Marcia Mayo started riding when she was a fifth grader. Her parents owned a cattle ranch on the outskirts of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and every Saturday, she would go out with her father and ride.
It was only natural that she would be part of the horsemanship program while attending Culver Summer Schools & Camps in 1970 and 1971. And she continued riding through her mid-thirties. But as the pace of her professional life picked up, the time she could dedicate to riding dropped.
She has spent most of her career working with the United States Department of State, curating the art displayed in embassies around the world. She is now the executive director of a new public/private partnership, The Fund to Conserve, which is working to conserve and restore many of the historic buildings used by the State Department and the art that is housed in them.
Many embassies are listed on the historic preservation lists of both the State Department and the host countries, she explained. The goal of the enterprise is to restore those buildings while maintaining the historic integrity of each.
But as she nears retirement, Mayo said she looking to resume some of the activities she set aside as her career advanced. Central among those was riding. As Mayo began looking for a location and trainer, she discovered Britta Johnston and her Mountain Vista Farm in Amissville, Virginia.
Over the past five years, “she trained me” in riding in general and dressage, Mayo said of Johnston. And, over the years, Johnston said Mayo has often talk about her experiences at Culver. So, when the opportunity came, Mayo knew she wanted to have Johnston come to Culver to work with the students. That day came on Tuesday, Nov. 19.
It had been 12 years since Mayo had been on campus herself. She had not seen the renovated Vaughn Equestrian Center, which was completed in 2008. Johnston worked with the staff and students in classes and with various teams.
“There is a life energy running through the young people,” Johnston said after she finished her fourth session with students. “It truly feels like a community.”
Both Johnston and Mayo said they were impressed with riding ability of the students, the work the horsemanship instructors were doing, the health of the horses, and Vaughn Equestrian Center. Mayo also took time to visit the Crisp Visual Arts Center and meet with curator Robert Nowalk. “I didn’t know Culver had that extensive of a collection,” she said.
While working with the students, Johnston showed students and instructors a couple of techniques to help make the horses stronger.
“They are not born to carry a rider,” she explained. “The exercises will make them strong.” And a stronger horse is better able to perform the needed drills, especially in dressage.
At her Mountain View Farm, Johnston works with riders of all ages and abilities from around the world. She has riders come from national teams in Germany, South America, Canada, and China. Some of the students stay to become associate instructors in order to gain even more experience. When Johnston can, she does enjoy traveling to other locations to do teaching sessions like Culver.
She enjoyed her time with the students. They have a healthy competitive spirit about them, she explained, and they were “thoughtful, mindful.” She also enjoyed seeing how they looked after each other and the horses.
That compassion, she said, is a character strength that will serve them well in “their life after Culver.”