Trainer/Instructor, Merilee Ventura
A licensed USEF “R” judge in Hunter & Hunt Seat Equitation and ‘r’ judge in Jumpers, Merilee has over 40 years’ professional experience training and coaching, and currently serves on the board of the NCJHA.
Merilee began riding competitively at the age of seven and started training other riders while she was still in high school. She established ByWay Farms in Medford, NY in 1974. It went from a four stall barn, and grew to over 30 horses and 100 riders. During that time she had numerous students qualify for Medal & Maclay Finals as well as qualified, shown and placed at:
• Harrisburg National
• Washington International
• The National Horse Show
• National Jr. Hunter Finals
• National Pony Hunter Finals
• NAL Finals
• Zone Finals
In 1996 Merilee moved to North Carolina for better weather and a longer show season, and felt it was more conducive for horses and riders. In 2001, The National Pony Medal Finals (286 riders) was won by Courtney Reese. She was the only North Carolina rider to win it, and Merilee is still the only North Carolina trainer to have won it. Merilee’s horses have been Zone Champions in First Year Greens, Second Year Greens, Amateur Owner, Adult Hunters, Children’s Hunters & Ponies. In addition, they have been awarded First, Second and Third at Jr. Hunter Finals as well as First, Second and Third at Madison Square Garden in Small Jr. Hunter.
Merilee recognized early on in her career that there was always more to learn and attributes much of her success to those trainers willing to share their knowledge with her through lessons, clinics and friendships including, Frank Chapot, Gordon Wright, Judy Richter, George Morris, Wayne Carol and many others. During the 1970’s Merilee was hand selected as one of the top six trainers on Long Island to be personally mentored by Captain Vladimir Littauer (the developer of hunt seat equitation in the United States). Today, much of her training style is still heavily influenced by his teaching. It is because of the generosity of these trainers that she has a passion for sharing her knowledge with others and as a result several of her students are wonderful professionals out there today.
Trainer/Instructor, Kara Wilcox
Kara is a trainer and lesson instructor, in addition to the coach for the MacNair’s and the Triangle IEA team, and NC State IHSA team. She is also the leader of the 4H Club. Kara started riding at MacNairs at the age of 5, and was eager to ride as much as her parents would allow. She took regular lessons and entered her first schooling show when she was 8 years old. She soon graduated to “C” shows and EHA Shows. Over the years Kara moved up through the divisions to show in Children’s at Annual and various “A” shows later in high school. In addition to riding, Kara continued her general education of horse care and management in the MacNair’s 4H club, spending time as the Vice President and President over the years. She continued her show career in college on the NC State IHSA team, where she was placed into intermediate for flat and fences, then moved up to open, where she won regionals and placed 5th at zones. She was captain of the NC State IHSA team for 2 years. Outside of the IHSA team, she spent time volunteering at the NC State Equine Educational Unit, where she enjoyed working with the young horses.
Trainer/Instructor, Mattie Johnson
Mattie’s career at MacNair’s started in 1993 as a beginner rider. Her desire to ride and learn more led her to become a working student, which included barn work and riding the horses being trained to fit into the Riding School programs. She also began assisting with group lessons and then completed the MacNair’s Instructor Course. Now, as an instructor at the Riding School, Mattie heads Saddle Up, Earn Your Stirrups and beginner groups. She specializes in Beginner/Elementary riders of all ages where her experience and empathy come into play. She gives her students a solid foundation as safe, secure horsemen.
In the words of one of her lessoners, “Mattie is a wonderful instructor and shows sincere interest and dedication. We adore Mattie.”
Trainer/Instructor, Laura Pendleton
Laura began her riding career at the age of 7 in the hunt seat tradition. Several years later, her family was transferred to Mississippi, where there were no English saddles in the area. Laura began competing in barrel racing and pole bending events on her Standardbred who had raced as a trotter and never cantered before she owned him. Overcoming these obstacles, Laura won classes over seasoned locals on prized Quaterhorses. Laura taught her mounts to jump, swim, race, rear on command, pull sleighs, and march calmly in parades. As an adult, Laura began riding at MacNairs in 1987 and developed an intense interest in dressage. She has won several NCDCTA year end awards from Training Level thorough Intermediare riding 6 different horses. She has placed in the USDF Region 1 Finals several years at different levels and has been awarded numerous high score awards at USEF and USDF recognized shows through the levels. Laura has acquired her bronze and silver medals with USDF and competed at Prix St. Georges with her previous horse, Vico.