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This Team Is Destined For Success

by Leeann Mione

Owner Margo Baird and trainer Robert Gardiner haven’t been a team for long at MBA Equestrians, but they are proving that they have created a partnership destined for success. After several impressive performances at shows this season, Baird and Gardiner teamed up to win the Amateur Fine Harness Grand Championship and championship with Cary’s Moonraker.

The story of the Baird-Gardiner partnership began last September while Gardiner was working at ASHAV Horse Show with his mother Margaret Gardiner for Longacre Stables. Baird was looking for a young, talented trainer and Gardiner had been recommended to her. She called him at the show and was intrigued. In October, Gardiner went to Hinsdale, Ill., for an interview and the following month Baird went to Longacre Stables in Chatham, Va., to see him in action at home. Each step in the process convinced her that Gardiner was the perfect choice to take the breeding and training facility to the top. “I interviewed a lot of trainers,” said Baird, “and I was looking for a young trainer that could help the customers we already had on board as well as attract new customers. I also wanted to expand our breeding operation so I needed someone who was interested in handling that aspect as well.” Baird was impressed with Gardiner’s maturity, ability to handle a horse and his knowledge. “All his references were very high on him. No one had a bad thing to say about him and he has proven them all to be right.”

Gardiner was equally impressed with Baird and her MBA Equestrians facility in Illinois. He was searching for a job where he could continue to learn his craft and stretch his wings and felt Baird was offering the perfect situation for him. “My outlook is that as a young person without connections it’s very difficult to succeed on your own and you can’t be successful without a lot of help. Margo already had that support system in place. I knew she would be able to help me succeed because I could spend my time actually training horses instead of having to worry about all the administrative duties,” said Gardiner. He added, “I knew this was an opportunity for both of us to do something great. Continuing to improve the quality of the stock and keeping the established breeding program in place was really important to us. Right now there are 10 broodmares at the farm and seven yearlings approaching two years old.”

That desire to keep and expand the breeding operation is what led them to Cary’s Moonraker. “I’ve always loved the mare,” said Gardiner. “I’ve always wanted her and I told Margo that I wanted to buy her. I got a video of the mare for her and we never actually saw her in person when we were making the decision. That’s actually a good thing because if we’d gone to look at her we would never have bought her. You cannot, no matter what you do, make the mare work at home the way she shows in the show ring. At home she looks like a country pleasure horse.” Baird added, “When he brought her home I said, ‘Robert are you sure? and he said, ‘trust me.’ Then we took her to Indianapolis Charity and I realized why he loved her so much. She was beautiful and he wanted her to be an integral part of the breeding operation.”

After Indy Charity they took Cary’s Moonraker to Midwest Charity and she and Baird continued to create a buzz and turn heads with their performances. From there it was on to Lexington Junior League, only their third show together, and they proved that Gardiner had been right about his faith in the mare and his belief that she and Margo would be an impressive combination in the amateur fine harness division.

Gardiner spoke of his successes at Lexington with Moonraker and the other horses in the show string by saying, “I think one of the things I do best is to be able to make a horse listen to me. I believe if you have a nice horse that’s game and you can make the horse listen to you the ‘show horse’ part will take care of itself.” Baird added, ”He’s done a great job so far being able to figure out which horses should go to which shows. The clients are having more fun and they’re happier. And he’s just really, really great with horses including those that are having problems and young horses.” Gardiner was quick to reply and give credit elsewhere. “I think that comes from my mom. She has a great way of approaching a horse and is incredibly patient. I learned a lot from her feminine perspective of working with horses.”

Both Baird and Gardiner have set their sights on the future. “Our clients are great and we want to keep them happy and add new clients. I’m also really excited about increasing our breeding program and the Foxfire’s Prophet, Heavenly Watch (by Skywatch) bloodlines of Cary’s Moonraker will be a big asset,” said Baird. Gardiner added, “The biggest thing I want to get accomplished is to get everyone on an equal show level so that all the customers can go to the same show and there will be a place for everyone. We really need to find the right horses and it will take some time, but I think it’s essential for the success of MBA Equestrians.” MBA customer Cathy Klasek, who owns the four-year-old Square Dance (Revival x Buck A Dance), had this to say about Gardiner. “Speaking as a client, Robert comes in every day as excited as we are. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious. He makes things so pleasant because he’s always happy.”

Future plans also include, of course, the World’s Championship Horse Show. The lineup of MBA horses includes Cary’s Moonraker in the amateur fine harness division, Crimson Blue in the junior three-gaited 15.2 and under division with Robert, and Tuff Hedeman in the open park stallion and gelding division. The Baird-owned group also includes the horses her daughters will show. Ashley Baird will drive Star Spangled Steel in the ASHAF Youth Fine Harness Driving Challenge National Championship, ride CF Final Night in the three-gaited pleasure 11 and under age group and drive her junior exhibitor roadster pony Bluegrass ‘76. Brittany Baird will show Beneficiary in the junior exhibitor three-gaited 12-13 division, ride Casey O’Grady in the five-gaited pleasure division and drive her pleasure pony In A Heartbeat. Gardiner will show Square Dance in the open park mares division for customer Cathy Klasek.

Mr. Fizz and Colleen Sweeney are poised to compete in the junior exhibitor five-gaited division for the fall show circuit and Melissa Schmitt will show this fall in the junior exhibitor country pleasure division with her horse Live For The Moment. New client Beata Flatley has purchased the two-year-old three-gaited prospect Unspoken and training will start this fall. Clients Carolyn Stuart and Jessica Melkerson are both looking for their first horse and customer Cathy Klasek owns broodmare The Dice Capades by Harlem’s Hot Dice and out of an Oman’s Desdemona Denmark mare. The Dice Capades is in foal to CF First Night Out and due in March. Toni Nastoli owns the broodmare Gettin’ Fancy in foal to Supreme Heir and co-owns the broodmare Skytelle with Baird. Skytelle is in foal to Belle Reve’s Renaissance Man.

It’s a busy, happy time with much to look forward to for the team of Margo Baird and Robert Gardiner. A team that’s destined for success.

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