In Memorium: Alexsandra “Sandy” Howard

sandy howard 3No matter what you do with your life, there will be people who enter into it and remind you of what the ideal could be. There are people who make you think, “Yes, I want to be like that.”

Sandy Howard was one of those people.

Sandy was a handsome woman, with an erect posture, hawk-like features and iron gray hair. She was articulate and spoke with great clarity of purpose. She judged, cliniced, taught and rode almost until the end of her life and her contribution to the dressage world is undeniable. But that is not what I would like to write about. Most likely, in next month’s “Dressage Connection” or “Dressage Today” there will (or should) be articles on her accomplishments.

That is not my purpose here. Nor is it to speak of Sandy Howard as a friend or close relation. To be honest, I am not sure she would remember me were my name mentioned. I cliniced with Sandy extensively and traveled multiple times to her facility to attend Teacher Training Workshops, but I was one in a crowd of faces.

That being said, Sandy Howard’s affect on me was massive. She is the person who I have modeled myself after – the type of trainer that I strive to become. It is so easy in this profession to burn out, to fatigue, to allow your standards and expectations to slip. Likewise it is so easy to, once you have grasped some measure of success, to believe that there is no better way, that you have all the answers or that you are the end all, be all. With Sandy Howard, she was constantly striving to find a better way. Nothing was beyond investigation or consideration. Video replay technology, experimenting with different methods of saddle fit, mechanical horses, in-hand work, literature on learning theory – all and many more were explored and tried.

sandy howard 2She hosted clinics at her property that were as much for her education as for the others in attendance, for she was right there along with the rest of the trainers, asking questions and searching for answers, for that better way. In the weeks before her passing, Sandy said to her daughter Anne, “It’s not a bad thing to have shared your life with horses. They are a special animal.”

What I want, more than anything, is to galvanize in myself that strength of spirit and iron-willed curiosity that fueled her. It is so easy to get tired in this profession, or to get pulled off track from what you are really here to do. To ride and train horses. To teach and train students. To contribute to and improve the sport. If I could have a wish for myself it would be in forty years time, to be marching around my property in my own full length down coat, with clear eyes and unfettered spirit, riding and teaching and training.

Sandy Howard worked tremendously hard her entire life to raise the level of standards and education amongst the dressage world. I hope that I can be one example of those who she has affected for the better.

9 responses to “In Memorium: Alexsandra “Sandy” Howard

  1. You are doing just that Bonnie, you have the right perspective for bettering the world, and I know she remembered you well. Thank you for your kind remembrance. The scores of instructors who follow behind her now have the job to keep asking the good questions and continuing to uphold horsemanship and dressage to its highest standards.

  2. Hello, what a great remembrance of the girl I remember as Sandy Dill.
    We met at about 12-13 yrs of age-pretty sure at the Stanford Stables.
    We would meet at 6am to gallop the horses left in our trust, and we would go off around the neighborhood- jumping such obstacles as
    bike racks in school yards. We were really good friends, living not far from each other in Menlo Park. I remember we even bought matching
    dresses- hers was blue and mine was pink-but, same design.

    After getting somewhat aquainted with the US Olympic team in 1959, and helping to train an Irish thoroughbred, Shon O’Brie who was an Olympic candidate, but for a hoof injury, I went off
    to watch the 1960 Equestrian Olympics in Rome,Then stayed on in France for three years. Sandy told me that it was really hard that she
    couldn’t go there, too-but, she stayed the horse course and shot way beyond me. I wish we had stayed in better contact, although we did
    see each other from time to time. I would visit her in Woodside, and we we rode a bit there- that was when Anne was very young.
    Even though we haven’t been in much contact, I have a big hole
    in my heart ….I just loved knowing she was out there with the horses.
    She was a very important part of my young life, and many memories
    are bubbling up- I can see her so well as that bright, brave young girl.
    I am very sad.
    I would like to visit you one day, Anne-maybe after a little time has passed. Jenny is a friend.
    I send love to you-I only remember you as a darling little 10 yr old.

  3. I had no idea she passed, I think of her often and she impacted so many people. My life at ASH going up shaped my world today and it’s due to her. Thank you for this beautiful article.

  4. Your words have captured what is in my heart. Sandy has always provided great inspiration. I know she will continue to do so for a long time. Thanks Bonnie.

    • Thank you Bonnie. What a vibrant, vivacious life Sandy lived. She cliniced for us in NM for years, brought new ideas and introduced us to people like Sally Swift and Guenter Seidel! Thank you , Joan Bolton for bringing Sandy into our world. We are all the better for it.

  5. Pingback: Confidence In The Show Ring: The Audition Mentality | Bonnie Walker·

  6. I found your beautiful memorium and find myself thinking about her a lot since I learned of her passing. She left a big mark on me after just one three day clinic with her. Her grasp of riding and explaining and then the video comparison side of it really blew me away. It was one of the best riding experiences of my life. She will be missed.

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