While some get their blue eyes from their mother or freckles from their father, Lauren McCarthy inherited something she likes to call a “horse gene.”
McCarthy, who goes by Laurie, is a Binghamton University adjunct professor at South Wind Stable through the Outdoor Pursuits program. Both her mother and grandmother were riders, so when she jumped on the saddle for her first lesson at 9 years old, it felt natural.
Born and raised in Binghamton, Laurie was 12 years old when she joined the local pony club where she participated in horse shows.
“It was a three-day event,” she said. “You have to do a cross country ride and a stadium jumping round. Some of the jumps on these courses were pretty scary; that was a whole stage in my life.”
She borrowed a horse from her stable for the shows, but through the support of her family, was also able to own several horses of her own.
“We had a little pony named Skipper,” she said. “My brother and I would play Lassie with him.”
After Skipper came Lancer, Missy Lola, Arista, Spenser and Faxx, each one with its own story and charm. Faxx, for example, is Laurie’s nickname for a huge black horse originally named Karbon Kopy. When she eventually needed to find a new home for him, he landed on a farm that did Olympic vaulting.
“They jump on the horse’s back, then they hop off,” she said. “He was so big that you could land a helicopter on his butt.”
Laurie doesn’t currently own a horse, but alternates between different ones at the stable.
“It’s just such an escape from stress to be around [the horses] when you can relax and enjoy them,” she explained.
She savors that relaxation now, as it wasn’t always so convenient for her. A graduate of Syracuse University with a degree in advertising design and illustration, she spent time in corporate America.
“When I got out of college, horses were always my hobby, but I started doing art direction at a couple local ad agencies,” she said. “Then I shifted more toward marketing.”
Laurie worked in marketing and communications, moving between New York, Texas and Connecticut. During those career shifts it was hard to keep riding a part of her life. In Connecticut, high living costs prevented her from riding for five years.
“It was agonizing because I drove by this gorgeous horse farm every day on the way to work,” she said.
She finally felt at home again when she moved back to Binghamton in 2009 and became a part of the horsemanship classes through Binghamton University. Teaching is something Laurie admits she truly loves.
According to Syd Davis, a friend and another instructor with the BU horsemanship program, Laurie took the program and ran with it.
“She got it to the way it needed to be for the University,” Syd said. “Laurie did a great deal to set the program up the way you see it today.”
Laurie even put her graphic design skills to work to make a pamphlet informing students about the progran run under Roni McAbee, owner of South Wind Stable, who started riding classes at BU years ago.
Laurie’s artistic talents haven’t only made an appearance through the horsemanship program. A painter and a sculptor all her life, she is also the owner of a brand new jewelry business. She became interested in this avenue back in 2006 when she was still in Connecticut, but it was more of just a hobby. She now sells her creations and has a website at www.ltmcartjewelry.com.
“My jewelry is more sculptural,” she said. “It’s art jewelry. I work with metal clay and wire. It’s different.”
She also uses her talent for charity through her work on the board of directors of the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier. Her cousin committed suicide 15 years ago on Laurie’s birthday, so this is an association she holds dear to her heart.
Mental Health America created a 300-pound bell made of melted shackles and chains from different asylums across the nation in the early 1950s. Laurie turned the symbol into a charm for necklaces and bracelets, and travels to state conferences to sell the jewelry fundraising for the association.
“We sold about $1,000 worth of stuff at a show in Albany last week,” she said.
And like her jewelry shines, Laurie is known for her sparkling personality.
“She is the most energetic person I know,” said Annette Bakic, a friend of Laurie’s. “She’s like a sister to me.”
Annette and Laurie initially bonded over their love for horses, and their friendship has lasted for more than 20 years. Annette owns three horses at South Wind Stable now.
“She’s a wonderful friend,” Annette said. “I really respect and love her as a person.”
Syd calls this horse aficionado a ball of fire.
“She’s very bright, hard-working and loves horses to death,” Syd said. “She’s a very enthusiastic instructor; I can barely keep up.”