Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sad Day

Last evening a wonderful woman passed away. She was my first riding instructor and sort of a Grandmother figure for me. She was the most incredible mixture of grace and spitfire. When I met her on a spring day I was immediately enamored. She was like no one I had ever met. I was infatuated with her Boston accent, her tiny stature, and her eyes that twinkled like eyes only do in fairy tales. I came to her farm to learn to ride horses but I also learned to be brave and to do your own thing no matter what anyone else says. She opened her barn, her home, and her heart to me. We could not afford lessons, but she agreed to let me ride if I worked them off. I doubt she knew what she was getting herself into at the time. Probably thinking I was just another teenage girl who would clean a few stalls, ride a horse, decide it was too much work or that boys were more interesting and never come back. Instead I showed up with 4-H records (I was already showing my poultry) and got to work. It was slow, of course, at first because I didn't know HOW to do barn chores, but I caught on became more proactive, looking for projects to take on. Most of the time I was the only student. Sometimes her great-niece would come down from the Cities to ride or go to a horse show. That great-niece, Cari, and I hit it off immediately and are still good friends. Sometimes there would be other girls there, grand-daughters of friends, or distant relatives or Navy buddies, but most of the time it was just me. I soaked up everything she said like a sponge. I was fascinated by her stories of horses she knew, people she'd taught (including George Morris) while a student at "Margie Self's" school. That's Margaret Cabell Self of literary fame and founder of the New Canaan Mounted Troop. She told me about traveling around the country with her husband in the Navy, teaching lessons at the bases they lived on. I started riding Dino, then Lark, then Banee. Along the way I tried to work with some of the younger, less trained horses and she was happy to let me experiment but kept me out of too much danger. I was able to do a 4-H lease on her horses and take them to the county fair and the local show in June. They were just little local shows with dollar entry fees, but to me it was like showing at the Nationals. I treasured every ribbon, especially the hard fought ones. Cari and I would beg every year for lany to ride in the "Over-the-hill" class and kick butt. She would laugh and say "maybe next year." She generously gave me endless opportunities. I remember once (when I started to realize how expensive horse-keeping is) I said that I was sad I'd probably never have horses of my own. She looked at me and said, "Oh yes you will. Horses are a part of you. You'll have them." Of course, she was right. I'm sad that she was unable to share in my new horse ownership experience. She had been suffering from the effects of dementia for a few years. I think she would have liked Junior and I think he would have liked her. I can almost see her laughing because he would probably try to eat her hair.

My heart is heavy, but I am grateful for having been blessed with this woman in my life. I have many memories.

Thank you, Lany, for everything. Give Lark, Dino, Sonny, Red, Grey, and Ajax kisses from me.

This was in 1997 at my last 4-H horse show after winning the Senior Showmanship.


  1. What a touching post! It is so amazing that you were able to have such a great mentor. She sounds like not only a once-in-a-lifetime instructor, but a member of the family. I kind of had someone like that in my life as I was younger, she was my first instructor and our neighbor. I'm thinking of you as you grieve over the loss of this special lady! :(

  2. This is a beautiful tribute, Beck. It got me thinking about the "glory days", when she had enough of us riding at once to have her own little drill team.