Trip Harting, USEF ‘S’ judge, passed away from liver cancer on August 21. I’ll remember him for his passion for teaching, his enthusiasm for both his students and for the riders who competed in front of him.
He taught and judged quite a bit for the US Pony Club. Because during the 80’s and 90’s I photographed the Pony Club National Championships each year, and every third year the combined Championships and Pony Club Festival, I saw him at least once a year in either Lexington, VA or Lexington, KY. I’d be photographing one of 4 or 5 rings of dressage at the Kentucky Horse Park, and wherever I was, after every ride in Trip’s ring I’d hear his clear voice say sincerely, “Thank you very much.” Regardless of the level, and regardless of the level of proficiency shown during the test. At “C”, he operated with a high level of respect and kindness.
But my favorite memory of Trip is on a crosscountry course. It is morning at the Kentucky Horse Park, and the Festival is going on. There are 600 or so horses on the grounds, and probably 70 or 80 are on the cross country course in groups of 6 or 7 with one of a dozen different instructors. The riders have been grouped according to their riding level, and during this hour Trip is teaching youngsters who have never ridden through water before. He arrives at the smaller water jump, the one in the middle of the old steeplechase course, and instructs them to ride at a walk, nose to tail, through the shallow water. The riders are nervous: this is new, and their horses are unsure, but they are carried forward into the water by Trip’s enthusiasm and guidance. Once they navigate the pond several times, Trip has them walk a circle together in the water, then trot that same circle. In the morning light, a simple confidence building exercise has become a moment of pure beauty. Trip hears me shooting dozens of pictures and turns to me with a grin because he too has seen not just a half dozen trotting horses, but the sparkling, splashing water, and the beautiful pattern and aesthetics of what he crafted.
Years later, I tapped the memory of that day to create these two paintings. As I was painting them, and now as I look at them, I can hear Trip’s voice, encouraging riders to overcome their fears and to accomplish what the didn’t think they could.
Godspeed, Trip. May there be horses, wherever you are.