By Lucille Frasca Harrigan (first published in the September 2018 print edition)
I never realized how important horses were in my life until I worked on a memoir of my family for my grandkids. I searched my memory for my earliest recollections of my hometown, Pocantico Hills, NY. They were not of my mother or father, but of Joe Plick, the riding master at the Rockefeller estate where many of my family worked. I remember the smell of the impeccably kempt stable, the clip-clop of the hooves in the yellow brick aisle and the thrill of a five-year-old kid being put aboard a huge gleaming black horse.
I had to wait until I was in college to learn to ride. Barnard had riding in Central Park as one of the options for physical education. I soon learned that missing a regular lesson would mean a ride with a stable boy, one of the exercise boys from Belmont. Out of the sight of the stable, we would haul up stirrups and illegally gallop, sometimes chased by the Park Police. I would arrive in Grand Central Station, muddy but happy, for the commute home to New Rochelle.
After college, I went through an era of riding wherever and whatever I could. My neighbor and I went out every Thursday, whatever the weather. We rode with Jane Dillon and with a friend who had a field of horses and a station wagon full of tack. There was a riding club at Callithea Farm and adventurous expeditions to White’s Ferry or Benoni Allnutt’s farm.
Finally, when I was 63 years old I bought Armete, one of Suzanne Quarles’ Hanoverian broodmares who had never been ridden. Fortunately, Armete decided that I was a foal who needed protection. She gave everyone else fits, but took care of me. We had 10 glorious years at Good News Stable where trainer Caroline Jordan took time from training high level dressage competitors to deal with the geriatric set.
I moved to Frederick to be near my husband, who died after a long bout with Alzheimer’s. After four years out of the saddle, at age 79, the staff and volunteers at Great and Small helped me regain my posting muscles. I had a freak accident on a very large mare, and as I spun toward the ground, I decided that next time I didn’t want to fall as far. Caroline Jordan put out the word and my new pony Emma arrived, obviously over 30, 14 hh, the perfect size and temperment. Whatever my physical challenges, nothing hurts when I am on Emma, After eight years riding three or four days a week, Caroline gave me confidence to enter the Good News Schooling show and Lee Ayres and the staff did the paperwork for the Dressage Foundation Century Club.
Emma, with her perfect work ethic, took the blue in her class. The two of us may be coming toward the end of our wonderful days together. We will keep on as long as we can, happy with each other and eternally grateful to all those who have helped us, particularly Caroline Jordan and the riders and staff at Good News.