Photo by Audrey Pavia
As I sit down today to write my weekly City Stock entry, I am having a very hard time concentrating on chickens and bunnies and my mud-covered horses. (It’s been raining for nearly a week here.) Instead, all my thoughts are for my friend Moira Harris Reeve, who just died from breast cancer at the age of 45.
Moira and I first met when I became managing editor of Dog Fancy and she was managing editor of Horse Illustrated, both sister publictions to Urban Farm. We became fast friends when we discovered we both had a passion for horses and rock ’n’ roll.
I had been living in New York City for 14 years and had only just returned to California. I had been out of horses for the entire time I was in New York—it’s not a very horse-friendly city. Horse Illustrated needed an editor, and Moira encouraged me to apply for the job. I was hesitant. Even though I’d had 10 years experience as a magazine editor in New York, my horse knowledge was rusty. Back when I was riding in the 1970s, no one in the U.S. had heard of a warmblood, Appaloosas were one of the most popular breeds and the most accepted way to train a horse was to break its spirit. A lot had changed since I’d been living in the metropolis. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up.
That was no obstacle in Moira’s mind. She began taking me to the boarding stable where she kept her thoroughbred, Charlie, and got me riding again. She boosted my confidence by telling me how good I looked on her boy and how she couldn’t believe I hadn’t been riding in so long. She started talking horses to me, educating me about the various disciplines that had become so hot in the time I was absent from the show scene. Dressage was becoming a favorite pastime of middle-aged horse women who were afraid to jump, and natural horsemanship was starting to catch on. Slowly, patiently, she enlightened me on all that was new in the horse world, got me up to speed and helped when I bought my first horse as an adult, an Appaloosa mare named Rosie.
I eventually was hired as editor of Horse Illustrated, but Moira’s guidance continued even after I became her boss. She was there for me when Rosie choked on pellets one night and stayed at the barn with me ’til 10:30 p.m., cleaning every scrap of hay out of that mare’s stall so she wouldn’t swallow anything solid after the ordeal. When Rosie developed serious eye disease, Moira helped me administer eye drops three times a day—a schedule I never could have managed on my own given my demanding job. And when I wanted to put Rosie in a show but didn’t feel ready to ride her myself, Moira stepped up. She spent the day before showing me how to braid Rosie’s mane and tail, and then on show day, rode her in several classes and graciously handed me the ribbons.
When Rosie died a couple of years later after a series of heartbreaking illnesses, Moira, who was now editor of Horse Illustrated, wrote one of the most beautiful, incredible editorial tributes to her I’ve ever read.
I wouldn’t be the horsewoman I am today without Moira’s generous friendship and guidance. When she passed this week, she left behind her mare, Misty, along with two dogs, two cats, her grieving family and an untold number of friends. My life wouldn’t be the same if I’d never met Moira. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to see her again someday so I can tell her so.