I promised a blog on Connie Douglas Reeves and I hope that I am able to do her memory justice.
There has been many things said about Connie and her tenure with horses. She was as much a part of the American West in the 20th and 21st Century as any recognized cowboy.
Bill Duryea said it best on 9/7/2003: "After 96 years of riding horse, Connie Douglas Reeves made her last dismount with an independence that underscored her belief that riding was a metaphor for living."
I don't think that Connie intended on teaching horseback riding to young girls. But the Great Depression had a way of changing everyone's plans. She dropped out of Law School to help her family and worked part time as a riding instructor.
Connie held the position of Horseback Riding Director at Camp Waldemar from 1936-1997. Over 30,000 young girls were privileged to ride learn horsemanship under her tutelage.
Connie and her husband Jack never had any children of their own. They managed a huge cattle and sheep ranch until his death in 1985.
Connie rode horses until she was thrown off of a horse just 7 weeks shy of her 102nd birthday. The doctors were appalled that her peers allowed her to ride at all in her dotage. They soon learned that Connie had her own opinions as to who was too old to get on a horse.
Quoting one of Connie's students: "She wasn't teaching about riding, she was teaching the girls that you could be afraid of something like getting on a horse, or you can just go out and do it and get out there and ride the horse, and know that you're going to be okay. Even if you get bucked off. And she got bucked off every year."
In 1997, Connie was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall Of Fame. When the new headquarters were moved to Fort Worth in 2002, she rode in the parade to honor the Hall.
Her motto, "Always Saddle Your Own Horse," became the National Cowgirl's Hall of Fame's motto too.
Connie rode horses until her fall with her beloved Dr. Pepper at the age of 101. "She was quoted as saying that this may have been her last dismount, but it was not as graceful as she had hoped.
Although she was more than a local celebrity, Connie never left Texas or had a desire to do so. She died of a heart attack just days after her last "graceful" dismount with her beloved horse, Dr. Pepper.
Just think of several generations of young women who have had the privilege of knowing this tough, inspirational horsewoman. They have gone out into the world confident that even if life takes a turn that will break your bones, it won't break your spirit.
Connie lived her life on her own terms, but was not selfish with the talents that she possessed. Although, she had no children of her own, she managed to inspire young girls for over 67 years.
Real role models are few and far between, they don't seek the spotlight or want their 15 minutes of fame. They quietly go about their daily lives until their last day on earth.
The Quote, "Always Saddle Your Own Horse," took on a life of its own with me. I haven't saddled a horse in over 30 years, but I don't believe that I will ever forget how to do it. It is the first step of independence with any young rider and a way for them to develop a kinship with their horse.
I wish that I could have met Connie. I am sure that she would have inspired me just as much in person as she has by reading and writing about her life.