I’ve known Mary Kate Huntsberger for a few years through a series of mutual horse friends. Is there any better way to know someone? She manages being a new mom, a hairdresser in Paso Robles and non-pro cutting competitor all in a days work. When it comes to her horse show life, we’re talking NCHA earnings in excess of $95k! So how did she get there? Well like anything in life, it wasn’t always easy and she has had great support from friends, trainers and family.
Mary Kate’s Start with Horses
Mary Kate grew up around horses and caught the “horse bug” from her mother, Debra at the ripe old age of 4. Her first horse show was at the Paso Robles Fair in a Walk/Trot class which she won and still has the plaque for! She showed her first cutter, Sanetta Doc, at age 7 wearing hot pink Wranglers and a bedazzled show shirt. She says, “I don’t remember how I did but I stayed on and only had minor whip lash.” The cutting gene and love of horses has been passed on from her mother and she hopes to pass it on to her son Carter, who already seems to have his own “string” at only a few months of age! Mary Kate and her mom still travel to and compete in cutting shows together. Her husband Brian is a talented farrier and fellow non-pro competitor in cutting as well as reined cow horse events. Every year the pair tries to find a project horse that they can bring along in his training and sell down the road for fun and to constantly hone their riding abilities.
Her Typical Day
A typical day involves feeding their horses, cleaning pens and turning horses out. Then it’s time for the people of the house to eat! During Carter’s morning nap time, it’s more cleaning, riding, working the flag or cattle and bath time. In the evenings when Brian is home from work, there’s more riding to do, especially if a show is coming up.
A Very Successful Show Career
As far as her show career is concerned, Mary Kate counts winning the 2012 NCHA Amateur Derby at the Superstakes in Fort Worth, Texas as one of her biggest accomplishments. Add winning the El Rancho Non-Pro Futurity in 2011 and making 2 out of 3 finals with her three year old “Bird” at the PCCHA Futurity to the list and you’ve got yourself a seasoned show career. Mary Kate credits George Hearst, Gary Gonsalves and Tim Stewart to the list of people that have helped her along the way. “I will never forget George Hearst teaching me how to read cattle while sorting them just for fun. That day made a light go off and has helped me a ton in my showing.” Before Gary Gonsalves moved to Texas, he was a Paso Robles resident and Mary Kate says “he really taught me how to be a good showman and how to prepare and school my own horse for a show.” Tim Stewart is credited with teaching her all the basics. “He [Tim Stewart] was always very encouraging and kept things simple.” When asked for advice she would give to fellow non-pro competitors, Mary Kate takes a page out of Tim Stewart’s book –
Keep it simple, don’t over think it.
Her Special Horses
Trainers are an excellent resource for a non-pro rider wanting to compete. Even more important are the horses themselves. Mary Kate has had the opportunity to ride some great horses, but a special three stand out in her mind. Docs Cowboy Logic, aka “Kenny”, was given to her on her 16th birthday by George Hearst and the pair had a great show life together. “He taught me so much in the show time we had together, he made me the rider and showman that I am today. I will never forget that horse or that man.” Sr Horizon Bar, aka “Chance” is credited with being a great all around horse, easy to love, easy to show and a gentle soul. My Little Lucky Duck, aka “Bird”, has been her show mount as of late – that is until Carter is old enough to ride. Bird is the first horse Mary Kate has shown in age events and the pair have a very special bond. “He isn’t just my horse, he is a huge part of my family, my therapist and one of my best friends. He and I have had an extremely good show career together. He will never ever leave our family. He’s my son Carter’s horse too.”
Juggling Riding, Career and Family
The biggest challenges for any non-pro competitor is of course finding the time to train, show and support your passion. Mary Kate’s “day job” as a hairdresser and her family’s passion for riding help support her in the show pen. She also cites the Central Coast Cutting Club and the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association as being great resources on the Central Coast. Shows are frequent and are usually at the Paso Robles Fairgrounds or surrounding local ranches and horse facilities. Both associations have user-friendly websites and Facebook Pages for more information.
Ask questions, work hard and don’t be afraid of road blocks.
Use every resource in your artillery to help get you to where you want to go. Your fellow non-pro’s might be your best “secret weapon”, so if you see someone doing what you want to do, don’t be afraid to ask them how they got there!
** Originally published 6/26/14