Wild + Wise: Louise Hollyday

Categories: Wild + Wise

Louise

This Mother's Day, we're celebrating all of the amazing women in our lives with profiles of six women who have inspired us. The group includes Louise Hollyday, an accomplished horsewoman who taught generations of young riders for more than 60 years. Read on for her story, and find all of our Wild + Wise profiles here.

Born and raised in Maryland, Louise Este Hollyday began teaching young horseback riders when she was still a student herself. A lifelong rider, she taught her first class while attending high school. She says, "I went to boarding school in Virginia, and a 'fairy godmother' sent my horse along with me. My father used to say that the horse was sent to school and I went along to take care! During my senior year, the school's riding teacher broke his leg and a substitute arrived who was only interested in fox hunting and trail riding. One day I said, 'Why don't you leave the four or five beginners in the class -- most of them had never been on a horse -- behind in the ring and I'll work with them?' That's how I learned that I had the ability to teach people to ride, and I loved it!"

After school, Louise began teaching the local children using her own ponies. She borrowed extra ponies from her sister and neighbors, and took her lessons on the road during summer, bringing the ponies from her farm to children in the area. Eventually the lessons grew into a business and more pupils started coming to her. For her twenty-first birthday, she received a Shetland pony suited for the smallest of riders -- the first of many beloved children's ponies over the years.  

As she built her business, Louise also worked in many other aspects of Maryland's horse industry. She says, "I traveled around a lot in those days! I had a friend, a former jockey, who worked for the breeder John Forbes at Pimlico racetrack in Baltimore. So when I wasn't teaching, I'd go to the track each morning and gallop horses. I also lived for three years on an Arabian horse farm, where I worked for my keep and helped to break the horses." Eventually, she settled on a farm in Sparks, Maryland and built up her teaching business. Known as "Miss Louise" to generations of pupils, she taught her first lesson in 1946 and continued for 64 years, retiring in 2010. This February, she turned 90.

As a teacher, Louise most enjoyed working with her youngest pupils. She says,

"I loved teaching young riders -- the younger the better. I wasn't interested in training my pupils to ride in the show ring -- I wanted to teach children to love animals."

"Initially I accepted students up to age 12, when they were getting too big for ponies, but over the years I lowered the age -- older kids thought they knew more than I did! I've had a few pupils who 'made the big time' and went on to ride in major events. One of my students was on the first US Pony Club team that went to England."

A pillar of the Maryland horse community for many years, Louise helped to found Maryland Pony Breeders and planted the seeds for the successful 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program in Carroll County, which provides beneficial riding instruction to people with disabilities. In 2005, she was honored as Horsewoman of the Year by the Maryland Horse Council, who applauded her work in fostering a love of horses for new generations of riders. A profile commemorating the award lauded her as "a unique personality whose life is entwined with her work," a sentiment that remains true today. 

Who inspires you?
Louise says, "Harriet Shriver Rogers, who raised Shetland ponies for children at Olney Farm -- she was doing what I wanted to do on a much bigger scale. Both of us were interested in teaching kids who were horse crazy, and helping them learn to ride safely and love their animals. I used to go up to the farm at Olney every Sunday, and was inspired by her work there."

Find all of our Wild + Wise stories here, or tell us about the Wild + Wise women in your life on Instagram! Tag your photos of them #terrainwildandwise, and we'll celebrate them and all of you by sharing a few favorites on Mother’s Day.

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