By Lisa Engel
Speaking with Don Stewart, owner of Don Stewart Stables, Ocala, Florida, is always a pleasure. A father, husband and fun-loving guy, he’s entertaining and very matter-of-fact. He’s also responsible for producing some of the best horse-and-rider teams in the country who have gone on to win the prestigious Medal and Maclay Championships: Medal and Maclay Champion Emily Williams, Maclay Champions Avery Dimmig, Kelley Farmer, Sara Milleren, his own daughter Erin, and most recently Hunter Holloway, who also won the Washington International Finals. Medal winners include Spencer Smith, Kelly Cruciotti, Lauren Van Eldik and Meg O’Mara. Currently a Junior Hunter Task Force Committee member, Don has served on many boards throughout his career and is a leader in the hunter and jumper equestrian sport.
How did you get started with riding?
I was 8 years old when I started riding. There was a place about a mile from my home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I grew up. It was called The Pony Club. Most of the kids rode there too and we would take a bus there once a week for lessons.
Who has inspired you the most in life?
My parents, because they always told me how perfect I was all the time. My brothers and sisters always said I was the favorite.
Which person inspired you the most in riding?
Katie Prudent. We were childhood buddies back in the ’60s and ’70s when riders rode both the hunters and jumpers and she could do both masterfully.
What three things are the most important to you?
Family, my bank account and my reputation
What three traits in a person are most important to you?
Honesty, sense of humor and drive
How do you relax?
I wake up. Relaxing is not a big chore for me. Nancy does the worrying for us and gets me to places on time. But if we’re going to relax, we’ll go to the beach or Vegas, or a trip. We’ve been to Africa twice. We love river cruises and are going to Alaska this summer.
If you could talk to anyone, who would it be and why?
Tom Brady, to find out what makes his will to succeed so strong year after year.
What’s the best feeling you’ve ever had?
When we won the Maclay Finals with my daughter Erin. Or, at least that was when I felt the most relieved.
What career path would you have chosen if horses weren’t an option?
I would have been a lawyer because I like to argue everything.
What’s your favorite piece of clothing?
If you could tell every hunter or jumper rider one thing, what would it be?
Stay in sync with your horse.
How many weeks of the year do you travel?
Where would you like to be right now?
In a big tub of french fries! Actually, Wellington is good for me right now.
What’s your favorite movie?
“The Wizard of Oz”
What’s your favorite food?
Do you have a bucket list? If so, what tops that list?
Having a grandchild! But I’d also like to go to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu.
Do you have a personal motto?
You’re here to learn and have a good time, and when either stops happening, it’s time to leave.
Do you have a barn motto?
Quality horses at yesterday’s prices. Characters welcome!