by Crystal Brumme Kimball, publisher
She finally got her story on the front page of The
Washington Post. Below the fold, but it was still The Washington
For every news reporter, to have a story on the front page of The
Washington Post is to have achieved the Holy Grail. But the Holy
Grail is to have one’s byline appear above the story, not to be
Before she appeared on the front page, before she was a news reporter
for the Winchester Star in Virginia, Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh
was a part of our world. Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh was an outstanding
steeplechase photographer and a dynamite journalist– one of the
But Sarah was only part of our world, one professional foot in equine
publishing, the other professional foot in the “real” news
world, working for a variety of newspapers in the Washington, D.C. region.
In many ways, Sarah was too good for our world. She had that beat-reporter
discipline combined with Rottweiler-esque tenacity when there was a
story. She had the proverbial “nose for news;” she searched
for truth and had the indefatigability of a hound when running a line.
When she was on a story, and she thought there was a wrong involved,
boy, watch out! She would come out swinging, shooting from the hip!
Because she was so good, because she could be a crusader, and because
she was fearless, she was really too good for our world.
Equine publishing is rarely confrontational. It’s intimate and
clubby. Too often, “equestrian news” articles are really
press releases. “Equestrian journalism” is not about the
search for truth; it’s about massaging egos or public relations,
putting “the sport” (whichever sport that may be) in the
best light possible. Never look at the warts, just promote the positive.
As editors and publishers in the equestrian world, we don’t cut
our teeth on hard-hitting, groundbreaking journalism, working in a bullpen
of other reporters and layers of editors. Our staffs are lean and our
editors are often wearing many hats, selling ads while doing the bookkeeping
and managing production. Sarah deserved better than we could provide.
She deserved that rumpled curmudgeonly, chain-smoking old grump right
out of central casting, challenging every word, every fact, throwing
the piece back and making her redo it until he was satisfied that when
they went to press, they were on solid footing - because when that story
hit there would be to be hell to pay.
Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh grew up in Potomac. Her mother, Sara Lee Greenhalgh,
is a longtime active member of the Potomac Hunt Club. Her father was
Georgetown Law professor William (Bill) Greenhalgh. Sarah Lee and Bill
had two daughters: first Kate and then twelve years later Sarah.
Sarah was a graduate of the Oldfields School in Glencoe. After studying
fine art in Italy, she got her undergraduate degree at Lynchburg College,
and then did graduate-level work in Columbia University’s School
Over the years, Sarah worked for a variety of “real” media
outlets, including Gannett, Gazette and ARCOM (now Times Community Media),
publishers of the Fauquier Times-Democrat. The past year she
was employed fulltime by The Winchester Star.
But her heart was with the horses, and her work was published in The
Equiery, The Chronicle of the Horse, The Maryland Horse, the Mid-Atlantic
Thoroughbred, and Steeplechase Times. When The Washington
Post published her stories, they were usually her racing stories but
also articles on the Washington International Horse Show.
“Her articles were not just ‘written,’” reminisces
former Chronicle publisher and co-photographer Rob Banner,
“they were beautifully crafted. Her insight and sensitivity to
everything related to the sport was woven into every word. She was the
consummate journalist: probing, curious, a fiend for facts. She was
smart and gutsy. And her photography always caught the emotion and that
thrill of victory.”
Her photography was incredible – indelible. We can only find one
formal accolade (but it’s a big one, an honorable mention for
an Eclipse Award), but we know that almost every steeplechase person
has at least one framed photo taken by Sarah, and frequently it is his
or her favorite photo. Likewise, those who knew Sarah were probably
lucky enough to receive one of her homemade holiday cards, featuring
clever portraits of her beloved cats, or stunning images of the magnificent
great cats that she took while on African safari.
