Remembering Gretchen Singleton

Beloved NODA Member, past NODA Board Member,
Professional  Trainer of horses and riders,
successful Dressage Competitor, and so much more!
Gretchen - We lost you much too soon!

Updated 11/23/2010

Go To:   Published Newspaper & Website Obituaries

NODA Tribute to Gretchen Singleton

            Pictures (L-R): 
 Gretchen at NODA 2006 Year-End Banquet  &   Gretchen riding Erin Casco Bay

                                                                            May 2, 2010   Memorial Celebration of Gretchen
Thank you to everyone who attended this special, heartwarming event at Fieldstone Farm TRC in Bainbridge.   Many wonderful funny memories and stories were shared.  There was also a vast array of delicious desserts for everyone to eat that would have done Gretchen's sweet tooth proud!    

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1/2/2010 Pictures Posted On November 14, 2009, Gretchen attended the NODA Year-End Awards Banquet.    She won several awards and presented a trophy.   Three pictures are Gretchen from the banquet, are now posted.    Under RECOGNIZED SHOWS, she won Reserve Champion, FEI PSG.  Under GRAND HAVEN STABLE Championship Series, she was Champion PSG Open.   Under TROPHIES & AWARDS, she presented The Laddie Andahazy Trophy, which she sponsored.  

Posted on NODA Website 12/21/09
Singleton passed away the evening of December 21, 2009.  She was surrounded by loving friends and family.   Funeral services will take place in West Virginia.  Gretchen was very special to everyone who knew her.  She dedicated her life to horses and educating horse owners and riders.   We will truly miss her.  
The Cheff Therapeutic Center held a special place in Gretchen’s heart.  She requested that anyone wishing to make a donation in her honor, do so there. 
(Left Picture - Gretchen competing Erin Casco Bay  - Right Picture - Gretchen competing Madison - Summer 2008)

Memories, Thoughts, Tributes

9/23/10  As I looked around the warm-up ring at Grand Haven I wondered where the trainer had gone that I have noticed, watched and listened to so intently.  I haven’t owned a horse in 20 years and just learned how to pronounce the word “dressage”.  I was in a foreign world with some of the largest horses under saddle that I have ever seen in one place. I enjoyed sitting beside the warm-up ring listening to Gretchen coach her students trying to learn and soak up all I could from the riders and trainers around me. I could tell she had passion and really understood the horse and rider she worked with. I was jealous of her students and had an itch to purchase a big horse and convince Gretchen to be my trainer too.  I was the EMT for several shows at Grand Haven over the last two summers and fortunately I had a lot of time on my hands. I had the awesome opportunity to listen and learn more than I have in the 15 years I rode as a child.  Gretchen was different from the other trainers standing on the outside of the ring.  Perhaps it was her stature and her voice, her encouraging words and compliments that I found appealing.  I would search the ring for the horse and rider she was working with and watch carefully for what the rider was doing so I could relate and understand Gretchen’s guidance.  I could pick her voice out from all the other trainers and would smile when I heard her words of encouragement said to her students.  I was so sad to hear that she had passed away.  I never actually met Gretchen but I am grateful that she was there on those long days to teach me and help time go by much quicker.   Denise Otteni, Daughter of Dee Liebenthal (2010 NODA President)

