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No Easy Ride for These National Champions

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Looks can be deceiving. Success in the show ring does not mean it comes easily. There is more than meets the eye leading up to an effortless looking round in the hunter ring. Much, much, more- as is the case with Hunter National Champions Mary Grayson “MG” Fauser and her ride Captivate “Ozzie” owned by her long-time trainer Allison Rayburn of Southern Sky Stables in Eads, Tennessee.

If one runs across “MG” any given day at the stables or out and about at a horse show you’d never suspect this either, based on her genuine, big smile and warm, positive attitude.

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Mary Grayson with Ozzie. Photo by Kindred Spirit Photography | Melanie Shinault


Ozzie is a 16.0h 2011 bay Hanoverian gelding by Paparazzo. MG has been working with him since September 2015, but her riding journey began with Allison in 2012 on Allison’s medium pony Imitate “Tate”. MG’s riding blossomed from the short stirrup to medium pony divisions into the large pony division with Allison’s Illuminate “Toby” on which MG had a very successful run.

In 2015, Allison saw something special in Ozzie when she saw a sales video of him that led them to travel to Franklin, Tenn. to try him. Despite his lack of steering at this time and running MG up against a fence while trying him out, his lovely movement won Allison over, and she saw his potential. 

Ozzie has some interesting traits. According to MG “Ozzie is quirky and goofy! He is a bit of a spook. He loves to cuddle- if treats aren’t involved. He likes his routine, and he acts like he is king of the barn. He likes to be fed first. He is the first one to come in from the pasture, etc. I say he acts like he is king of the barn, but we also treat him like he is king ...ha-ha! He has done a lot for us, so he deserves the royal treatment.”

MG has faced several challenges over her eight-year haul with Ozzie that has made her a better horsewoman…” He keeps me humble. We can have a fantastic first trip and I can go into that second trip and him  do something totally silly. I’ve learned that it is just a part of the journey with any horse and it makes the days you do well even more special.” 

Ozzie has a special trait that can be cumbersome at times, “He is infamous for stopping to poop in the middle of a course! At the Germantown shows we have a routine of loading him into the trailer and letting him use the bathroom right before I get on. We have been doing this for about two years now and it has been quite successful. Hey, whatever works!” 

Learning to understand Ozzie’s quirk’s and accommodating his needs has helped MG learn to have more patience. “I’ve learned that riding Ozzie while I’m angry will accomplish nothing. It will only make him angry. Some days I must meet him where he’s at and accept that is good enough. He really does make it all worth it though.” 

MG credits her success with Ozzie to Allison. “She has devoted so much time and hard work in our partnership. She loves Ozzie more than I’ve ever seen someone love a horse, and it shows in the care and training he has received the past eight+ years. Between the two of us we know Ozzie extremely well and with a horse like him, I think you really need to understand his wants and needs to be successful with him. He has a particular program and routine, and Allison never tries to change him, she accepts what he needs to be successful.” 

In addition to Allison, MG started working with Robyn Miller of Point Pleasant Farm in Mt. Pleasant, Miss. in January 2020. “Robyn Miller changed the game for us as well. Ozzie was developing quite the attitude. I was frustrated and my frustration and fear were translating into my riding. Robyn worked with Ozzie first to help him learn respect, how to carry himself in a way that made him feel safer and stronger, and how to be braver. Then, Robyn changed most things about me too, ha-ha. She taught me how to be patient, how to demand respect, and how to be aware of every movement the horse makes. We started with groundwork and eventually transferred it to my riding. I still have so much to learn but I’m such a better horsewoman thanks to Allison and Robyn.”

Most recently, “Team Captivate” earned their biggest accomplishment to date, which was being awarded 2023 National USEF Horse of the Year in the Low Adult Hunter Division. Both Allison and MG traveled to Louisville, KY for the USEF banquet a few weeks ago to accept their prestigious and well-earned Championship, culminating their long road to the victory stand.

Some of the impressive accomplishments of “Team Captivate’ over the years in the hunter show ring include:

  • 2017: 3’3” Small Junior Hunters.  6th nationally; Zone 4 Champion 
  • 2018: 3’6” Small Junior Hunters. 11th nationally: Qualified for Harrisburg & National Horse Show; Zone 4 Champion 
  • 2019-2022: Younger Adult Amateur Hunters. 2019 & 2021- Reserve Champion Zone 4 Adult Amateur Hunter 18-35
  • 2023: Low Adult Hunters. 1st Nationally; Zone 4 Champion for Low Adult Hunter.  
     

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