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Peggy Richardson: A Symbol Of Courage

by Bob Funkhouser
Posted March 7, 2002
“She’s the definition of guts,” said Redd Crabtree. “The way she handled all of this is just amazing.”

All of this was a long battle with cancer but with Richardson, it wasn’t a battle, it was a plan that had been given to her and something she was comfortable with.

“I can’t say enough about her character,” said longtime friend Elizabeth McGowin. “I have never known anyone who had total and complete faith in the Lord. I was with her the day she found out she had cancer and she told me, ‘Don’t worry, the Lord has a plan and I’m willing to accept it.’” Peggy Richardson died February 19 at the age of 56.

Richardson was unique in the horse business. Those in the business knew of her passion and dedication to teaching and training, but unlike many, she had a life outside of the barn as well. Music and poetry were a part of her life. She also had a passion for tap dancing and through dance enjoyed another legion of friends who were drawn to her radiant personality. Then there was the group of girls with whom she went to college. They remained close no matter what path life took them down.

“She had more friends that anybody I’ve ever known. That’s because she was a true friend to all of us,” said Ms. McGowin.

Just like her friends, Richardson remained true to Oklahoma. She began riding at the age of four with Patty and Dick Hadley in Oklahoma City. Through her teenage years she became known as an excellent catch rider and successfully showed many different breeds throughout the area. She became especially close to Harold Adams and Dick Hadley who kept her busy showing all kinds of horses and soon she was teaching and training.

Richardson went to Stephens College and rode with Shirley Hardwicke, Mary Hubbell and Linda Wallen. She earned a degree in psychology from the University of Kentucky and during her days in the Bluegrass State became great friends with Helen Crabtree.

“Peggy and mom were very close,” said Redd Crabtree. “She spent a lot of time out here and even helped mom on her book.”

She returned to her home state following college and worked for Harold Adams running a huge lesson program and show string. Richardson was a popular exhibitor on the Southwest Circuit showing horses and ponies for Dale Milligan, Charlie Smith, Lee Shipman, Bob Mobley, and John Shea. Richardson then ventured to Tennessee to work with Nick McGowin, a horseman and person she respected very much.

Taking a break from the training routine, Richardson next joined David Howard, Bill Carrington, and Mary Jane Crowson (Cochran) in establishing SADDLE HORSE REPORT. She devoted three years to getting this publication off the ground as its associate editor. However, the itch to have her own barn was too much. She returned to Oklahoma to pursue that dream and in 1985 opened the Peggy Richardson Stables in Edmond.

Richardson’s gift to communicate and teach was beneficial to so many people. She helped mold the lives of countless young people, even those who were going down the wrong path. “The loss of Peggy was not just a loss to the Saddlebred community, but to humanity in general,” stated Dana DeVoss, a member of the training team at the Peggy Richardson Stables. “I can’t tell you how many lives she has touched and what a tremendous operation she put together here. There are a lot of people teaching lessons with Saddlebreds and that’s great, but Peggy developed a riding program, a strong show string and many great people. If every city throughout the country had an ambassador like Peggy Richardson there wouldn’t be enough Saddlebreds to sell.”

“Peggy was the Helen Crabtree of Oklahoma,” added Mary Gaylord McClean who first met Richardson when she was a child learning to ride with Harold Adams.

McClean’s analogy was most appropriate. Of the 500 people attending Richardson’s funeral, there were rows and rows of children. And always wanting to set a great example for the children, Richardson left them a letter that was read during the service.

“She tried to not only teach us riding, but also about life,” said 13-year-old Maguire Hall who has ridden with Richardson since she was four and has recently shown such horses as Harlem’s Jamaican, CH A Taste Of Champagne, and Shaka Zulu. “She was a really good role model in every area, always trying to make you feel positive. She was great to everybody and I looked up to her in a special way.”

“There was no one I would rather have my daughter around than Peggy Richardson,” added Maguire’s mother, Karen. “She was a great Christian and really showed that to her girls. She expected a lot from her girls, not only as riders but as people. She wanted them to always do right and have fun. She taught them that if you did do the right things, fun would follow.” Richardson not only made an impact on her students, but on her staff as well. Liz Cortright, Richardson’s “adopted” daughter and trainer at Peggy Richardson Stables, has been one of the beneficiaries of Richardson’s love and wisdom.

“She really stressed teaching kids responsibility and accountability,” said Cortright. “She said that life was not always the glitter of center stage. Peggy believed that winning happens as a result, not a goal. The letter that she left us said it all. It was her last riding lesson to them.” While a lot of the focus has been on the character of Richardson, and that’s the way she would have wanted it, she was quite a horsewoman. At the 1999 World’s Championship Horse Show she was honored with the Audrey Gutridge Award, an award presented annually to a woman in the horse and pony world for major contributions and dedication to the sport. Another of her highlights was guiding Corey Hyde to all three National Saddle Seat Equitation Championships for National Show Horses and Arabians in the same year, a Triple Crown that remains unmatched. With years of hard work she had also built up a Saddle Horse string of horses and riders capable of competing and winning at the largest shows, including Louisville. As Fred Hall (father of Maguire Hall) said in an article in the February 21 edition of The Oklahoman, “She could stand toe-to-toe with the best trainers of Kentucky.”

That hard work and dedication will not go to waste. Richardson had made plans for the barn to continue, both the lesson program and the show string.

“Peggy felt that riding played such an important and significant role in the lives of children that she wanted the barn and riding program to continue for them and she arranged for that to happen,” said her close friend Karen Bush. “Peggy Richardson Stables will carry on and will continue to offer its students excellence in riding instruction and showing opportunities. The program will remain dedicated to Peggy’s emphasis on developing each rider’s sense of personal responsibility, ethics and morality as well as fostering their accomplishments...and of course, on having lots of fun.”

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