PM360 recently spoke to Cathryn E. Gunther, Vice President of Global Population Health, Merck, about being an equestrian.
PM360: How did you get started with horseback riding?
I rode horses as a child, and picked it up again as an adult about 15 years ago when I took my children to their horseback riding lessons. One day, I decided to join the lesson, which reacquainted me with the joys of riding. A year later I purchased a registered Morgan mare named Royalwood Heiress (Airey).
Why did you decide to go with a Morgan breed?
She was stunning and irresistible. A bay—meaning dark brown with a black mane and tail and black legs—she had a vibrancy to her that is classic Morgan. I have two horses now. I bred my mare to a world-champion stallion, so we now have her offspring, and my daughter and I are able to ride and compete together.
Do you ride competitively?
Yes, but not at a serious level. Really it is to enjoy our horses in different settings, challenge ourselves to perform well in the show ring, and laugh—a lot! Surprisingly, my gelding just started jumping and has some natural talent, so we’ll see where that goes. We ride hunt seat (English), and do a little dressage and driving. It’s about the pure enjoyment of being with and learning from these magnificent animals.
Why else do you enjoy riding so much?
When you are engaged so completely—physically and mentally—in an activity that you love, it’s a wonderful escape. It grounds you and provides a nice balance to your work life—in addition to your family. It’s also a good stress reliever. In fact, evidence suggests that horseback riding can help reduce blood pressure. I find that interesting, since it’s probably more than just the benefits of exercise. Being in the presence of horses can be very peaceful.
What would surprise people about riding a horse?
Riding is physically demanding. It is more than just sitting on top of a large animal that is doing all the moving. It requires strength, balance, and refined and nuanced ways of communicating with the horse so that you are working together as partners. I also run, which helps maintain cardiovascular fitness and the overall strength critical to maintaining a balanced and proper equestrian seat.
Do you have any other hobbies outside of horseback riding?
In addition to riding and running, I travel quite a bit with my family. I also enjoy cooking. Staying engaged and active in different ways contributes to a healthy lifestyle both at work and, importantly, with family. I ride horses while my husband plays golf. It’s a wonderful way to spend time outdoors, get some exercise, advance your skills, and enjoy life! Then we share our stories over a glass of wine. That makes for a lovely weekend.