When you saw Mary Ann Parmelee by the show ring in her golf cart, working with a student, it was easy to see why she was held with such high esteem. The horseman was an instructor, coach, trainer, mother, grandmother and friend.
Parmelee, an Aiken resident for nearly a quarter of a century and owner of Chessman Farm with her husband Tom, died on Thursday at the age of 70. The horseman taught equitation and horsemanship for nearly a half-century, with many of her students going on to the professional ranks, a number receiving athletic scholarships to NCAA Division 1 institutions and others being recognized at the national, regional and state level as junior riders.
Professionals, who knew her both as a colleague and friend, shared their admiration and deference for a woman, renowned for her ability to shape horsemen.
“The horse world has suffered a great loss,” said Cathy Geitner, of DFG Stables. “Mary Ann was one of the few trainers that really emphasized total horsemanship. Her students not only learned great riding and horse care, but through her program they developed strong character. She demanded responsibility and accountability. As mentors for today's youth, we must all strive to continue teaching those same values. Her legacy will live on through the many lives she has touched.”
The horseman who grew up in the Grand Rapids, Mich. area, had an opportunity to develop her foundation as a horseman by riding and working with a number of outstanding horsemen, lessons she would impart to her students. However, it was her passion and enthusiasm that were palpable, providing those that rode with her with a point of departure, so they could grow and evolve as horsemen, while emphasizing hard work, a commitment to excellence and the initiative to pursue one's dreams.
“She was always professional, a firm believer in teaching and practicing proper horsemanship,” said Courtney Disposti, Second Mouse Media. “Mary Ann will be greatly missed by so many.”
Parmelee had two sons, Rick and Brent Cram. Rick and his wife Cathy, are the owners and organizers of Progressive Show Jumping and Highfields Event Center, their daughters, Mary Ann's granddaughters Celia and Liza both ride, and were being trained by their grandmother. Parmeleee was held in the utmost respect by fellow trainers.
“I feel very fortunate to have known Mary Ann Parmelee,” said Ann Thal, Snaffles, LLC. “She was a knowledgeable horsewoman and a very dedicated teacher. She was a true beacon in this community. I will miss seeing her and watching her teach. I will miss our horse conversations and our life conversations. Our community will sorely miss her presence.”
Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004. Among the awards Baugh has won include the 2003 Raleigh Burroughs Award as the turf writer making the most impact on the Florida Thoroughbred Industry. Baugh is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, worked for North America's leading Thoroughbred breeder Adena Springs in Ocala, Fla. And interned at Thoroughbred Racing Communications in New York, N.Y.