Ingrid Prawitt Gentry
our other Lady Legends, Ingrid Gentry did not grow up in Maryland.
Ingrid Prawitt was born in the 1930s on a working farm in East Prussia,
and her earliest memories are of horses…all she cared about was
horses. When she was four years old, her mother promised her a sister,
but Ingrid told her she would prefer a foal. She got the sister anyway.
Of course, at that time, all the farm work was done by horses. Ingrid
longed to help rake the hay, but she was too small and could not reach
the rake’s foot pedal. Like many children in Europe at the time,
she had the German author Karl May’s illustrated books about the
American “Wild West” and Ingrid longed to ride “like
the Indians,” bareback on spotted, bridleless horses…but
it remained a dream without the critical component: the spotted pony.
Still she dreamed, and when the workhorses were being ridden through
the village to their pasture, she would ride them too, with their hooves
clattering on the cobblestones music to her little girl ears, and more
so at the trot, and especially at the canter! Despite the complaints
of the villagers about the noise, still Ingrid would clatter through
the village because it was “her music!”
East Prussia was part of Germany, but as it was further east than the
main part of Germany, East Prussia became part of the front of World
War II. The war destroyed Ingrid’s bucolic childhood, like it
destroyed everything else in Eastern Europe. Eventually, the Red Army
(Russia) invaded, forcing the largest exodus of a group of people in
human history (according to Antony Beevor’s Berlin: The Downfall
1945, which records the reduction of the German population in East Prussia
from 2.2 million in 1940 to 193,000 at the end of 1945). It would be
several years before Ingrid and her family joined that exodus, as they
were trapped and held inside East Prussia by the Russians, unaware that
the war was officially over. Eventually, family members escaped and
made their way to a pre-agreed-upon reunion location in West Germany.
The painful rebuilding of their lives began.
The war stole so many things from so many people, not the least of which
was the opportunity for an education. Now in the German state of Hessen,
Ingrid worked on cobbling together a belated education and finding work,
fantasies of riding spotted, bridleless ponies like an Indian far from
her mind, with most of Europe’s horses lost to the war.
And then one day, she heard that music, the clatter-clop of hooves on
cobblestones…a horse! “Where did you get that HORSE?!”
Ingrid demanded of the rider, whom she knew. To her delight, the young
man offered her his horse for the afternoon while he took care of some
errands. And so in her dirndl dress, she climbed up on the horse and
Shortly thereafter, Ingrid was invited by a group of like-minded equine
enthusiasts to join a new riding club (Reitervereine) to help revive
and support equestrian sport in Germany. She accepted the offer. Of
course, her father was not happy about her decision, and he made it
clear he would not support her involvement, so Ingrid took whatever
extra work she could find after school in order to pay her new club
dues. The club members scrounged up horses to borrow wherever they could,
but it was particularly difficult for Ingrid to find a horse to borrow,
as she was a girl and no one would lend a girl a horse. Finally, the
owner of a furniture store loaned her his hauling horse.
Eventually, Germany reorganized itself, and with it, its riding clubs
and schools were reorganized. In the 1950s, Ingrid moved to the city
of Kassel. There she had the opportunity to receive lessons and to ride,
riding–not workhorses. She competed at A & L Level and received
the German silver medal.
In the late 1950s, standing in a barn aisle, Ingrid met her future husband,
a Texas soldier named Edwin Gentry, and married him in 1962 with a four-in-hand
providing the “music” to the church. Ingrid first came to
the United States in 1963, when her husband was stationed at Fort Meade
from 1963-1966. When he left for Vietnam in 1967, she moved in with
the Rogers family in Leesburg, learned about Thoroughbred racehorses,
helped out with Pony Club and became a U.S. citizen.
Then it was back to Germany for another four years, during which time
Ingrid immersed herself in preparation for becoming a Reitwart (certified
riding instructor) in 1968. She received permission from the national
federation to take the amateur riding certification examination for
the level just below the professional rider in 1969, got her license
to teach in Bavaria (Uebungsleiter), earned her certification to be
a judge, and also received the bronze medal in driving.