4/30/10     I was a freshman at Lake Erie College in the fall of 1973 when I first came to know Gretchen.  That was also the year Gretchen came to teach at LEC.  Quite a few of my friends and I were her students for several quarters.  We were barely more than advanced beginners and we were desperately working hard to get better.   When Gretchen offered to form a Drill Team, we all jumped at the opportunity!  Instead of riding just two times a week in group lessons, we got to ride three times!  None of us had horses at college so we were thrilled.
               Over the years Gretchen organized several opportunities for us to demonstrate our Drill Team rides.  We rode during the lunch breaks at the Prix de Ville Dressage shows and once we put on a demonstration for a local news story.    We also learned a great deal while on the Drill Team.  We learned how to space our horses so that we could perfect the aesthetic quality of our movements.  Those of us who were on the outside had to push our horses on, while those in the middle would have to hold our horses back.  When rounding corners, we learned to go deep, or cut the corners depending upon whether we had to catch up to the horse ahead of us, or slow down so others could catch up to us. 
              I had a chance to catch up with Gretchen one day at a NODA Schooling Show at Red Raider.  She needed a scribe and I volunteered immediately.  We had fun, though I had a hard time keeping up with writing down all of her comments. 
              While I do intend to start showing again soon, I know that I will miss those, “Way to go, Bray!”  words of encouragement from Gretchen.  Irene Bray
3/12/10    Nearly 30 years ago, I rode my first dressage test in a NODA schooling show at Rocky River. I'd like to say I was "focused", but catatonic was much more like it.  At the end of the test, the tiny woman judging, stood up and boomed, "Good BREATHE!!"  She, of course, was Gretchen. Her smiling voice and encouraging demeanor was exactly what any fledgling dressage rider needed.  These many years later, I can still picture the experience. Two years ago, I began as a fledgling again, as a farm owner.  She was one of the very first people to visit. We still have her funny card hanging in the tack room, 2 years later!  Again, we were in a different form of "panic" before opening the farm, and her words of experience and enthusiasm had a wonderful effect. Still "breathing", Gretchen...thanks for being there both times when I needed the reminder.   Maggie Ball

1/8/10     Over the past few years, I had the pleasure of getting to know Gretchen – in person and by email.    We shared many humorous emails.     One thing I admired about her was that she always took the time to say, “Thank you,” or “Great job” to anyone who deserved it – and she was sincere.    Her appreciation and support motivated people.   
              I could tell that she truly loved teaching and riding horses.     I will miss her at horse shows – listening to her coach her students, watching her compete and ride so beautifully, and always around the show grounds – sending a smile or encouraging word.  When I started moving up the dressage levels and she was at a show, she would be sure to say something encouraging or nice before or after a ride, even if we were competing against each other.   She was a true competitor, and a gracious one.   I will miss her smiles, her voice, her encouragement and support, and her humor. 
Linda Cooley

1/7/10  I wanted to be sure and mention my sorrow about the passing of Gretchen Singleton. We had never been introduced to each other; we always just knew each other. I took the time a year or so back to say to her that I was Debbie McCaughtry and that it was nice to know her. We chatted about her saddle and from then on there was always a smile to be had from her. She made me smile. That smile will be missed around the dressage shows this year.  Debb McCaughtry, Shadow Facs Farm

