Linden Hall’s history with horses: Then, now and always

By on September 13, 2017

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Horses for student riders cantered onto the Linden Hall campus in 1925 and they have been part of the school’s culture now for nearly a century. Dr. W. F. Stengel was headmaster at the time, and from the beginning, the folks responsible for the Linden Hall stables were determined to have a quality program. The May, 1925, edition of The Echo, a school newsletter, reported that:

Riding is a new and popular sport at Linden Hall. The school maintains its own stable and though the horses are spirited, they have been trained until they are quite gentle and safe. There is not a horse of the old ‘hack-horse’ variety in the stables.

According to a published Linden Hall history, in 1925 the mounts were housed in stables on the east side of North Lane, which runs from the Tomato Pie Cafe on Broad Street and east to North Elm Street. An expanded stable was built in 1947, big enough to hold 20 horses. In 1981, a new stable was built on the school’s back campus, with an entrance off Locust Street. It’s big enough for 18 horses, a tack room and an administrative office for the equestrian program. In 1996, an indoor exercise barn and riding ring were added to make riding more comfortable both for the students and the horses.

We recently spent part of a morning digging through school archives with Kate Yeager who, among other duties, serves as the school’s archivist, and Hannah Kreider, the experienced horsewoman who heads up the equestrian program. There’s a lot of pre-digitized material in the archives — newsletters, programs, books, catalogs, etc. — with some gaps in the early years.

We also talked to Marilyn Winfield, who was the riding instructor from 1971 until 1975, the year she got married and moved to Willow Street. Her tenure was about halfway between the beginning of the equestrian program and now, and it was an interesting time at the school both for the horses and their human caretakers.

“The rule then was that the teachers needed to live on campus,” Winfield said when we talked to her and Chip, her two-year-old Pomeranian, in the tackroom in the stable. (“Tack,” you probably know but just in case, is the stuff that horses wear — bits, bridles, saddles, blankets, etc. — and the tackroom is where you keep the tack.)

There were a few married teachers who lived off campus, but as a young woman in her early 20s, Winfield enjoyed the perks of campus life — a salary, room and board — without the burden of studying. Like all the resident faculty, Winfield dined with students. Part of the dining ritual was that the faculty member at the table served the student to her right, who would pass each plate to her right until everyone was served, then all would begin eating simultaneously.

It was a bit formal, Winfield said, and everybody had to dress, nicely but not necessarily formally, for dinner.

There were times when the headmaster, John Morman, would join Winfield’s table. The headmaster hated lamb, a fact of which Winfield was aware. There was a dinner when he was at her table, and Winfield put mashed potatoes and the vegetable of the day on his plate. She suggested to the headmaster that he might like to try a little lamb.

“If you put lamb on my plate I’ll fire you,” he said.

So, whether he was kidding or not, and he probably was, he got no lamb that night.

Morman was the grandfather of the aforementioned Kate Yeager, whose mother, Ruth Ellen Morman (now Shelley) was one of Winfield’s first riding students.

During Winfield’s tenure, horses were not the only occupants. There was a donkey named John John, a present from a Linden Hall parent to Headmaster Morman. The parent had heard that donkeys could be a calming influence on horses.

John John did not fall into the calming mold, Winfield recalled.

“He was a terror,” she said. “But we was cute. We had a little job cart for him, and a harness but we didn’t hitch him up very often. If he got scared, he’d run under something, which was bad for anybody who was in the buggy.”

John John pretty much did what he wanted to do, which was to wander loose around the stable and let out a bray now and then.

Another non-equine stable resident was a goat named Edna. She came to school along with a horse that belonged to a student, because the horse needed her company to feel secure. Winfield recalled that whenever she posted bulletin board notes about the riding program, Edna ate them.

These days there’s a cat in the stable, along with 10 resident horses, but according to a reliable informant Mr. Cat pretty much stays in the tackroom and values his solitude.

About a third of the students were involved with the riding program when Winfield had the reins. Some were members of the Bit and Spurs Club, which was for students who liked horses, but not necessarily riding them. The Vanguards were the school’s most experienced riders and competed in a number of shows each year. Both the Bit and Spurs and the Vanguards are still mainstays of the equestrian program.

When Winfield was the trainer, she said they went to two shows a year, one in Valley Forge and the other at the Rothsville polo grounds, now known as Forney field. The trip to Rothsville was a bit of a spectacle. The girls saddled up at the North Lane stables, packed their gear in buckets, then headed out Route 772 to Warwick Road. They left Warwick Road at one point to ride cross country to the polo field.

As Linden Hall’s program approaches its centennial, Hannah Kreider, who currently is the school’s riding program coordinator, reports that today’s students are as enthusiastic about horses as the class of 1925 was, and expects the program to be around for a long time to come.

Dick Wanner is a reporter for the Lititz Record Express. He can be reached at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com.

 

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