Ingrid committed herself to every opportunity to enrich her knowledge,
like training horses and giving riding lessons. She spent almost a year
substituting for the head of a large riding stable with approximately
50 horses; it was very demanding work, starting at 6:30 a.m. and ending
at 10 p.m. seven days a week, and the only riding opportunities for
the instructors were the green horses or the horses that needed “fixing”
after having been ridden by club members. From there she moved to the
Schwabach Riding Club, with only seven school horses and 12 private
horses, and it was “like heaven!” She spent nine weeks at
The Reitinstitut Egon von Neindorff in Karlsruhe, which was her only
opportunity to ride upper-level horses.
In 1971, she and Ed relocated permanently back to Maryland. They first
lived in Laurel, with Ingrid driving down to Chevy Chase to ride at
Meadowbook and to the Potomac Horse Center to ride with Betty Howett.
She quickly learned that the hunter ring was vastly different from anything
she had known in Germany, and she was promptly told that she needed
to learn how to ride.
However, not too long after she arrived, Ingrid had the good fortune
to meet “Col. Ed” (Clarence Edmonds), one of the founders
of the Potomac Valley Dressage Association (and one of the founders
of dressage in the United States). Soon, Ingrid had found her way into
Maryland’s nascent dressage community.
At the age of 39, Ingrid purchased her first horse, a little grey Thoroughbred
mare named Impatiens. Around this time, Ingrid also stumbled into a
fascinating new sport called foxhunting: “Chasing the live fox
was illegal in Germany!” explained Ingrid. In the 1970s, the horse
world was not as segmented as it is today, in which most dressage riders
would never dream of foxhunting. Ingrid’s German riding education
including not just dressage but jumping and driving…and she still
had the spirit inside her of “riding like an Indian!” Ingrid
soon became a passionate member of the Iron Bridge Hounds and continued
on as a member of the merged Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds.
Ingrid also managed, eventually, to get a version of a “spotted
pony” (of sorts): an Art Deco baby.
Despite her silver medal and various German certifications (including
those for judging), Ingrid had to start at the beginning in the United
States, with the Learner Judge’s Program, finally earning her
large R in 1981.
These days, at the age of 77, it is just Ingrid, her retired horse Papillon,
and her dog Picasso on her tidy five-acre farm in Dayton, Ed having
passed away in the early 1990s. She still teaches some and judges. Being
“old school,” she doesn’t market herself on the internet;
she doesn’t have a website; she doesn’t blog or Facebook,
and she doesn’t name-drop. But what she has, and what she offers,
is a solid foundation in classical dressage…for anyone who cares
to unplug, silence the cell phone, turn off the hand-held, and just
listen…ride and listen…listen to the music!
Brenda Bower Herzog
Brenda “Good To Go” Herzog
To anyone who knows Brenda Bower Herzog, she is a legendary
lady…but not for reasons we would ever choose.
Brenda Bower was in her early 20s when she leased a bit of land up in
Baltimore County on which to start her horse business. It was 1990 when
she opened the doors to “Good To Go,” the same year that
The Equiery was launched, and Good To Go Farm was an early client of
Up to that point, Brenda’s story had been that of your typical
horse-crazy local girl. Much to her father’s dismay, she eschewed
college, instead enrolling in and graduating from the now-defunct Morven
Park International Equestrian Institute in Leesburg, Virginia. She had
worked for Olympic rider Karen Lende O’Connor and at the Foxcroft
School in Middleburg. She returned to the Baltimore area, leased her
farm, and helped to make ends meet by working as a vet technician and
galloping race horses for steeplechase trainers Bruce and Charlie Fenwick
and Jennifer Small.
So far, Brenda’s life was that of an ordinary horse-crazy girl…until
January 8, 1991. The day started like any other. She showed up at Sagamore
Farm to gallop some horses for trainer John Pizzurro. “Little
did I know the horses hadn’t been out of their stalls for days,”
explained Brenda. Sagamore is famed for Alfred G. Vanderbilt’s
clever galloping track inside the barns, circling the stalls. All an
exercise rider had to do was to tack up in the stall, step out of the
stall and they were on the track. But instead of stepping out of the
stall, the now pent-up and fractious young horse bolted out of the stall,
slamming into the wall and leaving Brenda in a crumpled heap.
