Patty Roberts started life as many young girls do: wanting a pony. And like many girls who want a pony, her parents knew nothing about horses. They had a friend whose daughter rode and recommended a lesson barn. “It happened to be a hunter jumper barn,” she says. “Honestly, I could just as easily have gone to a saddle horse or western barn. I just wanted to ride!” Patty was seven, and her life was shaped forever.
Patty has been running Memorial Park Hunters for over 30 years now. She has seen what works and what doesn’t work, as well as been exposed to many top barns and trainers. “I like to watch and talk to them about their management and coaching styles,” she says. “I try to implement different ideas that I feel might work for me.”
Memorial Park Hunters is a well run business thanks to Patty’s dedication to staying organized. “I have weekly meetings with key staff so we can go over the individual needs of each client, both the equine and human client. We put everything on my calendar so we can see at a glance what is coming up in both the near and more distant future,” she explains.
This level of organization helps them stay flexible as the year goes on and adjust to client needs in terms of which and how many shows they attend. They also keep clients up to date on vet and farrier visits via a newsletter, and tailor every horse or pony’s exercise and feeding schedule to their individual requirements.
Memorial Park is located in the middle of Houston, with 40-45 horses at any given time. “We don’t have a lot of property so we stay on top of worming, runny noses, and so on to head off any potential problems,” Patty says.
Safety comes first at Memorial Park. “It is important to us that our adults and children are well mounted and are being introduced to concepts that are appropriate to age and ability,” she says.
The lessons are also designed to set students up for success. “We teach each lesson as if we are preparing for competition,” she says. “Often we get a rider who says they are not interested in competing but then sees others going off to shows and have a change of heart. When that happens they are ready to go even though that wasn’t in the original plan!”
The team at Memorial Park hunters works well together, at home and at horse shows. “I am very lucky in that I don’t have a big turn over in my staff. Everyone one knows what is expected of them and gives 100%.”
Patty’s meticulous approach has paid off, with top placings in state and zone level shows and USEF national champions and reserves. She’s also has riders who rode with her as children return to her program after college, including her assistant, Amanda Dougherty. “I have watched her become a beautiful rider and very competent trainer and feel real pride in knowing I had something to do with that,” she says.
Past students who now have children of their own also get in touch with Patty to start their children in riding lessons. “I am gratified that these girls still have a love of horses and riding and want their children to have a similar experience with horses.”
She loves seeing former students become top professionals and compete in the upper levels of the sport, but is also pleased that her daughter Emma has chosen not to pursue a professional career in horses, and continues to ride and compete as an amateur.
Patty has been involved with Pin Oak on many levels. “My daughter did her first lead line class there on her second birthday,” she remembers. She has served as chair of the horse show, taken many clients there to compete, and currently serves as the honorary co-chair of the host committee.
“When I got involved with Pin Oak as a volunteer over 20 years ago, Lynn Walsh and I had a vision to make Pin Oak the premier Horse Show in Texas,” she says. “With the help of a lot of volunteers and sponsors, I feel Pin Oak is not only one of the best shows in Texas but in the country. Pin Oak is not just a horse show, it’s an event.” On a personal level, Patty is proud of her part in contributing to the Pin Oak charity, Texas Children’s Hospital.
Patty’s clients look forward to Pin Oak, which for many is their one big show of the year. “I think it is nice to have a quality stand alone horse show that is not part of a circuit that is also a charity horse show,” she says, describing Pin Oak is a “boutique horse show.”
Life has come full circle for Patty, who went from being a little girl who dreamed about horses to being the adult who helps little kids’ horse dreams come true. You’ll be sure to see her at Pin Oak this year with enthusiastic and well-prepared clients.