Something About Sarah
“It is always difficult to memorialize an individual who made
great contributions while avoiding the publicity of center stage. It
is particularly difficult when the person, by design or nature, shielded
these gifts in a complex and often difficult personality. We will remember
his battles, not always picked very carefully, but waged with tenacity
and purpose.” - written in memoriam by John R. Kramer, Wallace
J. Mlyniec and Greta C. Van Susteren about Sarah’s father, former
associate dean of of Georgetown University Law School; 1994.
Why are we including a quote about Sarah’s father? Because Sarah
most certainly was her father’s daughter, and the task of memorializing
Sarah is just as difficult for those of us who knew Sarah as it was
for those who knew her father. Nevertheless we make a living attempting
to capture in words and photos that essence of life, and so we will
try to capture Sarah’s spirit here.
Rob Banner, former publisher of The Chronicle of the Horse,
on shooting steeplechase races with Sarah: I knew her for nearly
25 years. She made every race, every point-to-point without fail. You
could count on her like a clock. Of course we met at all the local meets
in Virginia and Maryland, but I saw her everywhere, from Nashville to
Camden, Saratoga to Keeneland, Atlanta to Far Hills. When I pulled up,
she was already there. She did it all on her own dime, driving this
funky little red jeep which had “carpe diem” on
I walked with her countless times from the paddock to the last fence
and back again. It was always an education as she swaggered to the jump
recounting every fact, figure, name and number associated with every
horse and rider, including past performances in chronological order!
She loved everything about the sport, and she never tired of talking
Liz Beer, owner of Beresford Gallery, on growing up with Sarah in
Potomac and playing polo: One of the things she kept a lid on was
her skill as a rider and her love for polo. She
was our polo groom and part of our family. She really showed her spirit
and tenacity honing her grooming skills at the Muldoons, working amongst
the very South American male grooms in the 1980s. She was sassy and
competitive with the other professional grooms while winning the horses
over with kindness. She could and had to ride anything presented, and
she took great pride in the turnout of her ponies, something that would
always be part of her.
Sarah developed a great essence in those years, which provided the foundation
of her self-esteem that carried her into her career in journalism. She
was self-made and pulled herself up from a stuttering start in life.
She never knew how beautiful she was.
She was a dear friend of mine, but polo was a dear love of hers.
Laurel Scott, former editor of The Equiery, on knowing
Sarah: I first met Sarah 25 years ago while we were both working
at the Fauquier Democrat in Warrenton, VA. We became fast friends and
worked together frequently over the years, both on the racecourse and
in mainstream newsrooms around Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Sarah was one of the most fully engaged people I’ve ever met,
squeezing every drop out of life that she could. She was passionate
about her beliefs and fiercely loyal to her true friends. I was lucky
enough to be one of those friends; we shared both good times and bad.
She was a sparkling spirit who will be sorely missed.
Photographer Liz Callar: She was the smartest, toughest woman out
Margaret Worrall, whose book The My Lady’s Manor Races
1909-2009, features some of Sarah’s photography: Sarah
Greenhalgh was a special person and––more than anything––Sarah
was her own person. She was feisty and she was kind; she was talented
and she made mistakes, just like all of us. She was, however, Sarah,
and we loved her for just that and especially for that. I admired her
photographic work and Sarah was gracious enough to donate pictures for
use in my Manor Race book. We disagreed about some opinions she wrote
about the Maryland Hunt Cup, but we made peace and each of us learned
something and got to know each other better. The steeplechase world
is not only small, but it is even more-close knit. When the races come
around, especially in Maryland in the spring, we will look for Sarah
and mourn again the fact that she isn’t there.
Anita Sherman, managing editor of The Culpeper Times, first
got to know Sarah when they were both reporters for the Fauquier
Times-Democrat; this is excerpted with permission from Anita’s
“A Song for Sarah.”
Sarah was smart and gutsy. She swaggered with a sassy attitude. She
tackled stories with the tenacity of a bull wrestler at the same time
admiring the sheen of a designer scarf.
She was a consummate professional. She could be abrasive and downright
snarky but she also had a sparkling wit.
Sarah had great presence. You always knew when she was in the room.