“I tried, but I couldn’t sit up,” Brenda said. She
had a punctured lung, five broken ribs, a fractured collarbone and a
thoracic (T4-T5) spinal injury, which left her paralyzed at the chest
She was flown by helicopter to the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore,
where she remained for a month, and then was moved to the Craigh Institute
in Colorado to begin her rehabilitation.
“Right from the start, they didn’t cut you any slack,”
Brenda recalled. “When I first got there, I wanted a glass of
water. The nurse told me, ‘Get up and get it yourself.’
I did manage to get over to the sink, but then I threw up and barely
made it back to bed.”
After three months of strenuous physical and occupational therapy, Brenda
returned to Maryland. She drove with Sybil Dukehart and “Driving
for the Disabled.” She also taught disabled riders at the Carroll
County Agricultural Center.
Neighbors and friends rallied around her and a year after her accident,
bought Brenda a fully-equipped handicapped-drivable van. “The
first time I drove to the grocery store, I was nervous and scared,”
“I parked in the lot, pushed my buttons and thought, ‘Well,
everybody is going to stare at the crip and think oh, that poor girl.’
The fact is, no one stared at all. That’s when I realized this
doesn’t have to be that hard.”
“I’ve learned that people are really good,” Brenda
explained. “They are easygoing about this situation. They offer
to help, but don’t overdo it.”
Ever the horse person, Brenda just kicked on, figuring out a way to
continue to run her stables, mucking stalls and feeding out of her wheelchair.
Like many barns, this one had an apartment attached, but unlike many
barns, this apartment was on ground level, enabling Brenda to continue
living on the farm while running the operation from her wheelchair.
She married her long-time boyfriend, Mike Herzog, in 1996, and had the
first of her two daughters the following year. What was the most challenging
thing about having a baby in a wheelchair? “She kept getting away
from me!” laughs Brenda. “I had to use a harness and a leash
on Maggie, or she would just disappear!” Apparently, daughter
number two, Heidi (now 9), went a little easier on mom.
However, daughter number one’s courage and drive has not died,
as Maggie Herzog has been a regular on the Maryland Steeplechase Association’s
junior racing circuit since the small ponies, earning a foxchasing scholarship
in 2006, Medium Pony Rider and Junior Horse Rider of the Year in 2009,
and Junior Horse Rider of the Year in 2010. This year she is riding
out on Irv Naylor’s homebred “Sweet Buns.”*
In the early double-aughts, Brenda and Mike purchased some land in Upperco
and began building their own facility, custom designed for Brenda’s
needs. “I can now wheel all around the barn, get to the hay and
back to the stalls.” The house is likewise fitted to accommodate
Brenda, and the family of four moved into their new home in March of
2002. A Ford F350 with a rotating and vertically descending/elevating
driver’s seat and a wheelchair lift in the bed means Brenda can
travel independently, something she values.
Brenda still teaches, and her roster has grown to about 15 students.
They keep about 12 horses on the 14+ acre farm, most of them client
horses. Brenda no longer mucks or feeds; hired help now mucks and the
girls handle the feeding and turning in and out before and after school.
Mike has retired from his job as a heavy equipment operator for Baltimore
County Department of Roads and Highways and now works for the Baltimore
Despite the promise of stem cell research and a cure being just around
the corner, Brenda’s prognosis remains the same. But her overall
health is good. She still rides her special execise bike twice a week,
which keeps her muscles toned and her heart rate up. Like everyone else
in her situation, she is prone to infections and is experiencing more
rapid bone density loss than the average person.
It has been 20 years, but the administrative battles never seem to end.
Despite Maryland law, the trainer for whom Brenda was riding did not
carry workman’s compensation insurance. As a result of Brenda’s
accident, he has lost his trainer’s license.
