Team #345: Lucille Harrigan and Emma
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 and they were not of my mother or father but of Joe Plick, the riding master at the John D. Rockefeller estate where my family worked and lived. Even being only five, I remember the smell of the impeccably kept stable, the clop of the hooves in the yellow brick aisle and the thrill of being put aboard a huge gleaming black horse.
I had to wait until I was in College to learn to ride. Barnard College 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 - an exercise boy from Belmont Race Track. Out of the sight of the stable, we would haul up the stirrups and illegally gallop, sometimes chased by Park Police. I would arrive in Grand Central Station for the commute home to New Rochelle: muddy but happy.
After college I went through an era of riding wherever and whatever I could. I rode with Jane Dillon and another friend who had a field of horses and a station wagon full of tack. There was a riding club at Callithea Farm and many adventurous expeditions to White’s Ferry or Benoni Allnutt’s farm.
Finally, when I was 63 years old, I bought Armete, one of Susan Quarles’ Hanoverian broodmares who had never been ridden. She gave everyone else fits, but fortunately Armete decided that I was a foal who needed protection and always took care of me. Every day I would ask, “Where do you want to go today Armete, and how fast?” 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.
After caring for my husband, who died after a long bout with Alzheimer's, I had been out of the saddle for four years. At age 79, I returned to Great and Small where the staff and volunteers 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 began looking for a more size-appropriate mount and pony Emma arrived at Good News. Obviously over 30 years of age, she was 14 hands and had the perfect temperament. Whatever my physical ailments, nothing hurts when I am on Emma. After eight years of riding four days a week, Caroline gave me confidence to enter the Good News Schooling show. Emma, with her perfect work ethic, took a blue in her class.
The two of us, maybe coming toward the end of our wonderful days together, always have a glorious time. We will keep on as long as we can, happy with each other and eternally grateful to all those who help us: housemate Sheila O’Donnell who puts my half chaps on, Caroline Jordan who keeps Emma in top shape and always gives me a ‘real’ lesson, and the riders and staff at Good News who allow me to fulfill my passion.