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GMHA Honors Hutchins’ Efforts

Mary Hutchins, of Norwich, was recently awarded the Constance Knight McCollom Stewardship Award for her service to the Green Mountain Horse Association. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

Mary Hutchins, of Norwich, was recently awarded the Constance Knight McCollom Stewardship Award for her service to the Green Mountain Horse Association. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

Norwich — Mary Hutchins knew something special was in the works during the Green Mountain Horse Association’s annual awards ceremony last month in South Woodstock.

It wasn’t unusual that her daughter, Molly, was there — she’s the GMHA’s community outreach and business affairs coordinator — but more unique was the presence of her two sons, Walter and Jamie, and that of her grandchildren, Sam and Ben.

“I thought they must have been (honoring) Molly,” Hutchins recalled at her Union Village Road home last week, its walls decorated with equestrian memorabilia. “Then (GMHA communications specialist) Karey Waters began reading something, and after the first three sentences, I said, ‘My God, that’s me!’ ”

Mary Hutchins received the Constance Knight McCollom Memorial Stewardship Award, given annually to someone who demonstrates exceptional dedication to the GMHA, a nonprofit that provides instruction and competition for equestrian riders. The award’s namesake is for former longtime GMHA steward Connie McCollom, who mentored Hutchins on how to score events in the 1960s.

“I was teaching in Massachusetts (at Deerfield’s Eaglebrook School) at the time, but we stayed on a camp on Lake Fairlee in the summer and the kids trained at GMHA,” Hutchins said. “That was how I met Connie. She would score all of the events and taught me how to. I was stunned to get the award. To have Connie’s name attached to it really kind of brings things full circle.”

A New York City native, Hutchins attended Manhattan’s Brearley School and summered at a riding camp in Lake Placid. By the time she was a teenager, she’d become an instructor for young riders and eventually was named the camp’s head riding counselor.

Back in Manhattan, Hutchins never allowed city life to interfere with her equestrian ambitions. She spent free time during the school year as a liaison for Squadron A, a historic U.S. Cavalry Unit stationed on Manhattan’s upper east side.

“It was a huge, three-layered building that took up almost a whole block near Park Avenue,” Hutchins said. “I assisted the retired officers who worked there. There were stables on the lower level, where the horses were for the mounted police. There were all kinds of preserved tanks and Jeeps on the bottom level.”

Hutchins even asked for a horse in her traditional Manhattan apartment, though she could never convince her parents to oblige.

“There was an elevator and a maid’s room, but we didn’t have a maid,” she said. “I thought it would be perfect to use the maid’s room (as a stable) and use the elevator to get a horse up and down.”

After attending Mount Holyoke College and teaching for a time at Eaglebrook, Hutchins moved to Norwich in 1967 when she became a mathematics teacher at Hanover High School, a post she held for 20 years. She, and her children, became heavily involved with the Upper Valley Pony Club, a now-defunct organization that regularly staged rallies at GMHA. As a counselor and instructor, Hutchins’ roles included everything from driving horse vans filled with kids and ponies to planning courses and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches en masse for young riders.

“We’d line up all the bread and take turns slapping the peanut butter and jelly on them,” Hutchins recalled. “We sold them (to GMHA pupils) for $1 apiece, and it actually paid for a lot of (incurred expenses).”

In the 1970s, Hutchins obtained United States Equestrian Federation licenses as a technical delegate for both eventing and dressage. That allowed her to monitor course layouts and jumping regulations for sanctioned events, including many staged in Vermont through GMHA as well as farms in South Royalton and South Strafford. It’s a duty she continues today, landing berths nation-wide.

“I get hired to go out to an event the day before and make sure all the rules are being observed,” she noted.

Hutchins also serves as volunteer judge during trials for aspiring riders, going above her technical delegates’ roles to offer pointers to students.

“The educational aspect of riding is very important to me,” she said. “When you see someone learn about the three phases of eventing and graduate through the ranks. … (T)o contribute in a small way to that is very rewarding.”

Hutchins’ dedication to the sport has been rewarded with a pair of trips to the summer Olympics, serving as a dressage steward and fence judge in Atlanta in 1996 as well as in 2000 in Australia. In 2010, she was hired by Federation Equestrian International to serve as a steward at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky.

Now a certified course designer, Hutchins remains active both in the field and as a representative for the USEF’s Area 1, overseeing sanctions in New England and New York. “We have an annual meeting in Springfield, Mass., and we do conference calls and things like that,” Hutchins said. “It’s a way to keep busy.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.