Brenda, meanwhile, had to endure a five-year battle
to get the workman’s comp she deserved. Now, Social Security is
challenging her disability payments, and is demanding a lump-sum return
payment from Brenda’s family. With no money in the kitty for legal
help, Brenda and her brother are patiently working their way through
the Social Security system of appeals on their own, but there is no
Nevertheless, with her infectious smile and a vivacious tenacity, Brenda
Herzog is still “good to go” and one of our extraordinary
lady legends of 2011!
In March of 1999, The Equiery published a profile on Brenda Herzog and
two other Maryland riders who had endured different levels of spinal
trauma and paralysis (see equiery.com/archives). The following month,
Irv Naylor suffered a fall in the Grand National and is likewise confined
to a wheelchair. Thus, Brenda and Irv have, over the years since, come
to know each other, and Irv has been very supportive of Maggie’s
Science, Sailing & Horses
is safe to say that you don’t know that you are unusual if everyone
around you is just like you.
Thus, Jane Toal did not realize she was unusual.
For a woman born in 1921, it was extraordinary for women to enter into
any of the scientific fields (except perhaps nursing), so when one learns
that Jane Toal had a 30-year career as a research scientist at the National
Institutes of Health, beginning in the late 1940s, one invariably wants
to learn where and how this pioneering spirit emerged.
But there is no mystery!
Jane Toal grew up surrounded by male and female doctors, scientists
Jane’s father, Benjamin H. Nicolet, received his PhD from Yale
at age 21, served on the faculty for the Chemistry Department at the
University of Chicago, and then accepted a position as a researcher
studying the chemistry of milk at the United Stated Department of Agriculture’s
Dairy Research Facility in Beltsville. The USDA Beltsville Facility
had become the largest agricultural research center in the world, and
was quickly attracting all the best and the brightest in all fields
of agriculture (for a link to the discoveries made
at Beltsville that change the way we eat and the way we grow things
in the United States, visit equiery.com/archives.)
Nicolet settled his family in nearby Riverdale, and here Jane grew up
surrounded by research scientists and medical doctors–and animals.
Jane’s mother, Kathryn Hasley Nicolet, grew up outside of Pittsburgh,
and trips home to the family farm on Squirrel Hill meant hours and hours
of riding in the rolling hillsides.
Jane was an active Girl Scout, earning her Golden Eaglet in 1938, the
last year it was offered and the highest award a Girl Scout could earn.
According to Jane, the award, which was modeled after the Boy Scouts’
award, was discontinued precisely because it was too much like the boy’s
program (with a high level of camping and outdoor skill requirements)
and organizers thought that the girl’s program should not be quite
as rugged. Jane’s troop was led by the legendary (in Girl Scout
circles) Lucy Knox, who came from a family of accomplished female athletes,
including her sister, Irene Knox, the Athletic Hall of Fame member of
the University of Maryland’s Women’s Rifle Team, who never
missed a bull’s-eye in individual competition, earning her perfect
score of 600 that has never broken, and helping her Terps team, nicknamed
the “Maryland Gun Girls,” earn national titles. This level
of can-do athleticism became an integral part of Jane’s character.
Two friends of her parents, Wilton and Emogene Earl, became very influential
in Jane’s life. Emogene Earl had her PhD in animal nutrition and
worked with Jane’s father at the USDA Dairy Research facility.
Her husband, Dr. Wilton Earl, was a tissue researcher for NIH. Emogene
Earl would invite young Jane to visit her horse, which was boarded with
the Aitcheson family’s original stable on Gunpowder Road in Laurel
(before they established their famed stables on what became Riding Stable
Road in Laurel). And when Whitney Aitcheson starting taking groups of
riders out when he took out his hounds, Jane was right there with him.
Soon, two of Aitcheson’s boarders, Drs. Sy and Kate Karpeles,
a husband and wife physician team who practiced in Washington, decided
that the riders at the Aitcheson stables should pool their funds and
help feed the hounds, and Iron Bridge Hunt Club was formalized in 1937.
