Her rocking chair is riding a six-feet-tall Quarter Horse jumping over three-foot-high fences.
“I never wanted to be a little old lady, and despite my birthdate, I’m doing my best not to be,” contended the vivacious five-foot-five blonde equestrian, close semblance appearance of six decades earlier.
Those unknowing might smirk and sideways nod, but the time and again world champion jumping horse rider modestly admitted: “I went to my 60th high school reunion last week, and several of my classmates insisted I hadn’t changed since graduation. That’s obviously not the case, but I do weigh the same as I did that day.
“I’m passionate about riding jumping horses. I’m happy. I’m physically fit. I’m excited. That keeps me young. Young in my mind, in my spirit, and my body, too, really. I’m just happy,” self-described Dolly Anderson, “The Skiddy Cowgirl.”
Well, that locale description might seem underling to some, and in reality it is, but yet complimentarily appropriate for the widow of “The Skiddy Cowboy,” Dusty Anderson, who was inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame at Dodge City earlier this fall.
As world renowned as her favorite cowboy is, Dolly Anderson has really never been a cowgirl, but a world-class, twinkling-eyed, always-smiling equestrian, riding with English saddle and tack, contrasting that of her deceased husband’s cowboy gear.
Likely more recognized locally as owner/broker of G&A Real Estate, her Manhattan-based business for more than 40 years, Dolly Anderson is nationally known for the many American Quarter Horses Association (AQHA) titles collected in equal time.
However, today most talk and reflection about the horsewoman is her continuation of the most prestigious show ring successes, while majority of her classmates have long retired.
“I was thrilled to be champion in Select Hunter Hack at the recent American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio,” Anderson admitted.
Anybody would have the same inner feeling of accomplishment at such a prestigious competition attracting the best horses and exhibitors in the world.
Now, consider this world class horsewoman is 78-years-young, riding a horse that is five-feet-nine-inches tall, galloping around an arena and clearing a course with eight jumps.
Fence height may not be like an Olympic obstacle, but flying through the air on the back of a horse is a “high” for Dolly.
“It is so exciting, and even the better part of winning to me was that I was champion at the Congress last year, came back, and won again this year, proving it wasn’t just a fluke of luck last time,” Anderson justified.
Moreover, Dolly placed in the Top Ten of two other classes at Columbus, too. They were in different jumping-division categories, with judging variations based on the horse maneuvers and the rider skills, equitation. Typically, there are more than 20 entries in a class.
Best part of the success. “I was the oldest one competing at the Congress this year in my events. Probably as least ten years older than anybody else riding there, 20 years older than most of them,” related Anderson, who had considerable logistics manipulations meeting class deadlines.
“Dusty’s Cowboy Hall of Fame induction was on Saturday, and I had to drive to the airport at Manhattan, fly to Columbus and ride in my first class Monday,” Anderson reflected.
“My high school reunion in St. Louis was after Congress, so I’ve been pretty busy,” she added.
But, that’s nothing new. Anderson’s daughter, Kelly Moore lives in Ocala, Florida, where she keeps and successfully shows other horses owned by Anderson.
“I fly down there several times a year to watch my horses and daughter compete and to train for my own competitions. I fly a lot during the year to compete and for lessons,” she said.
Interestingly to some, but not that uncommon really to world class equestrians, Dolly Anderson leases Andy, the Quarter Horse ridden over through courses and over jumps during her past two horse show season successes.
“I’m so fortunate to have this outstanding 14-year-old bay, 17-one-hands athlete to ride. Andy stays with his trainer in Ocala during the winter, and in New Jersey the rest of the year, so I fly to where the horse is to ride him in preparation for a show,” Anderson noted.
This is a “hunter horse.” “People need to understand that while Andy jumps fences, he’s a hunter horse, hypothetically like might be used for fox hunts. He’s judged on his style and form over fences, not how high he can jump,” Anderson clarified.
Still, he’s a “finished hunter.” Anderson continued, “Andy knows his job, and does not require training to do it to perfection. But, he’s kept in condition for competition by my trainer, and I still take lessons on Andy to achieve maximum ability from us both.”
To ride such a well-trained, well-conditioned horse to compete successfully requires a well-trained, well-conditioned exhibitor. Dolly Anderson is that.
“I have a personal trainer who I work out with on a regular schedule, and there’s nothing better to keep a person fit in body and mind than riding a horse. I ride several times a week with another horse trainer at a stable near Olsburg,” Anderson explained.
Are there other “secrets” to the winning longevity? “I’m lucky I guess. It’s in my genes. My parents lived long, healthy, active lives. I don’t have any arthritis. I’ve never had any serious injuries. I keep my mind active, too, in my business, and about my horses and showing,” the champion equestrian added.
“Many people retire from competition in their 50s and 60s, and that often seems to be the end of them, at least as far as being active. Oh, there are exceptions, but that’s often the case,” Dolly commented.
Actually, Anderson had slowed her present horse show pace for a time after a most acclaimed show record.
“In my mid to late 60s, I stopped showing, because I really didn’t have a horse of the caliber I had to have. After you’ve been doing this, and winning for so many years, you don’t horse show to show, you go to win. That’s the name of the game, no matter what anybody says, or wants to argue about it,” she reflected.
“I still owned top show horses that did win, a lot, and I went to shows to watch them compete with my daughter riding, and sometimes other trainers, too. I continued to ride. I’ve always loved to ride, but I just didn’t participate in show competition for a while,” Anderson related.
“Then, three years ago, I was at a circuit show in Tampa, where Kelly was riding our horses, and doing well. She’s a good rider, and they are good horses.
