"You really want to know all this?" Annette Gavin quips as the interview begins.
Annette Gavin, Adjunct Asst. Prof. of Equestrian at Wilson College, is easily one of the most interesting people you could have a conversation with.
A No-Nonsense Professional
A graduate of the University of London, Gavin has a degree in Political Law and Economics. Not exactly what you would expect from the professor who only teaches the upper level equestrian classes; intermediate equitation, advanced equitation, introduction to training the horse, and applied horse training techniques. "At 38 years old, do I want to muck other people's horses for the rest of my life?" She pauses and calls out to one of her students, "You win the stand around and watch award!"
Gavin moved to Pennsylvania from the United Kingdom on a self proclaimed "mid life crisis." She previously worked in a training barn owned by her mother. It occurred to her one day that she did not want to take care of other people's horses for the rest o her life. The opportunity for change arose when a friend who owned a horse shipping company asked her to accompany a group of horses to the US, and ensure that they went to decent homes. Shortly after that she met Colonel Kitts, former director of the Wilson College Equestrian Program.
Gavin came to Wilson in 1994 after meeting Colonel Kitts. The riding program needed people who knew horses and were qualified to teach, so he offered her a job.
Gavin as Teacher
Gavin is indeed qualified to teach. She holds qualifications with the British Horse Society (BHS), Society of Master Saddlers (SMS), and both United Kingdom Pony Club (PCUK) and United States Pony Club (USPC). She reached the level of Intermediate Instructor with BHS, is a qualified saddle fitter of SMS and a National Examiner of PCUK and USPC.
"We don't sell anything we don't ride in." Gavin also works for a company called Hastilow Competition Saddles. Her obligations there include saddle fitting, sales, and holding instructional courses. She prefers to sell through education rather than advertising. Hastilow aims to sell quality products and educate the consumer why quality products are necessary. What made Gavin interested in eventing? "I don't know, it was just there."
A Lifetime of Accomplishments
Gavin competes in both dressage and three-day eventing. Among her accomplishments are: 4th level dressage, training level eventing, Intermediare II dressage, Windsor CCI. She began competing in dressage because of her eventing career. Her event horse was "too smart, the best event horses aren't very smart." He quickly became her dressage horse. Her interest in eventing might be related to her passion for cross-country jumping, one of the events in three-day eventing. "I have no clue really" she jokes.
"Jump" Start on A Career
Gavin began her riding career as early as 2 years old. "My daddy rode" she explains. During her 53-year riding career, Gavin has trained with a plethora of trainers. Pat Manning, Jeremy and Jane Houghton-Brown, Alan Docksy, Jane, Arthur Kottas, Colin Wares, and David Green were the first names that came to her mind. Additionally, she often attends the riding clinics hosted by Wilson College which feature clinicians Jeremy Beale and Henrik Johanssen.
Gavin has a student dismount to perform an impromptu ground lesson, the gist of which is, "keep doing that and you will fall on your face." After a few minutes working with Gavin off the horse, the student mounts her horse again with a better idea of where her body needs to be over fences.