Meanwhile, via street car from Riverdale into Washington, DC, Jane attended
McKinley Tech High School, the country’s premier science and technology
public school built in 1926 with a $26 million dollar grant from Congress.
From there, she attended Oberlin College of Arts & Science in Ohio,
a small, private progressive liberal arts school known both for its
coeducation and its chemistry department. At Oberlin, Jane majored in
chemistry and pre-med, with the idea of becoming a veterinarian. However,
when she was unable to put ointment on a horse’s ear, that idea
went out the window and she went on to earn her Masters in biochemistry
from Cornell University in New York City in 1946.
Although away during the school year, Jane came home every summer, usually
free-leasing a horse and riding as much as she could. After Cornell,
it was off to work at Rutgers University in New Jersey…yet she
longed to be home and with the horses. So, in 1948, when her father’s
old friend, Dr. Wilton Earl, needed a research assistant at the National
Institutes of Health, Jane eagerly accepted the position, and it was
back home to Riverdale, with long days in the lab and long days in the
Jane worked in tissue cultures, the science of growing cells, a science
that ended up lending itself well to the schedule of foxhunting, as
the cells needed intensive care for three days (regardless of what days
of the week they might be), so Jane was able to arrange her schedule
so that she could usually hunt on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
By this point, the Iron Bridge Hounds were in full swing, fully ensconced
in kennels with a clubhouse off of Riding Stable Road and rollicking
through the hills of Burtonsville, Savage, Scaggsville and what would
eventually become Columbia, Jane whipping-in to Whitney or Leiter Aitcheson
every chance she got (and occasionally having to pull huntsman duties
In the summertime, with no foxhunting, Jane decided to take up sailing,
taking lessons on Wednesday and Saturdays at the Buzzard Point Boat
Yard in Washington with Archie and Cora Mason.
Meanwhile, she met and married Vince Toal. A veteran of the Omaha Beach
offensive in the Battle of Normandy during World War II, Vince suffered
from extreme shell shock, or combat fatigue (what would today be called
post-traumatic stress disorder), and the couple divorced after two years.
Distraught, Jane did what any sensible woman would do: she bought a
Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout, and Jane soon found herself
teaching sailing lessons to Girl Scouts, and then found herself leading
a troop out of Bethesda for the next 15 years.
Finally, in the early 60s, Jane was ready to settle down, buy her own
place. But what would it be? The small horse farm of which she had dreamed
for years? But then, if she were taking care of a farm, what would happen
to her sailing? The answer became clear when the Eastport cottage next
door to her sailing mentors, Cora and Archie Mason, came on the market.
Located just outside of Annapolis and on the water, Jane’s boat
was virtually docked in her back yard. She would live with her boat
and commute to her horse.
Jane spent 30 years at NIH, most of the time supporting the search for
cures to cancer, mapping the structure of RNA and DNA and eventually
working on hydrolyzing cells with chromatography, and had her work referenced
in the 1996 Handbook of Chemistry. During those years, due to the arduous
nature of the research, there were no vacations. After Jane retired
in 1977, she threw herself into more hunting and into traveling, and
she was particularly fond of riding trips in the west. In 1992 and in
1996, Dr. Mike Ellis gave her new hips (as he has done for oh-so-many
foxhunters) and she continued to kick on for a few more years, finally
hanging up her spurs in 1998.
But you won’t find her staying at home. Everyone knows Jane, because
Jane is everywhere. Jane is ubiquitous! She stayed active with the merged
Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds, regularly traveling all the way from
Annapolis to the new kennels in Mount Airy to work the registration
table at social functions. She is a fixture at Maryland Horse Council
meetings and at TROT meetings. Whenever there are efforts to reestablish
the trails along the Patuxent River watershed (the Howard/Montgomery
border, the old Iron Bridge stomping grounds), she is there, supporting
the efforts. For this, in 2005, Jane Toal was presented with the Maryland
Horse Council’s Pumphrey Memorial Award for “behind the
scenes” service to the Maryland equestrian community.