1/6/10   Gretchen was an enormous influence on our lives even before Ken and I were married.  We both used to have lessons with her in Cleveland at the Hunt Club.  No other person had the ability to make you feel like a superstar the way Gretchen did with her teaching.  We were lucky to have her influence as well when we were in business in Florida.  Everyone at Ashland Farms will miss her.  My mother took lessons with as well and she would always look forward to her time with Gretchen.
            Gretchen had such an impact on Jennifer Waxman's career.  The amount of time Gretchen spent with each student and horse was always positive and productive.  Her energy, knowledge, and kindness will be greatly missed.
    Sincerely,  Ken and Emily Smith
1/4/10   Gretchen was a dynamo – small in stature, but huge in impact!   She connected with so many people over the years.  When I started taking lessons with her 28 years ago, I had no idea how many times our paths would cross later in life.  I remember her encouragement so vividly – riding in the back ring at the Hunt Club on my pony, who had more faults than strengths.  Yet, Gretchen always made me feel like we were doing great together!  Later, I took lessons with her riding Manny, Storybook and then, Cider.  She always had a way of making you walk out of a lesson with a “high!” 
       When I got involved with therapeutic riding, I came to learn that Gretchen had started a therapeutic riding program at Lake Erie College many years ago.  She had attended Cheff Center and understood and loved the mission. 
        When my Cider passed away two years ago, I shared my loss with Gretchen, knowing she would remember working with her, which she did. 
        The past several years, she has come to Fieldstone Farm once each month to teach our staff lessons based on groundwork.  She helped us to supple our horses, build their strength and keep them fit and happy.  These were lessons we all looked forward to and we all benefited from.  She related much of what we did to things we could use in our therapeutic lessons.  And, each month that she came, every one of us walked out of that ring feeling like we had accomplished something.  Gretchen’s resounding, “YES!  YES!  YES!” rings in my head. 
        Gretchen was one of our local equine icons …. She was a friend, a professional and an inspiration.  She is going to be very greatly missed!!
  Lynnette Stuart
1/1/10     Gretchen was a bright star, always positive and cheerful, always enthusiastic helping us reach our goals. She was a superb rider a talented  and cool competitor all in one little package!     Many of us thought of her as a best friend.
       Her talent as a trainer and competitor was obvious. For example she took our Connemara homebred, Erin Casco Bay from a hot and difficult five year old  to  be a successful competitor at FEI levels on the Florida Circuit at seventeen. The first purebred Connemara pony to achieve such heights, he was ready for Grand Prix when he died.
       Many of us would have been devastated over this loss, which also kept her from winning a USDF Gold Medal, but Gretchen returned to Cleveland to continue sharing her expertise and talent with many of us NODA members. She really cared about helping us move ahead at what ever level, maybe even to be able to canter in a circle, or, as I well remember, to canter at all!
       Most of us did each our goals and had a wonderful time with Gretchen in doing so. We will always remember her bright spirit.   Pat Lightbody
1/1/10    I knew Gretchen when I lived in the Cleveland area in the 1990s.  I boarded my Appaloosa gelding, Wizard, at Lake Erie College and was a member and volunteer of NODA.  I fondly remember Gretchen for her energy and friendliness and straightforward honesty.  I also remember Gretchen as a tough (resiliant) person who persevered.  And I remember that she adored Casco and enjoyed great satisfaction from successfully training him and showing him through the levels of dressage.  Everyone could count on Gretchen for a smile and a hearty laugh (and a wisecrack if something was not going quite as one would have wished).  Thank you, NODA, for posting remembrances of Gretchen.  We can all remember her and "spread a little sunshine" in her memory.  Molly Moon
12/28/09       Even with our inexpensive 15.2 quarter horses and our lack of dressage skills, you made us feel like we were riding Prix St. George on a warmblood!!!  Your kindness shall always be remembered. We shall miss you,  Thom & Dolly Caldwell 12/30/09       We are all mourning the loss of a shining star in our community.  As a teacher, Gretchen was unsurpassed in her ability to encourage her students to reach for goals that they might have thought impossible.  As a rider, she was the consummate student, always pushing herself to a higher plane. As a sister, she was the one that her family could always depend on and as a friend, the word no was not in her vocabulary when it came to offering help to those in need.  Her enthusiasm was contagious, Gretchen never had a bad day.  Her energy was boundless, always the first one at the show and one of the last to leave.
       She was able to move easily between the different disciplines of riding, befriending all in her path. She was the pulse of the horse community and the life force that connected all of us to each other.
       After 31 years of having the privilege of calling Gretchen my friend, Mary Anne Milleman and I had the honor of helping her make the most difficult transition. She passed peacefully and gracefully in the manner which we would expect from such a positive and loving person. She has set the standard high for those of us left behind to reach our personal best through loving and caring for everyone that touches our lives. Her spirit lives on in all of us.
Respectfully submitted,
Nancy M. Smith and Mary Anne Milleman

12/31/09   When I first started riding with Gretchen, I could not get my horse to respond to anything I asked for. I was always the one sweating, while my horse remained cool and dry. It was Gretchen who inspired me to have patience & help me appreciate the tiniest improvements. It could have been one step, or a bend that was held longer; Gretchen was a gifted communicator, and did so effectively on all levels. 
Jamie Schwegel

