JN Exclusive: Mary Scott Head Conquers High Jr/Am at Split Rock

When Mary Scott Head woke up one morning of the Split Rock Jumping tour feeling under the weather, she considered pulling out of her class so she could rest. Filled with determination, Mary decided to push through and enter the ring on Poker Face M- a horse she hasn’t always had the best relationship with. That decision turned out to be an excellent one as Mary held her first place position throughout the entire High Junior/Amateur class after being third in the order of go. JN caught up with Mary to talk about her history, her win, and what she hopes to pursue in the future.

A Sweet Start

Mary began riding at the age of five after her mother bought a Polish Arabian named Hershey and began toting her back and forth to the barn. She fell in love and her mother enrolled her in the lesson program where she focused heavily on her horsemanship skills for the majority of her riding years. It wasn’t until a little over five years ago that Marian began competing on the A Circuit after switching trainers to pursue personal growth.

The Hunstville, Alabama native rides with the Hector Florentino. The change in trainers enabled her to start her competitive career, but it also required a step up in dedication on her part. Her horses stay in Lexington, Kentucky during the Spring and Summer and transition to Wellington through the Fall and Winter. In order to make the distance work, during her Freshman year of high school Mary and her parents decided that an online education would allow the flexibility needed to travel, train, and show alongside her horses.

The now Senior in high school spends much of her time on the road. “When my horses are in Lexington I will usually drive up and train and show for two weeks, then I come home for a week and go back up for another two weeks,” Mary shared with JN. That cycle continues throughout the spring and summer and Mary finds that she spends more of her time on the road and at shows than she actually does at home. And her dedication to the sport doesn’t stop there. “We rent a place in Wellington for the circuit, so I stay there throughout the circuit and fly or drive back to Alabama for holidays or if I just need a break from the Wellington lifestyle for a bit.”

Mary and Poker Face M. Photo by Winslow Photography

Poker Face M and Finding Their Rhythm

Mary purchased the 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Poker Face M, three years ago straight out of quarantine from David Jennings in hopes of having a horse to help her move up from the High Childrens Jumpers. However, she found that she and Poker Face just didn’t click, so she sent him on to be shown by professionals for some time while she focused on herself and her other mounts (Canago and Carjo Z). On week seven of WEF this past year, she decided to give the handsome horse another try.

“We started out in the 1.10 jumpers and I fell off my first time back in the ring with him. It has been a process but we have really clicked in the past couple of months and now he is one of my favorites to ride,” shared Mary. She describes Poker as a speedy, careful horse which allows him to remain consistent in the ring, but his spooky side and competitive nature do not make for an easy ride. “He really has to trust his rider and know that they mean business. In the barn he is still a pretty spooky horse, he spooks at things that aren’t even there, occasionally! But he always has a good expression on his face. He loves treats and getting scratches.”

Photo by Winslow Photography

Split Rock

Mary was looking forward to showing off her new found partnership with Poker at Split Rock- only to wake up the morning of her class feeling under the weather. “I almost didn’t show that morning! I woke up not feeling well, but I decided I would try and push through and compete anyways. I ate some breakfast then walked the course. I was third in the order so I really didn’t have time to see anyone go. My trainer and I made a straightforward plan on how to ride the course and I stuck to it!”

“I really enjoyed all of the courses I rode,” she said of the course design that weekend. “I think they really tested the horse and riders elasticity in the lines and they required a good pace throughout. The time allowed wasn’t too tight, but it was short enough where you had to make sure you were slick in your turns and didn’t waste any time.”

After putting in a great trip, Mary found herself at the top of the class but she didn’t think she would hold the lead seeing as she rode so early on. “I was happy with my round and how Poker jumped, so regardless of the placing I would have been happy,” she shared. “When the last person was in the ring and I was still winning, I was pretty nervous!” The final pair had a rail down, securing the win for Mary and Poker.

Photo by Winslow Photography

“I was honestly speechless. I was not at all expecting to win, especially since I have only competed in the High Jr/Am divison on Poker less than a handful of times. It really was a special win for me.” The weekend was full of successes for Mary, who also took home seventh in the High Jr/Am division on her thirteen-year-old Oldenburg Canago along with placing fifth in the Welcome and a top ten finish in the U25 on her nine-year-old Zangersheide gelding Carjo Z.

“I owe all my success to my trainer Hector, my horses and my parents for being extremely supportive and helping me accomplish my goals,” she added. “None of this would be possible without them!”

Full of passion for the sport, Mary plans to continue improving and producing consistent results in the ring. Throughout WEF, she aims to continue competing in the High Amatuer and U25 divisions and even hopes to dabble in some of the Grand Prix classes, as well. Mary’s long term goals include establishing herself as a professional promoting sales horses, molding young students of her own, and competing in some CSI 4* and CSI 5* Grand Prix events around the world.