Q: What makes Horse Nation awesome? A: The equestrian enthusiasts who call it home. We’re profiling some of HN’s most interesting citizens in this new series by Jennifer Ferrell.
Today, we’ll be meeting Patricia Roberts, an eventer/dressage rider, cancer survivor and all-around inspiring woman who owns FenRidge Farm in Mebane, NC.
Photos used with permission from Patricia Roberts.
Six year-old Patricia Roberts didn’t even know she liked horses until her aunt rescued a three year-old pony and gave it to her.
“I spent a lot of time on the ground. Looking back,” she laughs, “that laid the groundwork for me to start eventing.”
It’s been a long, curvy road since those days in Denver, Colorado and that untrained, mutton withered pony to where Patricia is now, owner of FenRidge Farms in Mebane, NC with her husband, Matthew. What had started in 1996 with 56 acres and a three-stall barn is now a 120-acre farm with 22 stalls and a XC cross through Prelim. Their farm plays host to nine competitions a year ranging from dressage shows and combined tests to horse trials as well as serving as a locale for three local pony clubs to school and do their ratings.
Growing up as an Air Force brat, it wasn’t until she was 12 years old that the same aunt who had given her that first pony gave her a Quarter Horse gelding named Ruben. Patricia said Ruben did anything she asked and that he was a saint.
“I have never found another Ruben,” she says.
When it came time to go to North Carolina State University where she earned a degree in biochemisty, not only did she join the Army topay the bills but she was also forced to sell Ruben.
After college Patricia found Mr. Willie Jones, a racing Appaloosa on a track in New Mexico, who would give her a start in eventing. Lacking a trailer the day she purchased him, she rode “Breeze” (see top photo) from the track eight miles through the center of town to home, on what said she said was one of these typical windy New Mexico days. “He never looked back for the other horses; he just assumed they were behind him.”
Patricia evented Breeze for the first time at Novice level knowing that he could easily clear three feet but having never actually schooled a cross country course.
“Looking back, I realized I was a horse trial organizer’s nightmare!” she recalls.
She and Breeze first competed at Six Pillars Farm, Southern Pines in 1995; their dressage score was a whopping 82 points. She was so new to the sport, she didn’t realize just how bad the score was. “I thought to myself, 82%? Wow I didn’t think the test was that good.” Neither did the judge–she received 2s on her canter work and even garnered a “canter looks unsafe” comment on her test. Still, it was a team event and her team wound up winning. “I was the drop score for dressage, obviously,” she explains, but they used her stadium and cross country scores.
Over the years and with a lot of work, Patricia and Breeze (a.k.a. Team Spot) went on to compete up to the Preliminary level, even finishing the Virginia Horse Trials CCI*. Patricia had Breeze for over 18 years until he passed away in 2011. He is buried on her farm.
“Breeze was a rare horse to take me from never having evented to a CCI*,” Patricia says. “He was brave to the point of cockiness and in dressage I was only ever going to get cooperation as submission was not an option.”
In 2007 Patricia was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she continued to ride during her cancer treatments, she said they immediately added 15 years to her body.
“I am alive!,” she says, “but the chemotherapy aged me. I went from a young 39 to an old 55 overnight. My reaction time is gone. My joints are shot.”
Now fully in remission, Patricia has set her sights on working toward a USDF Bronze Medal with Zima, her Dutch Harness Horse. She says she would also like to get back to eventing at some point; she would like to find a horse to lease that she can point at a fence and know he’s going to jump it.
Patricia is also busy working as real estate agent. She picked her new career up after being displaced from Glaxo Smith Kline four years ago. The real estate business is one that will feed her competitive streak, she says, “without having good knees.”
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