California Riding Magazine • January, 2010

Hawley Bennett Eventing
Canadian Olympian is a key player in
and beyond the
Southern California eventing scene.

Hawley Bennett-Awad’s realization that “it could be warm in the winter time” has been a boon for the West Coast eventing scene. Since the Canadian native arrived in Southern California in 2002 and started her own business in 2004, Bennett has established herself as a top competitor and trainer, not just on the West Coast, but in North America. Her role on the 2004 Canadian Olympic team highlights a resume that also includes four Rolex CCI****, a Pan Am Games, World Cup Final in Sweden, the rigorous Badminton CCI **** and multiple trips around the Fairhill CCI***. Bennett’s competitive accomplishments are only rivaled by the success of her students, who are meeting individual goals at every level of the sport.

Bennett credits much of her professional ascent to good luck, hard work and sacrifices. She is clearly one of those people who makes her own luck. Energetic and positive in all aspects of her approach toward horses and people, she has earned the respect and friendship of many of the eventing world’s top professionals, most supportive amateurs and loyal clients. 

Photo: Shannon Brinkman

Bennett’s “winter can be warm” epiphany happened in Florida, where she and fellow Canadian Rebecca Howard ventured one winter to check out the East Coast. Bennett went as a working student for Stuart Black, but when her star horse, Livingstone, got kicked, fractured his leg and needed rehab time, she went to work as Buck Davidson’s groom. It was a great experience that began an influential and ongoing friendship. This month and in February and March, Davidson returns to Kingsway Farm in Temecula, where Bennett is based, for the sixth consecutive year of super successful clinics.

After Florida, Bennett went back to Canada briefly, then to the Trojan Horse Trials to Arizona, where she met MVP baseball player Troy Glaus and his wife, amateur eventer Anne. Bennett trained privately for the Glauses in California for two years, then started her own business at Terry and Linda Paine’s Kingsway Farm. In a pattern seen throughout her career, Bennett counts the Glauses and the Paines among her close friends and ongoing supporters. Kingsway Farm, conveniently situated across the street from the Southern California Equestrian Center (formerly known as Galway Downs), now bustles with the activity of Bennett’s successful training program.

Back to Basics

She was first instructed by her mother, Gerry Bennett, then Canadian show jumping/eventing trainer Pam Arthur, who was recently inducted into the Canadian Eventing Hall of Fame. She became an eventing devotee through the Langley and Grove Pony Club. Bennett learned to ride and care for horses the old-fashioned way. “I believe in and teach the basics because they were instilled in me since day one,” she reflects. “I did not canter until I could sit the trot. I did not jump until I could ride the canter properly. I didn’t move up to the next level until I was competitive at the present level.” Bennett’s basics encompass the general concepts of showing respect for all aspects of the sport: the horse, the equipment, teachers and fellow students.

At the core of these basics is proper horse management. Livingstone, a.k.a. “Hank,” is the best-known benefactor of that aspect of Bennett’s horsemanship upbringing. Her partner at the Advanced Level for 10 straight years, Hank is still going strong at 20. He recently carried Bennett’s former assistant Allie Slusher over her first Advanced Level course, at the Woodside Horse Trials this last summer, even though Slusher had never even ridden him cross-country. 

Citing basic maintenance, like icing and wrapping his legs after each jump and gallop, and being judicious about how and when she rode hard for the win, Bennett is proud of Hank’s longevity. “Honestly, he feels as good today as he did at 8.” Which is as it should be given that, “Everything I have, sponsors, Three and Four Star experiences, clients, business, horses, is because of him,” she asserts. “Hank is my one in a million.”

Going For Goals

As a trainer, Bennett places a premium on goal setting. “It may be a student that wants to become the Novice level champion or to qualify for the Pan Am Games,” she relays. “I would rather have fewer students, but they have clear goals, than a lot of students who are wishy-washy about what they want to accomplish. I like the challenge.”

She currently has 16 horses in training at Kingsway Farm. In addition to students based there, Bennett teaches many riders who haul in for lessons and/or meet up with her at competitions. She welcomes both more students and more horses to campaign. Her idol in this regard is Buck Davidson. “He had nothing when he left his father’s (two-time World Champion and multiple Olympian Bruce Davidson) place, and now he rides 30 horses! I respect him so much for what he’s accomplished and he has helped me tremendously.”

The World Equestrian Games, to be held this fall in Kentucky, is the big goal in Bennett’s sights. If all goes well, her partner will be Gin & Juice, the Paines’ 10-year-old Thoroughbred mare. With Bennett in the irons, the mare won her first Three Star competition this past summer, the Bromont CCI, in Canada. That huge win qualified the pair for Rolex this spring, an essential component in qualifying for the Canadian WEG team.

Photo: Shannon Brinkman

Managing both her own riding goals and those of her students, Bennett relies on the excellent help of assistant Natalia Gurmankin. An eventer who competes her own two horses, Gurmankin is the type of whom, “you ask her to do something and you can consider it done, along with some other things you didn’t think to ask.” The Utah native succeeds Allie Slusher, who had been Bennett’s assistant and remains another close friend and fellow competitor.

Bennett is proud to carry the West Coast eventing flag on the national and international stage. She credits the region’s show managers and course designers as instrumental in enabling her and her contemporaries to be so competitive. “There’s always been an unspoken competition between East and West Coast riders,” she observes. “The East is really competitive and has always had a ton of horses at the upper levels. We are finally getting the numbers up out here and I think any of our top horse/rider pairs can go out and be really competitive anywhere.”

Robert Kellerhouse is “the epitome of unbelievable,” Bennett says of the Galway Downs events organizer. The Baxter family at Twin Rivers, Carolyn Hoffos at Copper Meadows and Margie Malloy at Three Day Ranch have also played big parts in the success of our area’s riders, Bennett adds.

For more information on any aspect of the Hawley Bennett Eventing program or to inquire about upcoming Buck Davidson clinics (which feature free auditing), call Hawley Bennett at 951-852-8556 or visit