Betty Oare is considered the Grande Dame of the Hunters. A lifelong equestrian of over 70 years, Betty rode professionally for her father, J. Arthur Reynolds, in Tryon, North Carolina, until 1981. She has won at most of the nation’s top hunter shows and is also a USEF R judge. An iconic horsewoman, Betty is highly regarded not only for her riding and judging, but most importantly for her kindness, class and warm personality.
How did you start riding?
My dad was in the horse business and it was a natural. I started riding pleasure ponies and I was 5 when I did my first lead line class. I started showing and hunting when I was 13.
Who has inspired you most in life?
My parents. My mother and father have been my inspiration all my life. Something they taught me was to try your hardest and be a good competitor, but not a bad sport.
Who has inspired you the most in riding?
Probably my dad, my brother and husband. The men in my family. My dad really taught me and had horses for us to ride. My brother has also been great, as well as my husband.
When did you meet your husband Ernie?
It was around 1960 or 61 at the Ox Ridge Horse Show and he was mucking a stall. I thought he was someone else and I said “Hi, Bill!” — but it wasn’t Bill. I was embarrassed and I just walked on. Later I met him at the horse show.
What three things are most important to you?
How about four things? My family, our good name in the horse world, my children’s families and their well-being and, of course, my horses.
What three traits in a person are most important to you?
Honesty and trust, genuineness and a good sense of humor
How do you relax?
Truthfully, riding is relaxing. But sometimes I just like to play the piano and sing along.
If you could talk to anyone, who would it be and why?
My mom and dad. I’d like to ask them if they know what we’ve been up to and if they have any suggestions — are we doing OK? They guided me, so that would be important to me.
What’s the best feeling you’ve ever had?
Being so old, I’ve had a few of them. One of them was when I finally had my first my child without any complications. It was a long, drawn out deal and he was healthy and it was one of the best feelings.
What career path would you have chosen if horses weren’t an option?
Probably music. It’s hard to make a living with it. Or theater, if I could. I took voice in college but the horses always won out.
What’s your favorite piece of clothing?
Probably my shadbelly that was my graduation present from college! I still fit in it!
If you could tell every hunter or jumper rider one thing, what would it be?
Enjoy the ride. Love your horse. Be in sync with your horse. Relax and go with what’s good for that horse. Ride what you have and adjust to it. Embrace your horse’s differences and ride it like that.
What is life like with your husband Ernie?
It’s been a great one. He’s willing to try things and is a doer. We’ve been married 53 years and I would not have changed it. I’m glad I met him mucking that stall years ago. We all have our ups and downs but it’s been a good life.
How many weeks of the year do you travel?
Probably 30 weeks a year
If you had a week off, what would you do?
We really enjoyed the Keys. Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada brings back great memories with our children. We used to take them there for spring break.
Where would you like to be right now?
Right where I’m at is pretty good — I’m home. We don’t stay here enough so I’m fine with it.
What are your favorite movies?
Dr. Zhivago and Gone With the Wind
What’s your favorite food?
What was your best vacation?
We went to California and Napa Valley about 20 years ago, before the kids were married and had children. We flew out and took the train back. Our one son is a train person and we came across the country on the scenic route and it was really great.
Do you have a “bucket list”? If so, what tops that list?
Probably but not much. I like life and we’ve been so fortunate. I guess that Ernie and I would like to go to Ireland, go to the races and ride in the country. And probably go see the Grand National in England, too.
Do you have a personal motto?
Be true to yourself