Mother and Mentor
When Hawley Bennett-Awad stood on the podium in Kentucky last October, enjoying the glory of a World Championship silver medal with her team
By: Karen Robinson |
Her mother, Gerry Bennett, and coach, Pam Arthur, are inseparable from every one of Hawley’s achievements, including a long and fruitful career with her 2004 Olympic partner, Livingstone (Hank). “I wouldn’t be here without Hank, and the reason I had him was because of my mom and Pam,” says Hawley. “It’s why I have the ride on other horses, have my business and am married to an amazing person (Gamal Awad).”
Until the age of 16, Hawley had only one riding instructor at home in Langley, BC, and that was her mother. Although she had evented only once, Gerry had competed on show jumpers for many years and had plenty to teach her daughter when it came to riding and horsemanship. “My mom taught me everything I knew…until I got to that age when I decided I knew everything!” remembers Hawley.
At that point, Gerry realized her daughter wasn’t going to learn much more from her with that typical teenage attitude, so she sent Hawley for a riding lesson with Pam Arthur. Pam had taught Gerry, and the two had competed together in the ‘60s and ‘70s. “From the first lesson with Pam I kept my mouth shut,” says Hawley. “It was all “yes ma’am, no ma’am.” I respected Pam so much. It was a huge eye-opener, and it made me a better rider.”
Pam didn’t take any guff from her students, and she expected them to work. “You’d better do it right the first time, otherwise you were going to get yelled at,” says Hawley. “But I would rather get told what I was doing wrong. I wanted to get better. I always set goals for myself, even when I was young.” For every ounce of demand, Pam gave a pound of support. “She helped me get Hank. She was one of the rocks behind my horse and me.” Pam didn’t just encourage Hawley, she believed in her.
As Pam took over Hawley’s education, Gerry’s role shifted to that of being a knowledgeable and caring fan, continuing to set jumps for her at home and traveling to every competition. Hawley’s parents divorced when she was 16, a change that came with emotional and financial difficulties. Hawley worked at McDonald’s for five years to pay for her riding, but Gerry was always behind her. “My mom would do anything she could to help me. She even remortgaged the house.”
She remained a source of valuable input, giving praise and constructive criticism in equal measures. “At my first Rolex, I jumped around clean. My mom said to me, ‘I think you could have made the time’. Whether I have a good event or a bad event, she always finds something good to say, but even if I’ve won she can also tell me what I could have done better.” Gerry also has an excellent eye for a horse, and has found a number of youngsters that Hawley has purchased for resale or for her students.
Now a mentor herself, Hawley looks at the attitudes of her teenaged students from a new point of view. “I get after my students when they are bad with their parents – but I also know it’s just kids being kids. I see 17-year-old riders who think they have to go advanced. I didn’t go intermediate until I was twenty-one. Pam’s belief was always that you should get your basics down, so that when you do move up you’ll win and not kill yourself.”
Pam was recently inducted into the Canadian Eventing Hall of Fame for her countless contributions to the sport as a competitor, judge, coach, trainer, steward and course designer. Hawley considers her a mentor to this day. “I know I could call Pam about anything. She has this wealth of knowledge that comes from her depth of experience.”
Gerry no longer competes, but she still has horses and continues to find prospects for Hawley. On a recent visit to Hawley’s base in Temecula, CA, mother and daughter enjoyed a ride together. Hawley was on Five O’Clock Somewhere – a full brother to her WEG mount Gin N Juice – and Gerry rode Canadian Spy, a BC-bred Thoroughbred she bought as a three-year-old and later sold to Hawley’s client, Sue Church.
The relationship between Hawley and her two greatest influences is based on shared passion and a friendship that spans two generations. Hawley knows that without Gerry and Pam behind her, she would not be where she is today – and for that she is very grateful.