By Becky Adler Fagan
My mother, Judy, was born with a love of horses. She can’t understand where this came from since no one else in her family shared these feelings. She never had a horse as a child, but she used her imagination by building small barns for her toy horses (long before Breyer) and the stairway banister, with ropes attached as reins, became her imaginary horse.
On one summer vacation when she was 11 years old, my mom had the opportunity to get on a friend’s horse for the very first time.
The following year she was thrilled to begin riding lessons with the Watchung Junior Troop near her home in New Jersey. Her lessons continued for a few years and she competed in some shows at Watchung.
After graduating high school she attended Douglass College where she was able to ride for phys. ed. credits but riding soon took a back seat to marriage, work and starting a family. While finishing college, my mom married her high school sweetheart and they welcomed my brother, David, into the world six years later.
My mom and dad would occasionally ride at Claremont Stables in Manhattan, enjoying the Central Park trails but it wasn’t until they relocated to Germany while my Dad served in the Army that she was able to ride seriously at a German riding club. This is where her interest in dressage developed. After learning she would be having her second child (me) before returning to the States, riding took a back seat once again.
Upon returning home in 1971, my parents began the search for their first house. One day they were being shown a house in New Rochelle, NY and my mom saw horses going by in the woods behind the house. At that point, she thought to herself, “I don’t care what the house is like – there are horses nearby. We’ll take it!”
The house did end up being suitable and after getting settled in, my mom began her quest to bring horses back into her life. She found Flying Arrow Stables (now Twin Lakes Farm) only a few miles away.
Many opportunities were available to her there, including taking lessons with trainer Ed Hill and then teaching lessons. The purchase of her first horse, Ramada, led to dressage lessons and competitions with trainer Mike Miller.
Eventually, David and I began to ride. The first time my mom put me on a pony at age 2, I burst into tears. Mr. Hill told her not to worry and to just keep bringing me around the barn to watch the other kids ride. Well, that plan must have worked because when I was around 5 or 6 she tried again and it went much better. Mom started David and me with lunge line lessons and once we had the basics, she was ready to turn us over to the trainers at the barn. She figured she would never have the nerve to take us off the lunge line so she had to let go – literally and figuratively.
That was not the end of my mom’s involvement in my life with horses. In fact, it was just the beginning. David and I took lessons regularly and started showing in schooling shows at our barn. We even did summer camp where we rode every day and learned more about taking care of horses.
As we began progressing and competing more, Mom was very supportive and was always there for us. She decided to put her own showing aside to become the ultimate horse show mom.
David soon discovered his talent for playing the guitar and drifted away from horses as he followed his passion and future career path in the music world. I, on the other hand, was obsessed and continued through the levels with Mom always there by my side. Our mutual love of horses helped us develop a close relationship that still remains to this day.
When my parents purchased a small farm after my graduation from high school, we brought our horses home, including Ramada who lived to the ripe old age of 31. We started a small business with boarders, lessons and even a few sale horses over the years.
We enjoyed spending this time together, not only as mother and daughter but as business partners and friends.
As my professional riding career started to grow, I wasn’t able to spend as much time at the family farm but we still enjoyed our horses. When I was on the road showing horses for clients, my days would always end with a phone call to Mom to tell her about the day. She shared my triumphs and failures, the good days and the bad, and kept things running smoothly at home.
All these years later, she is a huge part of my journey with Grady. Of course, she was with me through the whole decision to bring him into our lives and for the seven years he lived at the family farm. But even now that we are boarding him, she stays involved in all decisions regarding his care and visits regularly. It was through Grady’s training that my interest in dressage developed, bringing everything full circle. The little girl who once dreamed of a horse of her own, then watched her little girl follow her dream. And she was content to let me shine.