William Woods University recently added another accomplished horseperson, Gary Mullen, to its already impressive equestrian staff. He takes over as equestrian studies division chair, returning to his original professional dream.
Mullen has been involved in the horse world from many different angles throughout his lifetime. He grew up in a family of hunter/jumper trainers, and has competed on many different horse breeds in almost every discipline.
As a young man, his original dream was to help direct an equestrian program such as the one at William Woods. He was first employed in a similar position at the University of Minnesota, and eventually went on to try his hand at other aspects of the horse world, all of which he succeeded at with equal vigor.
Professionally, Mullen has seen the equestrian life from countless angles, as an instructor, trainer and stable manager, and even as a certified therapeutic riding instructor with the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA).
Outside of the horse world he has been successful as well, as a full-time dean of men at a Bible College, a principal or vice principal in four private schools, founder of two private K-12 schools, and a teacher at the junior high and high school level.
He has won numerous awards as an equestrian, including three Southern California Arabian Horse Futurities and 39 International Andalusian Lusitanio Horse Association (IALHA) national championships or reserves. He was named 2000 Interscholastic Equestrian Federation western trainer of the year, and 2005 IALHA Professional Horseman of the Year.
Mullen traveled from Southern California to Fulton, Mo., to return to his original dream position of equestrian studies division chair.
“I came to the point in my horse training business where I wanted to go back to what I’d originally set out to do. My very first job was this same position at the University of Minnesota. I’m kind of coming back full circle to where I started, and that was my original dream,” said Mullen.
After all the places he has been, he brings an incredible amount of experience with him that will open up an entirely new side of the show world to the students at William Woods.
“All the practical industry experience, training horses, coaching riders, showing, managing stables…all of that really kept me current on what’s happening. A lot of the emphasis that I had there, is what we do here,” Mullen said.
Although he was interviewed for various positions at other colleges, he chose William Woods for very specific reasons.
“There are very few programs like this in the entire country. This was my number one choice. This was the position that I wanted based on the job description and what I had heard about the school,” said Mullen.
“I really wanted a management position, and I wanted it to be a strong program; I didn’t want to join a program that was weak. I knew people that really liked the school, but until I got on the internet and looked for myself at what was offered, the extent of the program and the different disciplines, I didn’t really realize how complete it was.”
Mullen said he had a “grueling” three-day interview before being accepted for the position. He met with many people over those three days.
“It was a long interview process and I appreciated it, because that told me that they were serious. I liked that. It told me that they wanted the right person,” he said.
Mullen says that he feels very welcome, and everyone has been very helpful getting him settled in.
“I find it a little overwhelming because it is such a complex program…Laura Ward and Jean Kraus (equestrian science faculty) have been an incredible help, so whenever I need something I go straight to them.”
Mullen has already set his goals. First on his agenda is working on refinement and clarity within the program.
“I really want to get things very organized and have a really good process for organization and communication. I want to work out the system so that it flows smoothly and so we prevent problems rather than having to deal with them,” Mullen said.
“Everybody is working so hard and is so ambitious and so dedicated and enthusiastic that we have to channel it all and make sure it’s all going in the same direction.”
He plans to look at every aspect of the program, from finances to procedures and accountability, to figure out how he can make everything more clearly defined.
“I’ve only been here two and a half weeks—I feel like I’ve been here a year already. That’s how much we’ve tried to cover in just the past few weeks,” said Mullen.
“I’m really proud to be here because I see the quality. I think people on the west coast and east coast need to know more about us. I think if more people knew they would be floored at the size, the enormity and the quality of this program, its instructors and horses for an equestrian science program. I can’t wait for my friends to see the school, and my trainer and breeder friends and youth riders to learn about it. It’s almost like a hidden treasure.”
CUTLINE: Gary Mullen, new chair of the equestrian studies division at William Woods University, with Angel, an American Saddlebred.