Longtime horsewoman and Ohio trainer Mindy Darst died on June 2 after an eight-year battle with leiomyosarcoma. She was 54.
Darst first delved into horses by attending Saddlebred shows with her aunt, and soon became involved in the 4-H world. While attending Miami University (Ohio), Mrs. Darst explored the sport horse world through the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. After college, she set out to learn about eventing before signing on to be the coach for the IHSA team at Ball State University (Ind.). Under her instruction, the school won the national stock seat championship and the reserve hunt seat title.
She then spent time working at Christina Schlusemeyer’s Quiet Hill Farm in Ocala, Fla., before returning to Lebanon, Ohio, where she started Lochmoor Stables in 1990.
Even as her farm grew, Mrs. Darst continued to focus on the basics of horse care, requiring her students to care for their own mounts. Some of her students competed at the nation’s biggest horse shows, but she was still involved with riders taking their first lessons.
Mrs. Darst trained top ponies and horses like Newsworthy, Caped Crusader, Warlock, Bound to Shine, Longacre Hat’s Off, Browland’s Mr. Mack, Hillcrest Blue Gem Stone, Dare Me Little Willy, Highland’s Make Believe, Walk The Line and Washington.
Throughout her career, Mrs. Darst was an advocate for Zone 5, holding leadership posts at USEF and USHJA, and her vision helped transform USEF Pony Finals (Ky.) from an event with 400 riders to one with 700. In 2008, she was awarded the USHJA’s Volunteer of the Year award. Two years later, she won the 2010 Pony Finals Volunteer of the Year award.
The Mindy Darst Perpetual Trophy is given to the participant receiving the Top Equestrian Athlete Award each year at Pony Finals.
Mrs. Darst is survived by her husband, Greg, her twins, John and Maddy, and a stepdaughter, Jenny.
“She was an amazing person,” said friend and mentor Sue Ashe. “Just last weekend she went on a hot air balloon ride and saw her farm. She never stopped, and she never complained. She was an amazing individual, an amazing mother and a horse person from Day 1. We’re all going to miss her.”