Dorothy left an indelible impression on my childhood. I can still see her pacing off the distances to place the dressage letters before a lesson or setting up caveletti. I can still hear her voice rising (in frustration?) at something that hasn’t come quite come together. And I can still hear her voice radiate when whatever wasn’t working finally went right. She was a demanding teacher and a perfectionist. There really wasn’t anything better than Dorothy recognizing the results of a good effort during a lesson, especially for a young rider like me, because you knew the praise was genuine and deserved. I’m so sorry that she is gone. My heart goes out to Deb and the rest of Dorothy’s family.
– Matt Riccardi
I had the privilege of meeting Dorothy as a young Pony Clubber. I was a bit shy but very determined, and she had such a huge impact on my riding. Through her lessons I learned how to ride an accurate dressage test, and made more 10 meter circles than I ever thought possible! I remember her kicking her feet in frustration as I struggled to achieve what she wanted, and the huge smile when I finally got there. Never has an instructor pushed me so hard and brought out my potential.
Her lunge line lessons gave me an independent seat, and never have I been more exhausted while riding a horse. She believed in me so much, and her lessons always went above and beyond. Sweaty and exhausted, she would always send us to the river to cool our horses legs after the lesson.
I still feel a thrill remembering how, when I competed in the dressage rallys, Dorothy actually loaned me her horse for the day so I could compete in higher level tests.
I spent countless hours at her farm painting fences and moving hay bales. I remember one day I was tired and hungry, and she invited us into her camper for some homemade chicken salad. I still don’t know what she put in that chicken salad… I have tried to recreate it my entire life but so far I have never tasted one as good as that day.
My heart breaks to think that such an amazing person is no longer here to contribute to this world. She was truly an inspiration for me and I will always be grateful to have crossed her path.
– Christina Holzer
Dorothy was at the center of a wonderful world during the years when my kids were growing up. She taught us everything we could absorb about horses and eventing (my son on board, me as groom). She was smart, funny, brilliant with horses and riders, and a generous friend who shared the good stuff that came her way. Thanks for it all, Dorothy. I’ll miss you.
– Peggy Riccardi
I first met Dorothy 20 years ago, in what would become such a
familiar setting, at a riding clinic. I remember being beyond nervous,
and as I approached the indoor I heard a voice that seemed to carry on
through the walls to the car port where we were tacking up. “Keep the
connection”, all I could think was, that sounds funny yet frightening at
the same time. Luckily I was aboard the best pony around, so even if I
was making circles like a drunk sailor, she would adjust and make them
rounder for me. I still remember that lesson as we were working on leg
yields, and I had no idea at the start what I was doing, and
continually apologizing for messing up. Yet the entire time Dorothy was
nothing but patient and kind; laughing along the way and encouraging
my nervous D2 self. She seemed to have endless tools to help you figure
things out, and through out the lesson I could feel her wanting me to
succeed. That I think is what I remember most. It is a rare gift,
wanting someone to succeed and be successful. I was never that
confident growing up, in any aspect really and riding became my
relaxing outlet; horses are magical and kind, after all. But riding
also made me nervous, I wanted to be competent to the point it made me
hesitate. Dorothy had the ability as an instructor to teach you how to
ride through mistakes un-bothered, while instilling in you a drive
towards utter competence. She had such an air about her, you felt like
she was there every step of the lesson reminding you it’s ok if you
mess up, go on your circle and take a breath, then re approach the
movement. Over the years Dorothy created these little moments of
perfect harmony, and every time she would smile as she’d say “now
you’ve got it”. Every year from that first lesson I would ride with
Dorothy in clinics, and she would become one of my absolute favorite
instructors to work with. I remember prepping for my B Pony Club rating
with her aboard Mad Madigan, whom she had helped me over the years
develop; she always loved his square build and steady paces. Dorothy
worked for almost two hours that day with us, telling us what to focus
on in our warm up as well as developing a mock dressage test that would
show off his strong areas while including the required movements.
