I grew up in Boston and started riding at a barn outside of the city when I was six years old. Throughout grade and high school, I continued to ride at a barn in Milton, Mass and later at Dana Hall in Wellesley. My parents were not horse people and had four kids so couldn't afford to buy me a horse or allow me to show and I rode my bike to the barn and worked to pay for my own lessons. I always wished I could some day live near a barn and ride every day, instead of once a week.
When it came time for me to look for a college, I knew that IHSA riding would be my chance to compete in the sport I loved. The colleges I applied to all had to have IHSA riding teams and having the barn easily accessed from campus was huge for me. Smith was a no brainer both academically and especially because of the riding program and walkable riding facility.
I rode on the team from '82 through '85, and it was everything I had hoped for. I loved being part of a team; cheering each other on, getting together for boot cleaning parties the night before shows, taking crack of dawn trips to far away campuses for shows, executing red light "fire drills" in the team vans, and forming close friendships. I rode four days a week while at Smith and cleaned stalls on weekends to help pay for my lessons, and I was in heaven. This is the riding experience I had missed during my childhood and it made my time at Smith special.
After Smith, I went off to veterinary school at Tufts and then was lucky enough to move back to the Valley in 1992 for a job in small animal veterinary medicine, so of course I came back to Fox Meadow Farm and started riding again with Sue. I have been riding at Fox Meadow ever since, with a few months off when I had my daughter. Most recently, I have been half leasing one of the school horses there for the past two years.
In addition, my daughter, who is now 16 years old has been riding at Fox Meadow as well. She has been a member of the IEA team at the barn since its inception in 2012 and has been one of those "barn rat" type kids for the last 4 1/2 years. She has grown up hanging out at Fox Meadow, riding whatever horse she is offered, and helping out around the barn. She was her team's captain last year and went to IEA finals last year as well, where she placed fourth in her division. The barn at Smith and her lessons with Sue and Lori and her experiences with the IEA team have defined her life outside of school, and losing this place and these horses and these people will be a tremendous loss for her and for me.
It breaks my heart that Smith has made this decision, and my own riding future as well as that of my daughter's is no longer clear. What makes me especially angry is how the College went about making the decision to do this. I never thought that the alma mater I loved would decide to do something so drastic without any conversation with the many people the decision will affect.
- Beth Gatti, Smith College Class of 1985