The Drs. Wilton and Emogene Earl, the Drs. Sy and Kate Karpeles, her
father and her mother…the world in which Jane grew up was equally
populated by men and women of science, so for Jane to have gone on to
a career in science was not unusual. In her world, her career choice
was ordinary. But for women of her era, Jane Toal led an extraordinary
life, certainly making her a legendary lady in the Maryland horse world!
A Good Education is a Good Education
In 2005, the Maryland equestrian community honored her as the Maryland
Horse Person of the Year. It is now 2011, and no doubt, Louise Hollyday
has become a “Legendary Lady” in our local horse world.
Louise Hollyday has spent over 60 years teaching beginners, children
specifically, how to ride. Without instructors such as “Miss Louise”
(as she has been known to generations of students), we would not have
the robust equestrian community that we have today. Every rider has
to start somewhere, and someone has to have the patience, good humor
and wisdom to teach small children, to start them on a lifelong love
affair with the horse, a lifetime in the saddle.
In 2005, we wrote in The Equiery:
“Miss Louise’s story is her own, the tale of one hardworking
woman, but it is a tale that is representative of all riding schools
everywhere, that very first gate that would-be riders pass through on
their way to becoming “riders” and “horsemen.”
Like all trainers, camp counselors and riding instructors who hold the
key to a child’s introduction to horses, Louise is an unsung hero
in the equestrian business. Where would the horse world be without the
Louises of the world? The Louises of the world ARE Columbia Horse Center,
Wheaton Park, Potomac Horse Center, Woodmont, Tranquillity Manor,…the
beginner lesson programs that steadily function without glory or attention.
“Beginner lesson programs do not specialize in the bright lights
and the glossy stage of the show riders and their ribbons; they operate
behind the scenes, far offstage. Louise’s decision to teach only
beginning children (and neither adults nor teenagers) ensures that her
work provides the foundation for many of today’s great instructors.”
As a Maryland Horse Person of the Year, and as a Local Lady Legend,
we shine a bright light on the backstage, on all who work tirelessly
to teach beginning riders. To this day, Louise remains a vital, unique
personality whose life is entwined with her work.
Born in 1929, Miss Louise grew up in Roland Park surrounded by accomplished
riders, including but not limited to her mother, a local teacher, and
her grandmother’s chauffeur, who ended up being her first instructor.
“Although she was a damn good horse woman, I didn’t learn
from my mother,” explained Miss Louise. “It is almost impossible
for mothers to teach their kids to ride. Always has been.” And
in a nutshell we have Miss Louise’s business plan!
The second world war came, and it was off to Warrenton Country School,
and it was here that Miss Louise discovered her knack for teaching beginners
when she was pressed into serving as a substitute instructor for the
school’s riding program. While in school, Louise aspired to be
a vet, but as was typical of the time, Warrenton did not offer science
classes, which Louise needed to get into a veterinary assistant training
program. She also learned later that her mother’s vet, Dr. Gadd,
actively thwarted Louise’s interest, as vet work “was not
the place for a lady.”
While she tried to figure out “what she wanted to be when she
grew up,” Miss Louise began teaching lessons from the family farm
on Cowpens Road in Towson, and soon one thing led to another. She and
her mother began collecting more crossbreds to use in Louise’s
lesson program, but after a while decided that they would have better
luck breeding their own mounts for the program. In 1950, they acquired
the good pony stallion Severn Chief. Chief was such a good, reliable
sire that they soon had a breeding business in addition to the lesson
program, and Ponies for Children, Inc. was founded.
With a thriving business breeding and showing Welsh ponies (under the
Cylynnen prefix) and English-style Shetlands, Miss Louise and a friend,
Pat Archer, recognized the need for a unifying influence on the pony
breeding business and, with the help of Humphrey Finney from the Maryland
Horse Breeders Association, founded the Maryland Pony Breeders, Inc.
Despite the fact that for 10 years Miss Louise had been operating two
successful horse businesses (the riding program and the breeding operation),
Louise’s father believed that that his daughter’s career
would be more legitimate with “a piece of paper that actually
said I was an instructor,” she laughs. So off she went to England
to earn her British Horse Society Association Instructor certificate–and
she was one of the first from the States to do so.
