At Lancers, we are very fortunate to have not only devoted riders but dedicated parents who see how much their child enjoys riding and how much Lancers gives to their child and are consequently motivated to actively volunteer in the community. MaryGwen Stackhouse could not epitomise this more. MaryGwen has clearly fostered and encouraged her daughter Gracie’s passion for horses and in doing so, has chosen to participate in many volunteer activities. Gracie has been riding at Lancers for 8-9 years (see Gracie’s feature below) so MaryGwen has had the chance for her volunteer contributions to evolve as her daughter developed as a rider, starting at our beginner camp and moving up in rides. Early days included doing night hay, helping with hay and shavings deliveries, clean-up days, and even sponsoring the Downtown Horse Show. In more recent years, MaryGwen has also contributed by helping with Junior Executive fundraising, taking on the role of Parent Advisor for the Junior Executive, and a Musical Ride parent. Gracie and MaryGwen have even subsumed Lancers into their holiday tradition as they always volunteer to feed the horses early on Christmas morning! Going forward, MaryGwen will soon start her role as assistant to the Lancers’ Pony Club secretary and is excited to continue her role as a Musical Ride parent. (Don’t worry, MaryGwen hasn’t been able to sneak away from hay/shavings deliveries or night hay quite yet). In 2016, MaryGwen was even the recipient of our Bill Henry Award which is given to our top volunteer of the year.
MaryGwen took some riding lessons as a child but is admittedly not a rider. That has never dissuaded her from getting involved in Lancers. For MaryGwen, Lancers is a worthwhile place to spend her (non-working) time because it has such a great community. She noted that she greatly values “the respect that all the riders all have for one another and their willingness to help each other”. In terms of volunteer roles, it is fair to say that MaryGwen adores the Musical Ride! She recalled seeing the Musical Ride before Gracie was involved and being so impressed. Now getting a first-hand glimpse on the inside, MaryGwen added, “it is amazing to see the hard work that the junior riders put into it. Sometimes practices don’t go well but when they put on that red jacket for the performance, it all just comes together”. “It is a huge commitment for the girls to put in…on top of everything else”, she added; “performance days are long and they start on foot practices in April. The whole thing is such a wonderful spectacle. With 16 of them on big horses actually performing to music, it is a routine. As Musical Ride parent (a task shared with another parent volunteer), she was in charge of sound and music, for fitting the girls with their uniforms, and making sure they stay on task and have everything they need.
As we do for all our features, we asked MaryGwen who her favourite horse is and she easily replied, “Sarge!” She did add that it is very hard to have a favourite horse because they are all great horses but she has a great connection with Sarge: “it is just the way he recognises me when I come in…he knows he is always going to get a treat and as soon as he sees me, he makes a noise and raises his head”. We also asked MaryGwen about a favourite memory she has of Lancers. Her parental pride expectantly shone through as she chose the day that Gracie won first on Oliver in a show and the first time she saw her at the gorgeous property in Chester (Coveside) and all the shows as the riders are all so supportive of each other. While she noted that “seeing [Gracie] with a smile on her face when she is in her element” is always a highlight, MaryGwen explained that “the atmosphere and the community at Lancers have flourished in recent years”. Of Lancers she described, “this is the place that has the friendships that last for a lifetime. This is the place…and to have it so close to home...it is so nice!”
Now, we know that MaryGwen does a lot at Lancers but would prefer to quietly work behind the scenes (so she had some hesitations about being so publicly featured). But we think it is important to recognise that she comes to Lancers (she also watches each of Gracie’s lessons we might add) and will do whatever she needs to do. She likes being with horses and is committed to learning more about them. She is even working on all the horse terminology and is starting to recognise flying lead changes and leg yields! We’re sure she is going to be quite the expert by the time Gracie graduates high school next year. MaryGwen plans to continue to be a committed Lancer volunteer as it is a rewarding place, especially because of the people because, as she said, “everyone has a smile on their face, they are friendly and it is a happy place”. Until then, we are lucky to continue having MaryGwen as a dedicated Lancer volunteer.
When MaryGwen isn’t spending time at Lancers, she enjoys walking her dogs, spending time with her family, and continuing her community dedication on a broader scale in the form of Charity Challenges. In August 2015, she was part of a group of 60 Royal LePage real estate agents, brokers and family members from across Canada that took part in a once-in-a-lifetime charity experience...trekking to Machu Picchu. Together, they raised close to $500,000 in support of the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, with proceeds to benefit women’s shelters that provide safety and hope to women and children fleeing domestic violence. The funds that MaryGwen raised went to Alice Housing. She had to raise at least $5000 to participate and pay for the trip and costs associated with the trip yourself. She was unable to participate in the Iceland Trek this summer but hopes the challenge in 2019 is on the cards!
MaryGwen, we are always happy to see you come through those front doors (much like Sarge is!) or be sitting in the viewing room on rail side. We appreciate your hard work at Lancers and how you set a great example of giving so much and contributing to causes but never asking or expecting recognition.