Thanks to all her help, and constant encouragement, the B test was a
breeze; we even exceeded standards on all areas of our flat work. I
remember seeing her later that year for a clinic and being excited to
tell her that, she’d smile while saying “and did you expect anything
but that”. Dorothy was passionate about helping you improve your
riding, and she genuinely cared about you as a person and as a rider.
Over the years after the B test, I would ride a bit more infrequently,
college made it more of a seasonal thing. But each year I would end up
seeing her for at least a clinic or two and catch back up. These
moments, even as they were fewer, I always looked forward to. Her
kindness, and her ability to make you feel like you can accomplish
things, even through your doubts, are things I will always remember. I
can’t thank her enough for shaping me as a rider and as a person, and
instilling in me her unwavering resolve to keep trying through ups and
downs. Thank you Dorothy, for being such a wonderful friend and person, I
will strive to always keep the connection.
– Rocco Blaine Henderson
Oh Dorothy, I have thought of her so often and I have missed her over the years. In the 1980’s had a wonderful riding group in Ringoes and Dor was at the center of it; I’ve never found its equal to this day. Susan Reichlin, Lorna Mack, Dorothy and I converged at the sand dressage arena behind Terry Harrison’s airfield at the Weeden’s lovely Meadowberry farm. We rode rain or shine and somehow did without a covered arena. I’ll never forget how Dorothy came and braided my horse, Devil, put her in the trailer along with Susan’s horse Steppin’ and packed us off to my first dressage show held at Dorothy’s mother’s farm and judged by I forget who (Linda Zang, maybe?), but she became famous in the dressage world. No one has done that for me since. One of my most poignant early dressage memories is of Dorothy dragging me to go watch the US Dressage warm-up rides at Gladstone, some visiting German named Reiner Klinke. Even a newbie like me could see how he transformed every horse on the team. That sunny morning was a seminal moment for me. I’ve been pursuing the dressage trail ever since. I have often wondered what my life would be like, if I hadn’t met Dorothy Maxfield.
Also I recall vividly trail riding Devil over to the Kingsford’s farm for a lesson, then meeting and watching Hilda Gurney give Dorothy a lesson on Judy K’s Mr. B. Dorothy, her students, Debbie and the other members of the Amwell Valley Hounds Pony Cub felt like the center of the dressage/eventing world. I remember trail riding on an autumn morning around the corn and soy fields of the Sourland Mountains with Dor and Lorna. Dorothy rode her mother’s new young horse, a handsome black gelding, I think named Voltaire. Didn’t all of us go to the Hunt Ball together one year at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan? It felt as if time stopped and the world was not rushing towards a new millennium. After I moved to the foothills northeast of Seattle and had my own farm, Dorothy came to visited me on her way to or from judging a show on the coast. She rode my lovely gray Dutch mare, Vera, a schoolmaster that I had lucked into formerly owned by my new riding instructor, Nancy Cleveland Thacher. Nancy, when she lived in Virginia, had been a judge at one of Dorothy’s mother’s schooling shows. While Dorothy was out west, sje gave me lessons on Vera and encouraged me to show her at the higher levels. When Dorothy left it never occurred to me that I would never see her again. After Vera, I was fortunate enough to go to Germany and luck into a Donnerhall horse, Don Leon, another gem. I’ve owned him fourteen years and just retired him. Today I ride Vera’s stellar grandson, Kabaret, a complicated hot tempered beast by Windfall/Weltmeyer; he’s has cowed many trainers but wouldn’t have put Dorothy off in the slightest. As was often said, Dorothy got a lot out of a horse and I often wished that she’d judged another show in the Pacific Northwest so that she could have visited me again. I’ll never forget her happy laugh, her eye from a talented horse, and her encouragement; I will miss her more than I can say. –Jana Harris
It’s taken me a few days to decide what I want to write about Dorothy. What are the right words to say to someone that profoundly dictated (is there any other word?) who you are, what you stand for and your uncompromising commitment to solid, safe and correct horsemanship? How do you thank and express the appropriate gratitude to the person who’s voice (and at times LOUD voice) is in your ear every time you swing your leg over a horse – from the second your seat hits the saddle until you arrive safely on the ground again? Dorothy was an amazing teacher and she forgot more than I have ever learned about horses and dressage long before I met her in 1984. She was unrelenting in her pursuit of solid basics and excellent horsemanship. She taught an entire generation of students to never compromise. The ribbon, the next level, the competition was never as important at the path. Every ride I take, every lesson I’ve taught continues her legacy. I hope she’d be proud. RIP – I hope you are resting among peers that use their leg, go forward, keep the rhythm, get IN the corner and for the love of god can do a proper 20 meter circle.
