Well known Herefordshire horsewoman and breeder of Connemara ponies who died peacefully at her home on June 13, 2015 at the age of 85.
Pat slipped from the world as she would have wished to do, her heart simply stopping, without warning, while she was sitting in her kitchen reading the Horse and Hound. It would have been, the coroner said, like a light going out at the flick of a switch. That light burned long and strong in so many areas: not just for her family and friends, but in the many groups and organisations in which she was involved for so many years.
Her love of music led her to join the Pembridge Church Choir, and she and her sister Ann performed in many concerts with the Vale of Arrow Choir. She also spent a substantial number of years as a magistrate in Kington, only standing down when the court moved to Leominster. However, horses were her life long passion. She had a very long and happy association with the Radnor & West Herefordshire Pony Club, both as Secretary and District Commissioner, and she and her late husband, Teddy hosted the annual summer camp at Weston House. For as long as anyone could remember she seemed to have run the horse events at Pembridge Show and regularly stewarded at Kington Agricultural Show, and agreed to be its President even though this meant having to wear a smart hat, something she always hated. She was a long-standing and active member of the Radnor & West Herefordshire Hunt and the Vale of Arrow Riding Club. She also put in long hours with Riding for the Disabled. She not only rode, but continued to work in the stables, mucking out and filling buckets and hay-nets – well into her eighties.
However, Pat was born a Londoner and only got the chance to own a pony when her family moved to the village of Pembridge in Herefordshire. She had developed a love of connemaras when she trained for her professional exams at the Calmore Connemara Stud in the New Forest so she bought a little Connemara called Carina of Calla for fifty guineas. “Crackers” as she was known , ‘had feet like bedroom slippers, a kick like a mule, and was quite un-catchable’. Pat nevertheless trained her and when she decided to put her in foal to a stallion belonging to the Meade family in Chepstow, she harnessed Crackers to a pony-trap and drove there, returning a few days later by the same method: a round journey of some 102 miles. She would recall that on the return trip Crackers trotted along briskly, ‘looking very smug’, and eleven month later she produced a filly foal. This was the start of the Arrow Connemara Stud, which eventually included several generations of Crackers’s progeny and two award-winning stallions. Pat celebrated fifty years of breeding Connemaras in 1997 with the birth of fifth-generation Arrow Golden Crisp, who is a favourite of many of her daughter, Sue’s students at her Arrow Equestrian Centre. Pat always wanted to breed a dun stallion, and eventually got one with Arrow Javelin (always know as AJ), whom she rode until he died aged 25, less than a year ago.
If asked for a single word to describe Pat, perhaps ‘indomitable’ would be the one that many people would come up with. Though small in stature, she was always physically courageous, not to say reckless, and this may have been a by-product of riding in point-to-points when she was young. She was a fearless horsewoman to the end, facing competition jumps in her sixties that would have daunted riders forty years her junior. She had what is known as a very good seat and was rarely dislodged from her mount: once, while out with the Radnor hounds, she managed not only to stay on a bucking horse but, holding the reins in one hand, shot out the other hand to catch her hard-hat in mid air after it had flown off. She did, of course, have falls, but always waved away the concerned enquiries of alarmed spectators, insisting that she was fine even on the occasion she had in fact almost certainly cracked her pelvis. Her excellent seat was much admired when she and her daughter, Sue, went to Portugal to have classical dressage lessons. Even the famous Luis Valenca stopped what he was doing to applaud her classically correct passage. Her long-term dressage trainer, Erik Herbermann, would have been proud of his pupil, who only started lessons with him in her fifties.
It is often said when people die that what they have left behind them is laughter. In Pat’s case this really is true. In the many letters people have written, her laughter has frequently been invoked. ‘Her laugh,’ one friend recalled, ‘was more than mere sound but somehow involved her whole body, her whole being.’ This laughter was perhaps the result of Pat’s no-nonsense approach to life, a tendency to take things as they came, though not always without grumbling. ‘She was always so reliably full of good humour and optimism,’ a friend wrote, while a frequent and much younger visitor said: ‘She did me good just by being who she was.’ ’ That is surely as good an epitaph as anyone could hope for.
And this poem was read out by her son, Peter, at Pat’s funeral:
Horses she loved, and laughter, and the sun,
A song, wide spaces and the open air;
The trust of all dumb things she won,
And never knew the luck too good to share:
Now though she will not ride with us again,
Her merry spirit seems our comrade yet,
Freed from the power of weariness and pain,
Forbidding us to mourn or to forget.
This is an edited version of the Tribute written by Pat’s children, Peter R N Parker and Sue Nevill-Parker and read at her funeral. The full version can be read at: www.arrowequestrian.co.uk.