Gamal Awad is married to Canadian Olympic eventer, Hawley Bennett(-Awad). A veteran of the US Marine Corps, Gamal has been working as a massage therapist since 2002 (an athlete’s dream). When Gamal first met Hawley, he had no clue what he was getting himself into. After seven years of marriage, he’s still figuring it out, but his years of experience, diverse background, sense of humor, and reflective personality have given him a lot to say about how to navigate life with a high-performance equestrian athlete.
GA: A mutual friend of ours (Brooke Rogers Ware, #evilgenius) came up with an evil plan for us to meet. Hawley had just finished her barn chores for the day and was perfumed as all ladies are from equestrian-related activities and I had returned from a tour in Iraq. Neither of us (found out after the fact) really felt like being social, but, after a sufficient quantity of threats, Brooke convinced us and so we met at a placed called the Iron Wok here in Temecula. Glad I did. Now our favorite joint was changed to the Tilted Kilt. We still go there to reminisce…and for the food…honest!
TH: There seem to be a lot of cross-border couples in the eventing world recently. What kinds of challenges and opportunities have arisen as a result of being married to a Canadian?
GA: Really there haven’t been any challenges. We made it work because we wanted to be around each other. The opportunities have been to see the competitions – and competitors – on a personal level. Since I wasn’t exposed to the equestrian world until after I met Hawley, I don’t have the “shock & awe” factor when I meet upper level riders. The only question I usually ask is “Where’s the party after?” I’m obliged by the secrecy act so…
TH: Barn life easily bleeds into home life. How do you manage your respective schedules and share household chores (cooking, cleaning, etc)?
GA: We make it work. I am at home most of the time, so I cover most of the domestic stuff (which I don’t mind. It satiates the meticulous Marine-side of me) with the exception of cooking (I am a good cook though). She likes to do that (and kicks me out if I started the meal) no matter how tired she is. I do the dishes though.
She never expects me to be at the barn to work. I think this is what helps keep the separation of “Church & State.” I know when she needs help though and will pitch in, but our relationship works well because we are husband and wife…not Eventer-barn boy…come to think of it…that may have its perks…this I must ponder…
TH: What do you think of horses?…really.
GA: They scare the living s#%! out of me. I’m not going to lie. It’s what she loves so I embrace it (I’d rather get shot at if I had a choice).
With anything I am afraid of, I expose myself to it to desensitize the fear. I did the same when I had a fear of heights by volunteering for The U.S. Army Airborne school. I saw a few people who were screaming and holding onto the door. One student broke his leg when he landed improperly. I just tried to embrace the fear on take it step-by-step.
I just don’t see how they can get on a horse, with a personality and brain of its own, and do what they do. She loves it, it drives her and makes her happy. I couldn’t see anyone telling me I couldn’t be a Marine so I support her fully.
I’m still gonna wear my steel toe boots though despite the myth about a horse crushing the steel and cutting off your toes. I think “Myth Busters” debunked that…
TH: What is the most important life lesson you have learned as a result of living and loving with horses?
GA: Never take anyone or anything for granted. Friends and horses come and go. You have to live in the now, prepare for the future, and know who your true friends are.
Eventing is the only sport that I’ve seen competitors advise each other on how to negotiate a course. It says a lot about the sport and especially the individual rider who does this.
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