An Extraordinary, Ordinary Rider - A Fanfare for the Common Equestrian

Thursday, April 18, 2019
Posted by Father Larry David mcCormick


+Theresa Damiano.jpg

I will not be in the least bit surprised if you fail to recognize the lady in the photo. She could be one of your fellow boarders. She does not lift up her voice in expectation of special treatment for herself or her horse by the barn’s management. She keeps her belongings under control and does not creep into shared spaces. She keeps her tack orderly so that the rest of us need not be concerned that visitors to our barn will think us a slovenly or careless gaggle of riders.

At the same time she takes pride in exercising her riding skills to the best of her ability. She offers a supportive word when one of the rest of us despairs of improvement. She knows when she has a training insight that works for her and that might help us. She knows when to hold her tongue.

Put it all together and she is an extraordinary, ordinary rider. Now take all of the verbs in those first two paragraphs and put them into the past tense, for this lady has died.

Her name is Theresa Ann (née Foster) Damiano. As we were driving home from her funeral this afternoon, my mind was turning over thoughts of items I needed to catch up on. When I reached my everyday routine of browsing the usual horse web sites : Dressage Daily, Horses Daily, Eurodressage, The Chronicle of the Horse, etc) the thought struck me of how ordinary is my reading about other folks’ extraordinary achievements. Top flight riders who compete at the national and international levels. Reports of judges who lend their wisdom to us at clinics. All of these were as avidly consumed by our now deceased friend, Theresa.

The question arises: What makes so ordinary an equestrian person worth several column inches in a couple of the places to which we come expecting the extraordinary? Oh, yes, there are the occasional articles about adult amateurs whose action committee has gained a toehold at FEI recognized shows. But Theresa and so many of us will never rise to that level. What do we do that makes us worthy of note?

Theresa and her husband, John, occupied seats at World Cup and World Equestrian Game competitions. Their voices were raised to cheer on the best and the brightest. Their admission fees helped to pay for the machinery that makes these shows a reality. She aspired to someday ride at a modest level of test during Dressage at Devon. (An aspiration she and her horse may have achieved this year had the cancer not laid her low.) She, like so many lady riders, tolerated a horse husband who buried his nose in the Times crossword puzzle but whose horizon was widened so that he recognized a superior ride in the ring at Aachen when he lifted up his nose and saw one.

A second question arises: What has all of this to do with me? With a full throated shout I urge upon you, upon me, upon all of us that we be extraordinary at whatever tasks are for us the routine, the ordinary. Theresa tacked up and rode to the best of her ability five days each week