great to see these students getting to pursue their dreams at the highest level."For students considering attending LEC for the equine program, Mary is confident they will be in good ranks. "The equine students bring such passion to all they do," she said. "They are incredibly hard working and dedicated. It's a great group to be a part of!"