The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 
By EVE MARX
EVE MARX PHOTO

Judy Richter with Riley, one of her equine students, at Coker Farm in Bedford. Riley is owned by Maeve Butler.

 

Coker Farm owner Judy Richter’s primary interest in life, besides her family, remains horses and dogs. A horse professional for over 45 years, Ms. Richter has shown, trained, and bought and sold horses, animals she calls “noble creatures.”

“I love my life here,” Ms. Richter said of her more than 100-acre farm. “Bedford is a great town to live in. It’s been a real oasis to me.”

A writer as well as a rider, Ms. Richter is also the author of several how-to equestrian books, most notably, “Riding for Kids,” a primer on stable care, clothing, tack, showing and lessons. A longtime columnist for “The Chronicle of the Horse,” Ms. Richter is also a licensed “R” judge on the horse show circuit, as well as being on the board of directors of the USA Equestrian Federation.

A bit less well-known is that Ms. Richter is a virtuoso memoirist who has been writing stories and essays under the guidance of Steve Schnur, a professor whose writing class Ms. Richter has taken at Sarah Lawrence since 1995. With the recent publication of her new book of stories and essays titled “It Begins It Ends It Ends It Begins,” a collection of personal essays about her life of horses and family and farm, Ms. Richter continues her life story of moving forward. Her first collection, “Some Favorite Days,” published in 2007, was written for her beloved husband, Max, who was dying. Both books were published by Xlibris.

“I’ve always kept a journal,” Ms. Richter said on a rainy May morning in her tack room/office at Coker Farm. Surrounded by a bevy of Jack Russells, Ms. Richter was well entrenched in her milieu. While very kind and gracious, it soon became apparent Ms. Richter isn’t the type of woman who enjoys talking about herself. She is a woman of action and said she hoped the book would be able to speak for itself.

Ms. Richter shared that she does much of her literary composing in the barn. She is a hand writer who prefers to organize her thoughts on old-fashioned yellow legal pads. Because the class at Sarah Lawrence meets on Thursday evenings, Ms. Richter begins working on new pieces on Mondays. Like any serious writer (and rider), she is always working with an eye to improvement.

An astute observer of both people and equines, Ms. Richter demonstrates in her newest literary endeavor a keen and discerning eye. She writes from a place of love but also with candor, describing exceptional horses she’s owned and trained, as well as human individuals she has worked with and come to know. Several chapters mention her friend and colleague, Norman Dello Joio, a world-class equestrian, and the British sporting artist Michael Lyne, although much of the book is devoted to describing her favorite horses: Blink, Dark Sonnet, Lady Ardmore, Glasgow, Gypsy, Just for Fun, and of course, Mr. Coker. Mr. Coker’s portrait was painted with his owner astride him by C.W. Anderson in 1961. Interestingly, “It Begins It Ends” is almost as much about fine art as it is of horses.

While many riders in the Bedford area are quite snobby about English riding style, Ms. Richter is also fluent in other equestrian disciplines. She enjoys Western horses and Western riding, and for several chapters details trips to Wyoming, where she learned to wrangle steer. It was a learning curve, she said, to let the horse do the work. “As a lifelong trainer and former rider of hunters and jumpers, I was used to being the alpha member of the partnership, directing him where and how fast to go, what fences to jump in what sequence,” she wrote. ‘This partnership was totally different; when the horse understood which steer I wanted, he took over and did the rest.”

Her admiration for Western horses peaked perhaps with her ownership of Turning Point, a solid brown registered Appaloosa, who became champion in Madison Square Garden.

After all these years, Ms. Richter’s love of her life on the farm continues to flourish. “I still wake up at 6 a.m.,” she said. “I hit the barn around 8 and ride a few of the horses in the morning and give lessons in the afternoon. I still have a few students. I enjoy teaching.”

Coker Farm is also host to Pegasus, the nationally recognized therapeutic riding program Coker has been involved with for over 30 years. “Those people are amazing,” Ms. Richter said of the hundreds of Pegasus volunteers.

When asked if she holds in her heart a special horse, she said, “They’re all favorites for different reasons.”

Of her myriad accomplishments as a trainer and a rider, she was sanguine. “In order to have much success with horses, you have to understand their point of view,” Mr. Richter said. “They’re different every day.”

Packed with wonderful photographs of her four-legged favorites, “It Begins It Ends It Ends It Begins” makes for great reading for horse lovers of all ages. As a gift to give or your own summer reading, the book is available in both print and e-book versions on Amazon.com.



Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

 

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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

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June 15, 2012

Coker Farm’s Judy Richter publishes new memoir