– Paige Cherry Diroberto
Dorothy was a huge part of my life for so many years growing up- she was the foundation of our Amwell Valley Hounds Pony Club; she is the mother of dear Deb, who is like a sister to me; she taught, inspired, guided so many young riders; she devoted her life to us through those years and instilled in us a deep respect and love for our horses and each other. I hear her words of wisdom, determination, perseverance, and support all the time when I ride and when I teach.
She was a focused, dedicated instructor- I can still see her sitting cross-legged on the side of the arena at Meadowberry Farm, beating the ground rhythmically, red-faced and chanting “YOU’VE – GOT – TO -KEEP – THE – RHYTHM”… and then a few minutes later, her wonderful laugh and easy smile would clear the air, rewarding us for doing a good job. She was a stickler for geometry- lines had to be STRAIGHT and circles ROUND and the correct size. She also insisted upon correct, quiet, soft hands. She introduced us to our idols and other professionals whom she knew we could learn more from. She challenged us to go beyond our comfort zones.
I have so many memories of Dorothy and unfortunately so few pictures- at pony club rallies, we wouldn’t be allowed to speak to adults, but it was always such a boost of confidence to see her alongside the dressage arena as we entered, or at that especially difficult cross country fence she knew we would be fearing, or at the end of that complicated line in stadium- she was there behind the scenes, recognizing our individual challenges, and cheering us on.
Thank you Dorothy. Much love to you.
– Tessa DeGarv
Both Dorothy and her twin, Diane, my mother, love to give gifts. And Dorothy came up with the craziest ones. There was an inflatable, huggable pillow that would sit on your airline tray table and allow you to sleep comfortably while flying, which both Dorothy and my family did far more than most. This year it was a special kind of glue that cures in response to a UV light. I have no idea where she would find these ideas – though this most recent one may have been inspired by frequently seeing random items on our kitchen counter during the time she stayed with us last year: toys, boots, children’s craft, etc, in the “Mom, please fix this” pile. The pile stays small these days, but I miss her afresh each time I use that silly glue!
A special memory during the time she stayed with us was celebrating her (and her twin, my mom’s) 75th birthday. Funny to watch the two of them interact as only twins can, and yet do some things exactly the same, like blow out birthday candles. My cousin, Dorothy’s daughter, also sent a tiara that my kids loved and a light-up sign “happy birthday” that graced the table and Dorothy’s window for quite some time. Definitely a blessing having her with us for that time.
Approximately 25 years ago, I took my first lesson with Dorothy in Lafayette , Louisiana. I had been a “rider” since I was 12 years old but soon found out I knew nothing about dressage. The first thing she asked me was , “ what is the distance between each letter in the dressage arena?” Well , of course I did not know. I thought, who knows those things !! So began my journey of learning dressage. She was so dedicated to her students and their horses, making sure we were going on the right path of knowledge. She became a good friend and a wonderful mentor. Every time I ride I hear her words of wisdom in my head. We will miss her in Louisiana and are so grateful to have had her guiding us in the right direction, doing it with fun and love. Miss you and love you Dorothy!
– Mary Alice Edwards
We are truly saddened to hear of Dorothy’s passing. She was a great lady and horsewoman who gave much to the sport. We will remember her fondly at Bucks County Horse Park, where she often officiated. Many condolences to her family and friends.
– Maureen Ferris