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Assistant Trainer Spotlight: Marly McElwee of Gil Galyean Quarter Horses

Assistant trainer Marly McElwee currently lives in Purcell, Oklahoma and works under the guidance of legendary western pleasure trainer Gil Galyean. Galyean has been known as a great teacher and mentor to many young trainers in the industry.

Originally from Flower Mound, Texas, Marly graduated high school online and participated in one semester of college before deciding that she’d rather spend that time riding horses. “I’ve been riding horses since I can remember,” she said. “My mom worked as an assistant horse trainer when she was younger, so I was lucky enough to grow up around horses.”

“I grew up showing local open shows. When I was a little older, we rescued a sweet Appaloosa mare. From there, I started taking her to Appaloosa breed shows. At 16, I started working for David James of Purcell Oklahoma, where I started showing Palominos as well,” McElwee told us.

“Every day at the ranch is different, but my daily responsibilities include feeding, saddling, longing, and riding. I’m usually the one who takes responsibility for making sure all the horses get out and worked and put away properly,” Marly explains. “I also have a group of horses I’m responsible for riding every day.”

We sat down with Marly to find out more about her background, life as an assistant trainer and future goals.

GHS: Hi Marly, Thanks for sitting down with us. Can you tell us what you like about working with horses?
Marly: My favorite aspect of working with horses is seeing the progress and growth as you work with them. It’s an amazing feeling to take a horse that knows nothing and see them through to the show pen. I haven’t worked in the Quarter Horse industry for long. Working for Gil is the first job I’ve had training Quarter Horses.

GHS: What are some of your favorite accomplishments?
Marly: I’ve had smaller victories along the way. I’m a 3-time Palomino Youth World Champion. In addition, I won the Novice Youth Western Pleasure unanimously on a 2-year old I trained. While these may be considered small accomplishments to others, they helped me develop the skills necessary to work for someone like Gil. 

GHS: Why were you drawn to showing Palominos?
I wouldn’t say that I was drawn to Palominos specifically, but that I was drawn to horses and the Western Pleasure discipline. I have always seized every opportunity presented to me to ride and show horses. Palominos just happened to be the opportunity I had at the time.

GHS: What advice would you give others wanting to be a horse trainer?
Marly: The advice I’d give to other young trainers is the same advice I give to myself every day. I only recently turned 21, so I’m still just an optimistic young trainer with big dreams. Every day I encourage myself to keep going. Some days those big dreams seem impossible, but as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other, there’s nothing you can’t reach. No matter who you are or what level you are currently showing. You may not realize it, but people will recognize you for your hard work. 

GHS: How did you start working for Gil?
Marley: I started working for Gil after I saw a Facebook post stating that they were hiring. I definitely did not think I was qualified enough to work for Gil and Becky Galyean, but I took a chance and called them. I was lucky enough to be hired after spending a couple of days at the ranch. Gil and Becky Galyean are some of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I love how many opportunities they give their employees. I’ve definitely learned to work hard, to the extent that I’ve never had to before. I couldn’t even begin to name everything I’ve learned and continue to learn about training a horse. I feel like I’m a different rider now than when I started working for them.

GHS: Who are some of your biggest mentors?
Marly: I’ve been lucky enough to be guided by some great people. My mom taught me to ride, but when I got a little older, I had some help from Doug Baucom, who helped me a lot early on as a youth, and David James in Lexington, Oklahoma, where I spent three years working. And now, of course, my biggest mentors are Gil and Becky Galyean.

GHS: What would you like to see improved in the horse industry?
Marly: One thing I’d like to see improved in the industry is more inclusiveness. No matter what discipline you show, what level, or how much money you spend on your horse, everyone deserves to have fun riding without feeling inferior.

GHS: Thanks, Marly and best of luck on your future endeavors.