“I just told her: ‘I’m just not enjoying the shows as much anymore. I’m healthy. I can ride. I can compete. I’m still passionate enough about winning. Let’s find a horse I can ride and win on. And, that’s just what we did,” Dolly continued.
Im Handy Andy is bred to be a winner, being a grandson of the two-time AQHA Super Horse Rugged Lark. His parents on both sides were winners. He had a proven show record before being leased by Anderson, but she is now the only competitive rider on his back. Andy’s trainer will sometimes ride him in warmup classes.
So, why is this champion equestrian still so passionate about her sport? “I grew up in St. Louis, but I’ve always loved horses. I started riding as a youth just for pleasure. Then, when I was 10-year-old, and saw my first jumping class, I knew that was what I wanted to do, even though it was another 20 years before I’d get to do it, and that was actually fox hunting when I lived in Virginia,” Anderson said.
However, with Dolly’s unyielding love for horses, she brought her horse when she came to K-State in the mid-’50s. “It isn’t unusual for students to bring horses to college nowadays, but it was quite the deal back then, and drew a lot of comment,” she noted.
Not competing yet, Dolly, who then had two children, Kelly and Michael, married Dusty Anderson in 1969
“It was actually a trade-off between Dusty and me to move to Skiddy. Along with me came two kids, nine and 11, and our dog. Plus, I rode an English saddle, and still do, never changed,” Dolly verified.
As different as night and day, Dusty and Dolly were an unmatchable pair that survived and thrived. “Dusty was my big encouragement with my horses and showing. He helped select all of my horses and gave me advice as well as taking care of them when I was gone,” Dolly credited.
She started competing in jumping events locally, often going to Topeka, Kansas City and Leavenworth. “Then Dusty bought a steer wrestling and barrel racing horse, from Jim and Jeannette Janke at Junction City, and Dusty gave the horse to me.
“He was a chestnut Quarter Horse gelding called Air Flow Joe, just about 15 hands, and hadn’t ever jumped. But, he was such an athlete and took right to it. Oh boy, Air Flow Joe got me going to shows. I showed him and won in jumping classes all over the Midwest,” Dolly reflected.
Obviously a generous cowboy spouse, Dusty gave his blonde bride a horse of the lifetime when a weanling filly was her Christmas present one year. “She was just a foal, and really ugly. Dusty insisted ‘the ugly duckling will become a beautiful swan.’
“Well, she never was really beautiful, but the St Louie Woman was really a ‘handsome mare.’ She was really a pretty horse when she jumped. The St Louie Woman actually was bred by my mother Lillian, and my stepfather, Slim Pickering, who Dusty always did a lot of cowboy pasture work with. Whenever referring to my mother Lillian, Slim always said he was married to ‘the St. Louie Woman,’ so that’s how my chestnut mare got her name,” Dolly said.
“I competed on the St Louie Woman for eight years: she won the AQHA World Show and was the high point AQHA jumping horse in the nation three times. People today still remember the St Louie Woman. On the plane back from Columbus, I sat next to the AQHA executive vice president Don Tredway, Jr., and he remembered and talked about watching us compete at the world show,” Dolly said.
“One of my fondest memories is from1986, at the AQHA World Show. I was 50-year-old, and had just won the amateur jumping championship. The announcer said, ‘Well, Hello Dolly and the St Louie Woman,’ as ‘Hello Dolly’ was played on the organ during the awards presentation. I have a recording of that great day,” the champion-of-yesterday-and-today smiled most sentimentally.
Making the remarkable mare even more impressive is that the St Louie Woman produced like she was. “That great mare had four foals, and two of the geldings, St Louie Special and St Louie Jazz, were also world champions. She was one of a kind and is buried on the ranch at Skiddy,” Dolly said.
A grandson of the St Louis Woman is still owned by Dolly today. “All of the St Louie Woman’s production, and the next generation had real athletic ability. This proves that ability and attitude do breed through to following generations, and that mares have a major influence on their offspring” Dolly confirmed.
There have been other horses Dolly has ridden to jumping titles, but none the caliber of Air Flow Joe, St Louie Woman and that famous mare’s two sons, until now.
“Andy is an outstanding horse. He absolutely loves to compete. You can just feel it when you go into the arena. Andy is a champion, and he knows it. All I have to do is ride like he performs, and we are champions,” Dolly said.
The pair competes successfully in numerous Quarter Horse circuits and United States Equestrian Federation competitions each year, always attracting recognition.
Jumping horses can be a dangerous sport, because there are so many variables. “Of course, I’ve had some spills, but not often, and I’ve never been injured seriously.
“The only time I was ever badly hurt was when I was holding a horse on the ground, and he ran over me, knocking me down, giving me a concussion, and two broken ribs.
“I learned a lot of things about horses from Dusty, and one was to never wrap the lead rope around your hand. I don’t, but if I had looped the rope around my hand that one time, I would have been dragged, probably been even more seriously injured,” Dolly reflected.
So, considering hazards of galloping horses over fences with an admittedly-mature, yet physically-fit, petite rider, young-at-heart and in spirit, how long can these championships continue?
“Owning and showing horses is an expensive passion, but as long as I’m fit, and I can afford it, I’m going to keep going, keep competing in horse shows,” champion Skiddy equestrian Dolly Anderson summarized.
One is only as young as she feels, and this champion is certainly young at heart with the strongest passion for riding champion jumping horses.
“You know the old saying: ‘I may not be as good as I once was, but I can be good once as I was,’” Dolly contended.