by Kate Kendall
Henrietta Hall jumped her first horse at 60 years old. Like everything she puts her mind to, she brings remarkable style, grace and determination to show jumping. After a lifetime of loving horses, Henrietta is perfectly positioned to pursue her passion — and she’s wholeheartedly embracing the challenge.
Henri, as her friends affectionately call her, was born and raised in South Texas, where horses were a common feature, but a horse was not in the family budget. As a girl, Henri set out to fix that, searching the classifieds for a pony she thought they could afford. “I showed my daddy this ad for a $50 pony,” Henri recounts in her Texas twang. “He agreed we could afford the pony — but not the ‘maintenance’… and I’m asking, ‘What is maintenance?’”
Henri laughed heartily remembering her problem-solving approach. “As a kid I didn’t know anything about maintenance — I thought buying the pony was the problem. After that, I figured you just put it in the backyard to cut the grass! I had all these ideas and schemes to get a pony, but unfortunately, they never worked.”
Fast forward: Henri grows up, leaves Texas, gets married and gets divorced. “And then I thought I’d give it another shot and I got married again to my dear husband Terry. When we got this wonderful place in Santa Fe, I met Caroline Invicta Stevenson and Sarah Invicta Williams. They’re fabulous trainers and Sarah has been riding since she was 2 years old – like I had wanted to be.”
Henri saw a picture of Sarah showing a Grand Prix horse, Cuba Libre 007. She’d never jumped before — but walked into Caroline’s office at 60 years old and said, “Jumping, that’s what I want to do.” Sarah and Caroline didn’t even bat an eyelash. “Well, hell,” responded Henri, “If they’re willing to teach this old lady, I’m just going to go ahead and do it!” She started with small jumps and moved up to the bigger fences. Now she wants to go higher. “Jumping is very addictive!” she said.
“I’m the oldest lady in all of my classes,” Henri chuckled. “No contest. Fifty and over? Y’all are being kind. I don’t think anyone learns to love horses. It’s pretty much innate; you either love them or you don’t. When you’re a little kid and you see a horse and you just crave to get on it — that’s what happened to me. I just love the animal and the sport. What can I say? It’s a passion.”
Passion for Training
Henri currently divides her time between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and trains with Sarah and Caroline of Invicta Farms at the picturesque La Mesita Ranch, just north of Santa Fe.
“I go to the barn every day,” Henri said. “I walk my old retired horse, Brio, jump Windara, and hack my granddaughter’s horse, too.” Henri has had Brio for 25 years. He’s getting a white beard on his muzzle and whinnies whenever Henri walks into the barn. “Our barn is closed on Mondays, and that’s the only reason I’m not there,” she said. “They can’t get rid of me!”
Shadowbox, Henri’s longtime mount, retired last summer after the Santa Fe Summer Series at HIPICO Santa Fe. She loves his sweet temperament and how he taught her to become a quiet rider. The pair had a very successful career together in the Adult Amateur Hunters. Henri’s newest horse, Windara, is a chestnut Warmblood mare. Sarah and Caroline knew the pair would be a match. “I don’t want to date a horse — I want to get straight into a serious relationship,” Henri said. “I trust my trainers at Invicta — they’re great at arranged marriages!”
Henri credits Sarah and Caroline with her family’s show jumping success, highlighting Invicta’s strength in finding and developing talented horses. “Windara is fabulous. She’s a redhead, knows her job really well, and I’m sure she’ll get really pissed off if I start wiggling around,” said Henri, adding that she rode Windara for the first time at HIPICO Santa Fe last summer. “Windara is a keeper. I’m looking forward to the next few years with her, improving and getting more blues.”
Henri’s derby horse, Durgan Park, is winning widely. She has been champion on him many times. In his derby career, Durgan Park is shown by Sarah, who brought him along since he was a youngster. The team won two derbies at HIPICO last year. “He’s drop dead gorgeous and Sarah does a good job with him,” Henri said. She likens him to the celebrated ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev.
Passion for Santa Fe
Though the proximity to first-rate skiing in Taos first attracted Henri and her husband, Terry, to Santa Fe, they ultimately fell in love with the whole package. “Santa Fe, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” joked Henri. “I love the culture — the opera, the ballet, the symphony, the art colony, the food and the restaurants are all world-class. There’s no humidity in Santa Fe, which means I can ride my horses all day long while my husband plays golf. Santa Fe has it all! We found our paradise.”
Henri’s two granddaughters, Blythe, 13, and Greer, 9, spend summers visiting Henri in Santa Fe with their mom, Traci. “Blythe jumps so well — she’s just talented. And the little one, Greer, all she wants to do is jump — I don’t know if she can even canter yet!” exclaimed Henri. Both girls will be at the Santa Fe Summer and Fall Series at HIPICO Santa Fe with Henri and her family. Blythe is competing again this year, debuting her new mount, Alistair. “It’s really nice to share this experience with them. I never thought this would happen. It just evolved and it has turned out to be so fun. They have an affinity for the horses like me. Now I just have to keep my grandkids from beating me!”
When asked about future show seasons, Henri has high hopes. “Maybe Sarah will let me jump four feet!” she said laughing. “Sarah will have a heart attack if she sees that. I’m happy to stick to three and a half feet, as long as I stay quiet!”
Together with her trainers, Henri is confident they will make it all happen. “People ask me all the time, how long have I been riding. I tell them that most everyone I ride with started at 6 and I started at 60. It’s never too late. I know I’m not going to the Olympics, but that’s not the point. I’m competing — and by the grace of God, sometimes I win. As a rider you have to be in the moment, stay focused and wait for things to come together over each jump. Sarah is always teaching me to be patient, and that the horse knows what to do.”