12/27/09     In the over twenty years of partnering with my deceased horse, Buchephalus aka Bebe, I was often boarded in facilities in which Gretchen taught.  Although I was never fortunate enough to take a lesson from her, I spent time in the barn aisles and arenas working around her students and observing their lessons. 
       I had a few casual conversations with Gretchen which were always uplifting and her comments to me about my progress with Bebe are something I will treasure.  Most especially, whenever I was having a difficult day and she walked into the barn everyone, horses and people alike, were greeted enthusiastically with her special voice and demeanor immediately cheering us up and encouraging us onward!! 
       Last Summer at Grand Haven my husband, Dan, was taping my new horse, Forio’s, tests and as we were watching the DVD later at home you can clearly hear in the background Gretchen’s distinctive voice as she was talking with someone about their ride – now we will always have a permanent reminder of what a great presence she was to all who met her!   She was truly “a force of nature.”  Bette Jenkinson
12/27/09       Gretchen was one in a million and her hearty and distinct voice a piece of her wonderful trademark.  She had amazing energy and strength for being such a petite woman and an inspiration to many of us diminutive female riders.     She had a smiling spirit and love for people and horses that transcends most.   
       She offered to coach me once when I was without a trainer at a NODA show years ago.  She encouraged me always to move up the Dressage levels and loved my little white Oldenburg, Fabian.   I was in awe of her upper-level Dressage accomplishments on the little Connemara, Casco that she loved so well.  
       So many will carry Gretchen and her talents and inspirations in their hearts.  Her voice will forever resonate with us at the shows.  Her Spirit will live forever . . .  From Fellow Equestrian and friend, Regina Sacha
12/26/09      In 2007, 10 of Gretchen's students combined resources at Christmas and purchased a brick in her honor at the USDF headquarters in Lexington.  It is in the patio area and says:  "Gretchen Singleton, Trainer, Mentor, Friend".  We are all missing her now, and I still hear her voice in my head every time I get on my horse.
       Last summer, as I was getting ready to do my first Prix St Georges test, I was worrying about finding a shadbelly that would not cost me a ton of money.  I arrived at Scenic Run one day and hanging on my locker door was an eensy weensy shadbelly with a note from Gretchen that said "I have two, so if this fits, you can wear it".  Now I don't have any idea why she thought I could get even one arm into the thing, but I truly appreciated the thought, and we had lots of laughs at the barn as I (sort of) modeled it.

       I also got a very cute email from her after she saw my article in the Nov. newsletter, including the quote "don't you think you went a little overboard on the comments about me?"  But, of course, I
knew she was pleased as could be.   How glad I am that I wrote the it then.     Kathy Dennis
12/27/09       There was no one else quite like our Gretchen. She was so encouraging and made every lesson and every show a fun experience. She made her students feel important, but more than that she REALLY CARED. She patiently told me to keep my heels down about 989 times. If I was having a crummy ride she would not reprimand and lose patience, she would just say, “that’s alright.”
      Having ridden under her for 14 years. I came to interpret that as you aren’t doing that right, but I know you are trying. If I finally managed to get the movement, a loud gravelly voice would shout out “gooooood.”  I learned much more than dressage from Gretchen,  I learned to relax, think positive, and believe in my horse and myself. I learned what it means to have a friend and be a friend to someone who shares the same passion. I am hearing her voice as I write this, a voice I pray I will hear every time I ride my horse.  
       I can never repay Gretchen for  all I learned under her expert tutelage, nor for the wonderful horse she found for me.  To honor her , I can only promise to keep going forward with dressage, even though some of the joy has left.  She will be with all of her students in spirit for a long time to come. She is happily riding under the watchful eyes of her creator, nailing every movement and having as much fun as she brought to all of us.  I will miss her so much.
Love, Patti Valencic