Mary Banker~ Trainer and Foundation President

Mary Banker, a Columbia County native, grew up loving horses but like many young girls, she didn’t have a horse. That didn’t stop Mary who at age seven took to riding her family’s donkey and cow. Her family moved to New Hampshire when her father took a job in a New Hampshire boarding school right around the time Mary entered Middle school. In New Hampshire, Mary stayed close to her passion for horses by taking a job at Sign of the Dove farm in Temple.  In exchange for working on the farm, Mary received riding lessons and learned to train the farm’s ponies.  Mary’s ambition for all things equine didn’t end with ponies. When Mary’s school hired a man to log a portion of the land,  she made friends with him and rode the draft horses that he used to haul logs. One of the draft horses was blind, yet Mary would take him out for long trail rides in just a halter and a lead rope. By the time Mary turned fifteen years old, she had finally saved enough money to buy her first horse. Building her own run-in shed at her family’s home, she brought home her three year old Appaloosa mare that Mary says, “bucked me off almost every day until I finally trained her.”
In her twenties, Mary started her own family and sold her mare. By 1991, she moved back to Columbia County, NY, and secured a half lease of a horse at Steadfast Farm riding with trainer, Ann Coward. With Ann as her coach, Mary started eventing, hunter pacing, and fox hunting. She also participated in clinics with area trainers, Margie Hutchison and Eric Horgan. Within a year she purchased an off the track thoroughbred to ride and train. By this time her daughter Emily also became interested in riding and she bought her a pony. In 2006, Mary went to work building her own barn and bringing her horses home and she continued to compete in the hunter, equitation and jumper world.
In early February of 2010 tragedy stuck when Emily, an equine college major at Suny, Morrisville, sadly passed away unexpectedly. Soon after, Mary created the Emily Eckstrom Equine scholarship in Emily’s memory, and by the fall of that year, she started her current riding program. Her hope in creating the scholarship and program was to support young people like Emily who love working with horses.
In 2012, The Emily Eckstrom Equine Foundation received it’s official 501c3 non profit status. The Foundation currently raises funds at an annual event called The Horseshoe 5k which invites participants to “Walk, Trot, Canter or Gallop” a course that traverses the streets near the Firehouse in Ghent, NY. All proceeds of the event go to the Foundation’s scholarship fund which helps to finance equine riding lessons and equine education for young riders in Mary’s after school riding program.
Today, Mary teaches students all aspects of horse riding and proper care/ownership at her Angell Hill Road facility in Spencertown, NY. Mary continues her own riding training with Ken Whelihan of Well in Hand, LLC, who also coaches Mary’s advanced students at the “A show” level.  Most of Mary’s young riders show at the local level WNEPHA C rated regional and local horse shows. Many of her students have competed in the WNEPHA finals, and have gone on to win nationals.

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