By Britney Grover
To say Penny Carpenter grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, New York, would be inaccurate. “First of all,” she’s quick to point out, “I’m a horse-crazy kid who never grew up!” Penny started riding at 7 and, as she got older, hung around a local stable. She traded feeding, cleaning tack, watering and other barnyard chores for just 10 minutes on a borrowed horse until she got her own horse at 16. As a teenager, Penny was only allowed to show twice a year—but in her early adult years, she rode with George Morris, Ronnie Mutch and Ralph Petersen. “Other influential people in my riding career were Victor Hugo Vidal, Ralph Caristo, Wayne Carrol and Kip Rosenthal—lucky me!” she said.
After “adding years” on Long Island, Penny spent time in Camden, South Carolina, and Rancho Murieta near Sacramento, California. Now, she lives in Palm Desert, California—17 miles from Thermal and the Desert International Horse Park, which she frequents in her role as either a judge or steward. This year Penny will celebrate 50 years as a licensed equitation, hunter and jumper judge as well as a national and FEI steward, traveling all over the country to be the link between governing bodies and exhibitors. She enjoys solving problems—ideally before they become real problems—and helping to ensure safety, welfare and fairness for both horses and humans at the shows. Penny also volunteers at and serves on the board of Pegasus Therapeutic Riding in Palm Desert, and proudly follows the lives of her son, daughter and three grandchildren.
What are your best early memories of riding?
There was a lesson stable near my house called Rice Farms, owned by the legendary Long Island Rice Family. When I was 7, “Old Man Rice” (Patrick Rice) taught me to post by holding my elbow and pushing me up and down. I loved riding out bareback for hours with friends from other stables, and I also loved bareback equitation classes at Long Island horse shows. My favorite ribbon was a third place Bareback Equitation Over Fences at a Rice Farms Horse Show—third to Nancy Rice and Kathleen Rice! Woohoo!
Any favorite horses over the years?
My first horse—a rather unattractive pinto that took hours to clean. He was named Penny’s Remark—“remark” is my maiden name, Kramer, spelled backwards!
What’s your favorite thing about being part of the horse world?
I’m doing something that I love. I always say that if I sneeze in California, the horse world says, “God bless you!” in New York! The horse world is my second family.
If you weren’t involved with the horse world, what career do you think you would have picked?
Advertising or medicine—but I was afraid to take chemistry!
What would you tell every rider, if you could?
Every class should be a learning experience. Juniors, get a college education—you can always come back to horses. Realize how lucky you are to have horses in your life.
If you had a week off, what would you do?
Probably stay in my house in a fetal position and just “veg!”
Where’s your favorite place you’ve been? Where would you like to go, but haven’t?
I loved Antarctica and Africa. Bucket list: Scandinavia, Spain and Portugal.
Do you have a personal motto or catch phrase?
I have three: It’s not how old you are, it’s how you are old. You don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to. Expectations may be resentments under construction.
Have you had a funny horse moment that still makes you laugh?
I was quietly cooling out a Thoroughbred, just walking in a straight line. Suddenly, he did a 180—and I ended up on the ground sitting in the same direction I had been going.
Who inspires you?
What talents do you feel you have?
The ability to be organized and detail-oriented.
What’s your favorite item of clothing to wear?
Anything loose that fits over the “senior belly bump.”
What’s your favorite meal?
Pizza and salad… or is it steak and baked potato? or is it prime rib? Hmmmm….
What three things can always be found in your refrigerator?
Water, Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Nuggets with Almonds, ketchup
What’s something people don’t know about you?
I was hospitality coordinator for the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden for approximately 30 years. I also designed the current USEF-approved measuring stick (when the organization was AHSA) and my late ex-husband, a brilliant mechanical design engineer, built the sticks. We made the first 500 and then somebody took over the manufacturing. I actually own and still use stick #001.
What’s something everyone should try at least once?
Cooking something from scratch. Also, thinking before you speak!
If you could have a super power, what would it be?
To heal my special-needs clients at Pegasus Therapeutic Riding, and to bring tolerance and acceptance to the world.
Photo by Liz Soroka