Free Rein With: Betty Oare

Nov 27, 2011 - 4:09 PM
Photo by Mollie Bailey.

A lifelong equestrian, Betty Oare rode professionally for her father, J. Arthur Reynolds, in Tryon, N.C., until 1981 when she took her amateur status. She’s enjoyed championship wins at most of the nation’s top hunter shows. Now 70 and married to fellow horse enthusiast and trainer Ernest Oare, Betty campaigns Capone and Fine Kiss in the amateur-owner hunter divisions and foxhunts with the Warrenton Hunt (Va.). When she’s not in the saddle, she’s an active U.S. Equestrian Federation R-rated judge, sits on the U.S. Equestrian Federation National Hunter Committee and U.S. Hunter Jumper Association’s Hunter Breeding Committee, Open Hunter Task Force and Amateur committees, and is a board member of many Virginia shows.

Name: Betty Oare                                                                         
Age: 70           
Home Base: Warrenton, Va.

What current horse would you like to ride?
Small Affair. Watching John French at Capital Challenge (Md.)—the round he had, I’m sitting in the audience thinking, “What a fun horse that looks like to ride.” I like a horse that gallops, and that one looks like a fun one.

Who has been your greatest influence as an equestrian?
My dad taught us to ride. We grew up riding and hunting; we didn’t grow up showing. He taught my brother and I about conformation, just about horses. I was lucky to grow up in a horsey family.

What’s changed in the show hunter industry that you wish had stayed the same?
I think everybody knows I like to gallop to a jump. I grew up riding on outside courses. And I’ve had to try to learn to come and put a performance in a ring in a prescribed amount of strides. I don’t see that as a bad thing, I just enjoy galloping. Maybe with some of the emphasis on hunter derbies and outside courses coming back, we’ll start to see some more of that again. But everything evolves, and you can’t stop progress, so I’ve tried to move with the times, with my judging and my riding.

Wine or whiskey?
Don’t do either one. Coca-Cola, chocolate. Champagne, a little.

Is there a title that’s eluded you so far?
I did not win the ASPCA Maclay or the AHSA Medal Finals. That would have been nice, but growing up, we did the equitation but had more of an emphasis on hunters. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of great horses and have had some nice things happen, but now I’d like to continue to be competitive as my age creeps up.

Ford, Dodge or Chevy?
I’m a GMC girl. I have a Denali.

What’s the best advice anyone has given you?
Be true to thy self. There’s nothing better than the golden rule—treat people the way you’d like to be treated yourself.

Where is your favorite place to vacation?
Don’t get to do much of that! Ernie and I are not super travelers because we’re always doing something with the horses. But we took a couple of trips to Bermuda, and that was fun. Our boys [Reynolds and Morey Oare] got together and gave us a trip—we went there on our 25th wedding anniversary. I think Bermuda’s a great place.

A bad habit you just can’t break?
I’ve got lots of bad habits! I’m trying not to look down over a jump. That’s not good. I’m working on sitting still and not looking down—trying to be a little quieter, smoother. You know, when I see the spot, I get a little excited.

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
Everybody knows I like to dance, and when I get on the dance floor, I’m like a different person. I’m not kidding you; I’m wild!

What’s the most important quality for you when buying a horse?
A good brain. You can have all the other things, but if you have a horse that doesn’t have it up there, it doesn’t matter.

What’s your favorite place to shop for non-horsey clothes?
Well, I don’t go shopping very much. To tell you the truth, probably some of the best luck I’ve had is at some of the nice vendors that come to the horse shows. But I like Nordstrom, and I like Saks.

Who has been your horse of a lifetime?
Well I’ve had two—I’ve been fortunate. One was at the beginning of my career: Navy Commander. He was working hunter champion at [the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden] a couple times. He was a Thoroughbred. And the most recent one is Estrella, so there were many years between. I loved them equally; they were equally brave. Estrella’s now in foal, so that’s exciting.

What’s something the world probably doesn’t know about you?
I don’t much like to fly, but I do, to go to horse shows. And I used to sing a lot. Sometimes I sang the national anthem at the horse shows. I love music. I almost would have done music when I got out of college instead of the horses, but the horses always won out.

What characteristic do you value in a person?
Honesty and sportsmanship. Being a good sportsman goes a long way with me.

If you could make one change in the world what would it be?
When I was in the fifth grade, there was a family going home from school—two of them were killed on a terrible crossing that had no railroad gates. I would make every single railroad crossing have a compulsory railroad gate. To this day, when we’re in the car, I say, “Be careful, we’re going to cross a railroad!” I’ve always had a great horror of railroad crossings.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. The original version of “Free Rein With: Betty Oare” ran in the Nov. 21 & 28, 2011, Amateur issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.


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