I have a vivid memory of riding in a clinic at the O’Connor farm in the pastoral hills of Virginia: I’ve finished for the day. My petite, dapple grey horse is settled and I’m filled with satisfaction, relief, and pride for a hard day’s work done. I’m standing on the gentle slope of a hill overlooking a ring where the legendary Karen O’Connor and her magnificent international event horse Biko, are cantering around the corner. Biko is as refined, powerful, self-contained, and charismatic in person as he was in photos. Karen, who was half of his whole, is just as poised.
Then the memory stops, like an old VHS running out of tape. But it was enough that I’ve held on to it all these years. My own piece of this great horse with his great rider who, together, would accomplish so much, but perhaps none more important than the inspiration and passion they gave freely to a whole generation of riders. In the coming years, there would be others Karen rode into our hearts — Prince Panache, Mandiba, Teddy O’Connor, to name a few — but like so many of us, the beginning of Karen’s journey is a familiar one.
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Article written by: Courtney Alston