Back home, in addition to the extensive health care stable owners give
their own horses, Miss Louise was able to fulfill a bit of the “vet”
dream by serving as a vet tech every Tuesday to Dr. I. W. Frock, one
of the area’s most prominent veterinarians, and the regular farm
vet for Alfred Gwyn Vanderbilt’s famed Sagamore Farm, home of
Native Dancer and other such illustrious Thoroughbreds (see equiery.com/archives
for Ross Peddicord’s wonderful article on “The
Miss Louise continued to grow her businesses, and continued to produce
accomplished and well-prepared young riders and horsemen and women,
including (but not limited to) Betsy Firey, Streett Moore, Sally Shirley,
and many others. (If you are one of the “many others” and
have a memory to share about Miss Louise, please send it to email@example.com.)
After the deaths of her parents, Miss Louise relocated her business
to Upper Beckleysville Road in Hampstead. In the 1990s, deciding that
it was time for her to scale back the size of her program, she made
an arrangement with another former student, Sharon Schilling. The Schillings
took over the main house and Miss Louise moved into the cottage. Louise
maintained her ponies in the older barn, while Sharon built a bigger
barn on another part of the farm for her horses.
And last year, after 62 years of teaching beginner riders, at the age
of 83, Miss Louise retired. But Miss Louise’s legacy will endure,
in the thousands of students she taught, and in their students and their
children…because “a good education is a good education.”
To read a more complete story about Louise
Hollyday, her accomplishments, ponies, and her students,
please read Hope Holland’s delightful feature article in the archives
Kitty McLane Hoffman
Esse Quam Videri
Be Rather Than To Seem
When the Green Spring Valley Hounds meet, it may look as if the field
is following Master Sheila Jackson Brown, but they are riding behind
Miss Kitty Hoffman just as assuredly as they are riding behind Sheila.
Do not pass the Master!
Katharine McLane Hoffman, or Kitty as she is known, is “of the
Valley” and is “the Valley.” Her mother was the accomplished
horsewoman Ethel McLane Lee, so accomplished, in fact, that Frank A.
“Downey” Bonsal and others lobbied the Maryland Hunt Cup
committee to break with the prohibition against lady riders to allow
Ethel to race (Frank A. Bonsal won the Hunt Cup in 1927 and 1928 aboard
Bon Master). Their request was denied, but verdict was clear: Ethel
was an extraordinary rider.
Born in 1920, Kitty, along with her brother Dick and her sister Ethel,
spent their early childhood in the Baltimore countryside of Owings Mills.
After the crash of Wall Street in 1929, their father, R. Curzon Hoffman,
gained a reputation for helping businesses reorganize back into solvency.
A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Hoffman specialized in public
utility companies and insurance companies. Thus, the family began relocating
to different cities, including New York, Atlanta and Chicago, sometimes
spending less than a school year in a location. Finally, their mother
decided that the children needed stability in their living environment
and consistency in their education, and so they returned to Maryland.
Dick was sent to The Gilman School, and the girls were re-enrolled in
The Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore. “And we hated it!,” declared
Kitty, “absolutely hated it!”
Around that time, the co-headmistresses of the still relatively new
Garrison Forest School in Owings Mills began to lobby the girls’
mother, assuring her that Kitty and Ethel would receive a proper college
preparatory education. Their mother consented, and the girls were enrolled
at Garrison. And was it a good school? “Oh, the best!” exclaimed
Kitty. “We had fabulous teachers, very well-educated women who
knew people. It was small. We loved it! My sister and I both became
Such strong supporters, in fact, that each would later return to Garrison–but
not before life took some interesting turns.
Brother Dick graduated from Gilman and left for college, graduating
from Princeton in 1936. Sister Ethel was sent to Paris for a year. Kitty
and her sister, only a year apart, were so close that folks often thought
that they were twins, so the separation was intentionally designed,
with Kitty staying home and enjoying her debut.