She wasn’t one to sugar coat her comments. She was straightforward
and direct. When it came to reporting, she was focused and had great
She carried her camera gear like it was part of her daily wardrobe.
Her photos … made you feel that you were only feet away from [the
subject]. Sarah had a knack for capturing great beauty and spirit.
She was also known to camp out at dawn to snap the photo of a suspect
in a crime. Sarah was always in it to win it.
Life didn’t always deal her great sets of cards but she played
them as best she could. Sarah would never have gone easily into that
Above The Fold
On Monday, July 9, 2012, Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh was murdered. We don’t
know why and we don’t know by whom. The police and the FBI are
running down all sorts of leads and theories, from a date-gone-wrong
to any potential investigative journalism she might have been conducting.
It will be months before the final autopsy is complete, and it is expected
that the autopsy will yield more evidence.
We want someone arrested––and quickly. Now. But her father
would have most likely argued for methodically. As a renowned defender
of the 4th amendment, he would want to ensure that there were no inappropriate
or warrantless searches and seizures, that all evidence gathered could
be used in court, and no charges filed and no arrests made until there
was enough solid and admissible evidence to convict. He would want the
truth known, as would Sarah. We must wait for the authorities to do
their jobs, and we in the equine press must rely on our colleagues in
the mainstream media to stay on the story with the same bulldog determination
that Sarah would have.
Meanwhile, knowing Sarah, although her story finally made the front
page of The Washington Post (July 20, 2012), that still would
not have been good enough – and she would have been right.
Sarah’s story deserves to be above the fold.
|Carpe Diem - in Sarah’s Words
25 Things About Sarah
by Sarah Greenhalgh on Tuesday, June 16, 2009
1. When I was 16 months old, I swallowed an open safety pin and
had to have surgery to remove it, they took out my appendix at the
2. I almost lost my hearing as a child from too many earaches.
3. As a child I wanted be a herpetologist (reptiles and amphibians)
4. I worked at the National Zoo in the Reptile House as a teenager.
5. I traveled un-escorted to Africa when I was 13 to visit a British
6. When I was 14, I almost drowned at Ocean City, MD in a rip current.
7. I fell through a frozen pond when I was 15, but managed to get
out by myself.
8. I was the only girl on an all-boys soccer team in 7th/8th grade
and I started.
9. I have crossed the Atlantic many times on Ocean Liners (not cruise
ships) and the North Atlantic is NOT fun.
10. I adore roller coasters and consider them excellent therapy.
11. I love sharks and want to see them when I dive and snorkel.
12. My polo bandages always stay up and I can tie a great polo/mud
knot freehand, with no tape or rubber bands.
13, I am a pretty good polo player.
14. I can hit a golf ball very far, but not necessarily where it
needs to go.
15. I am a fearless skier and snow mobile pilot.
16. I have been in several serious airplane mishaps and it’s
amazing I still fly.
17. I love jury duty, though I never get picked.
18. I tend to date danger junkies.
19. I can trace just about every serious bad behavior or questionable
lapse in judgment to a full moon.
20. I have Urban Surfed on the top of a 1976 Custom Cruiser station
21. I once jumped a 3-foot high, 4-foot wide concrete water trough
on a horse bareback and at night without a helmet.
22. I would rather travel alone than with family, friends or boyfriends.
23. I once got in a fight with a German tourist in the Sistine Chapel.
24. I touched a wild lion and elephant through the thin lining of
25. As a journalist I have had to cover some amazing and tragic
events and many haunt me to this day.
Things I Want To Do Before I Take A Dirt Nap
by Sarah Greenhalgh on Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I have been very lucky in my life to have done so many of the things
most people have on their list, like seeing many of the great works
of art in person, riding in a supersonic jet and in a bi-plane,
hiking an active volcano, rafting in the Grand Canyon, seeing Carnival
in Venice, hiking pyramids in Mexico, falling deeply in love (helplessly
and unconditionally), eating some strange things and going on an
African Safari by vehicle (and walking).
But there are so many more things to do...