TRYON, N.C. — The Washington International Horse Show draws a lot of big names, but none quite like fan favorite Betty Oare.
At 80 years old, Oare is an avid horseback rider. She finished eighth in her class in the Adult Hunter Championship at the Washington International Horse Show this week, held in Tryon, North Carolina.
Oare's father trained racehorses, giving her a front row seat to the industry throughout her childhood. Her love for horses has only strengthened over time and she still rides two to three hours every day.
"[Horses are] special for me. I enjoy riding, I judge, I hunt, and so I think it’s too late to give it up now," Oare said, laughing.
Oare lives in Warrenton, Virginia, but she grew up in North Carolina, near where the Washington International Horse Show is being held.
She credits her horse, Sidenote, as the reason she still competes.
"He’s a horse that we have been searching for high and low all over the world, believe me, all over the world," said Betty's husband, Ernest Oare.
"He dropped out of heaven," Betty added.
Ernest has supported Betty's riding every step of the way throughout the 57 years they've been married, she said. It's a passion they share: he's the founder of The E.M.O. Agency, a top equine insurance firm.
"I couldn’t do it without Ernie, that’s a fact of life," said Oare. "He’s made it possible for me to go places and go to the horse shows.”
And where Oare goes, she wins. She’s a Washington International Horse Show Hall of Famer and competed its very first year, in 1958.
Over the course of seven decades of riding, Oare has racked up nearly every prize you can get. Now, she helps award them to the next generation, as a respected horse show judge.
But Oare says her love for riding is first and foremost about the relationships that come with it.
"I hope the love of the horse never goes away. I think if you’re gonna stay riding and hunting and whatever you have to love the animals that do it for you," Oare said. "It’s a way of life for us and, knock on wood, it’s been a good way of life, it really has."
Oare has cemented her legacy as an equestrian legend, but she has no plans to step out of the stirrups anytime soon.
"I’m loving what I’m doing, [Sidenote] is 11 and we know how old I am, so I think we can coast on a little bit more," Oare said. "That’s what I’m planning on anyways."
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