Rural Missouri - July 2012 - (Page 28)

Rita & Little Ollie Great memories connect Rita Diekroeger and her saddlebred buddy, Ollie by Golly he quote, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man,” is one of the oldest of old horseman’s sayings, most often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. Nowadays, the adage applies to women, too, because they have thoroughly saturated the horse world as exhibitors, teachers, trainers, breeders and all other things equine. Take Rita Diekroeger of Columbia — she has done all of the above and is an outstanding example of the horse-centered woman. Her horse experience covers 39 years teaching horsemanship and physical education at Stephens College. The Boone Electric Cooperative member has helped young women prepare for a lifetime of pleasure and show riding and other horse-related careers, doing all that men have traditionally done. Rita, now retired from teaching, has made a name for herself in the horse show world since 2003 with a saddlebred named Ollie by Golly. They have won piles of trophies, blue ribbons (which Rita uses to decorate her Christmas tree) and championships on local, state and national levels. T by Joan Gilbert Looking at Olllie, one wonders why the word “little” so often accompanies his name. At 15.1 hands (or about 5-feet 1-inch tall), Ollie is really only a bit smaller than the average saddlebred, but something about his facial expression and demeanor inspires that adjective. “There’s just something so boyish about him,” admirers sometimes say when they ask permission to hug him. Rita says Ollie can be quite mischievous at times, pointing out his impatience in ribbon ceremonies. “It’s as if he’s telling me, ‘OK, I’ve done my part. Now let’s go to the barn and have peppermints,’” she says. So what’s a saddlebred? Saddlebreds were developed in the South by combining the blood of several respected breeds to get a horse large and sturdy enough to carry a good-size man for many hours over sometimes rough terrain, but beautiful and elegant enough to inspire envy. Thus breeders strove for long necks and legs and the vain posture and movement that shouts, “Look at me!” Missouri has always had many good saddlebreds because numerous Southerners settled here, bringing their fine horses with them. They — and Missourians impressed with the breed — continued to perpetuate and improve what now is known internationally as “The American Saddlebred,” bringing equine shoppers to Missouri from all over the world. Rita and Ollie’s area of competition is a show class called country pleasure driving. This means that horses are “plain shod,” theoretically capable of going from the ring on down the road toward home, as was the case with all show horses a few generations ago. Now, many show Nichols and Karen Rader. horses wear weighted shoes to help “If Rita likes you, it’s permanent,” them attain the appearance needed Cindy says. “Her friends are always for utmost drama. on her mind. She’s the kind of person Rita’s classes, though, are less who sends you clippings and articles restricted in every way, even down to that she feels you may find useful or the driver’s attire, which is not flashy interesting. but distinctive and pleasing. Rita “She’s always been extremely supenjoys planning outfits that harmoportive of her pupils, and her zest was nize with Ollie but don’t overshadow contagious; she sent us into the him. Her hats can be ring with confidence.” only a little bit fancy, Both women remark about but she says they make Rita’s high energy level. her feel like Queen Eliza• “I always think of her as beth. She is tempted to give Columbia moving forward eagerly the audience casually regal to the next challenge or waves. task,” Karen says. She “We’ve had a lot of fun cites the fact that Rita over the years,” Rita says, now is contemplating adding she recently retired showing hackney ponies. These are Ollie to greener pastures at the age of somewhat smaller than Ollie but are 16 while at the top of his game. shown at a faster pace and in a generRita, who in the Southern tradially bolder manner. Rita has trained tion does not tell her age, does admit hackneys in the past, and she deftly to being “a senior senior,” and she manages Ollie, but this change will realizes that owning a horse does mean some adjustment and practice not qualify one as a showman. “But for Rita, too. almost anyone who has horse experiFriends say that with Rita and ence in their past, and can afford the Ollie, everything boils down to relatime and cost of a taking lessons, can tionship. Comments such as “They have fun with a horse like Ollie, or love each other very much” and one much smaller.” “Ollie takes care of Rita” are frequent. The horsewoman points out that This last is another old horseman’s the cost of lessons compares well with saying meaning that a horse may the costs of undertaking any new bicker at times with a rider or driver, recreation, and not all equine driving but he will never threaten and will experience has to be in the show ring. protect them from danger if he can. “It can be fun on your own propHowever that new undertaking erty or in events that are not competimay turn out, Rita says she’s thankful tive at all, but are set up just for fun. for the many fun times and hundreds Horses can be rented or — especially of wins Ollie’s given her in the show small ones — bought and kept in your ring and happy he’s enjoying retireown backyard,” she says. ment. Whether grazing for clover A few insights into Rita’s work or meeting Rita over the fence for a and character come from two Boone peppermint, the outside of Ollie will County women who have known her always contribute to Rita’s well-being. for decades as instructor, mentor, colleague and now as good friend with Gilbert is a freelance writer from family status, often sharing holidays Hallsville. in each other’s homes. They are Cindy Rita Diekroeger takes her saddlebred, Ollie by Golly, on a victory pass at the United Professional Horsemen’s Association Chapter 5 show in 2011. photo courtesy of Rita Diekroeger

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2012

Rural Missouri - July 2012
A peach of a place
Quilting for a cause
Corralling the faithful
Out of the Way Eats
Platte City’s jewel
Reeling in the competition
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Rita & Little Ollie
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - July 2012