Kitty graduated Garrison Forest in 1937, but at that time, a college
education was not emphasized for the girls. So, lacking a specific plan
but wanting to stay busy, Kitty took a job with an insurance company.
World War II broke out and, following the motto of Garrison (“to
be, rather than to seem”), rather than just “seem”
supportive of the war effort, Kitty volunteered to do something: she
signed on with the Red Cross.
Stationed in the Pacific theater, Kitty served three years in the Red
Cross’ Recreation and Social Activities Division, which was sent
in once a new military base had established. Kitty’s division
brought comfort and distraction to exhausted and war-weary soldiers,
marines, sailors and airmen. Her posts included New Guinea, the Philippines,
the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and eventually Japan. The Red
Cross volunteers lived in jungles, dealt with snakes, bombs and more,
slept in grass huts, and coped as best they could. Kitty rarely wrote
letters home, and was called before her supervisor after her parents
sent word seeking information about her. By the time she reached Japan
to work with her last infantry division, she had already served with
them two previous times and had gotten to know many of the soldiers
After three years, with the war over, it was time to return to Baltimore.
Kitty spent her first year or so stateside schooling horses, eventually
returning to the insurance company. From there, her knack for numbers
led her into a 15-year partnership in an interior design company, but
Kitty never quit schooling horses or foxhunting.
Meanwhile, in 1960, her sister Ethel became director of Garrison’s
riding program. In 1964, Ethel was tragically killed, hit by a car while
walking the school’s fence line to inspect where another car had
run off the road. Stricken by her sister’s death, it was only
natural that Kitty would step in and continue Ethel’s work with
Garrison’s riding program for the next 15 years.
A key component of Garrison’s riding program in those days was
foxhunting. Then, Green Spring Valley Hounds met on Thursdays at 2 p.m.
Kitty would already have the horses loaded and sandwiches packed when
class let out at 1:30, and Kitty and the girls would be off to the meet!
It was not unusual for the young riders to fly four-board fences with
the first field, and even the occasional Hunt Cup fence. “Oh,
we hunted those fences,” recalls Kitty; “if the damned fox
goes that way, we go that way! One time, I had six kids behind me, and
we came across Tufton Avenue, headed up towards the 18th fence and I
hear, ‘Can we jump it?’ ‘Feel free!’ I said,
and I took the fence myself. And you know what? They all jumped it.
But…they were all on good, sound jumping horses.”
How many students does she think she has had over the years? “Oh,
thousands!” Kitty declared, “Thousands!”
Sheila Jackson Brown, MFH for Green Spring Valley Hounds, tells us that
she and her sister Cappy “were her girls, along with many of our
friends. Hunting on Thursdays was our sport at Garrison, and Kitty spent
many an afternoon coaching us at various venues before Hunter Trials
and Pony Club rallies. I’m sure that every pony we ever had was
scrutinized and had her stamp of approval. She and her sister Ethel
were very close friends of our mother’s (they were both bridesmaids
in her wedding). She was a terrific mentor, and was and still is our
best cheerleader. ‘Aunt’ Kitty still comes to as many hunt
club functions as she can, and we love having her there!” Editor’s
note: Cappy and Sheila’s mother was also Sheila Jackson, and served
as only the second female Master of GSV.
Caroline Worrall, who serves as the digital content manager for the
Maryland Steeplechase Association website, was also a Miss Kitty student
at the Green Spring pony camp: “Miss Kitty was always very encouraging,
but very tough–old school all the way. But she was always fun!
She made up great games for us to play that would teach us the fundamentals
of riding without our even realizing it.…she taught me how much
fun riding could be and how much joy I could gain from becoming a good
After retiring from Garrison, Kitty has stayed involved, actively participating
in all alumni activities, and dedicating herself to ensuring that all
the girls who attend Garrison have direction and focus upon graduation.
Kitty Hoffman could have chosen to spend her life in a less rigorous
manner, living a life of light responsibilities, social engagements
and foxhunting. Instead, she dedicated her life to teaching, to sharing
her passion and talent with generations of young riders. Kitty chose
to “be” rather than to just “seem to be.”