Dawn first met Sharon when they were both working for Torrance Watkins in Virginia. Dawn had just earned a degree in graphic design form Alfred University in New York, but she wanted to pursue her love of horses before she started a job in the "real world."
Although Dawn eventually decided she enjoyed the horses more as a passion than as a profession, she and Sharon remained friends. When Sharon started her own business in Virginia, Dawn was there by her side, helping with whatever needed to be done, whether riding horses or designing a farm logo.
Dawn was the kind of person who could do anything. She started her own successful graphic design company called Communicatus. With Sharon's help she brought her naughty but talented horse Leo up the ranks to Preliminary. She taught Sunday school for her church. No matter the project, Dawn tackled it calmly and methodically.
Dawn and Sharon shared a tremendous amount over the years, and they considered themselves practically sisters. Sharon was Dawn's maid of honor when she married Brian West. When Dawn shared her dream of riding in a one-star, Sharon found her a horse that could do it. When Sharon lost her truck and trailer in an accident, it was Dawn who organized a fundraiser to replace them.
"Dawn was so generous. She was always there when anyone needed anything, " Sharon recalls.
She put others first
You couldn't know Dawn at all without noticing her altruistic nature. For Team Orange member Alice Suddeth, this became painfully clear on a cold, rainy Spring night." I had broken my heel in a riding accident, and I couldn't drive, so I was going stir crazy in the house. Dawn offered to come pick me up one night so we could go to dinner, and we invited several other people from the barn as well. It ended up being a miserable evening-cold and pouring down rain. Everyone else cancelled for one reason or another, but it never occurred to Dawn to say, "Alice, let's just do this another night." She drove an hour each way in wretched weather to pick up a friend who really needed a lift. That's just how Dawn was."
Although Dawn was often serious, she was also funny and sweet. She always seemed to know what her friends needed in any given situation.
"In 2008 Dawn became the chief cheerleader for the Tangerines ATC team at the Virginia Horse Trials," recalled Alice. "Although she was competing herself, she somehow found the time to watch each of us ride. She was always there supporting us, and cheering us on. She never hesitated to don the orange wig when we needed a laugh." "She came over to help me get Jessica ready for cross country, and I really needed her there, because Jessica was breathing fire! She was prancing and bucking, and Dawn had to lead us all the way up to the warm-up and then again down to the start box when Jessica started her antics again. Finally, Dawn yanked on the reins, shook her finger at Jessica's face and said,"That is just about enough out of you, Missy." It stopped Jessica long enough so that we got through the countdown and on course, and then everything was fine. We had a great laugh about the whole thing that night at dinner! The way said that to Jessica was so funny and to the point. I say it to her all the time now when she's being bad. It sort of channels Dawn, and it helps me relax, which helps Jessica, too. But I find I say it to myself a lot also-if I'm in a bad mood, or feeling low, or being cranky and yelling at my kids It helps."
The Crown Jewel
Dawn's presence at Last Frontier Farm benefited and motivated everyone there."The camaraderie of a barn turns a group of passionate people from a variety of different backgrounds into a team, a family, and a church. These are the people who support you and share your joy and pain. Dawn was the crown jewel in the Last Frontier Farm family. She was a crucial piece of our team, family, and support network,"said Team Orange member Anita Antenucci."Dawn was my lesson buddy-she would dare me to go around a course as well as she had just done on Leo. She'd cheer me on after a good go and sympathize with me after every fall. Jump lessons were so much more fun with Dawn. She and Leo were my frequent trailer mates. We' d meet in the wee hours to carpool to local events and share course walks, advice and a helping hand tacking up. She even shared her fans-Brian, Mom or a local friend who would come to cheer her on. She was genuinely interested in sharing every little detail of these experiences in a way only a barn friend can. She had decades of riding experience on my, and yet she was right there at my level for any conversation. I imagine this is what made her such a great mentor to the Sunday school students who told of her dramatic influence on their lives at her memorial service. Dawn seemed genuinely interested in every word I had to say. When I talked to her, I got to relive all the good moments and break down all the bad moves. She laughed and enjoyed my horses' personalities and antics like only an owner or mother could. She didn't just listen, she shared. She became part of your evolving horsemanship and let you feel as if you were part of hers. All of my city friends had heard about Dawn, even though none had met her. I described her to my non-horsey friends so they would know about the great people I kept company with on the weekends. If they could meet Dawn, I figured, they would understand it isn't just about the horses, it' the people. She was a rare friend who could bring my two worlds together. She moved from city to country seamlessly, from the barn to the theater with equal fluency, from arts to academia to office professional. She would join me in D.C. for evenings at The Kennedy Center and the Shakespeare Theatre despite the long, late drives home afterward. She would invite me to lectures or a hockey game."
Calm and Collected
"Dawn seemed endlessly calm, collected, patient and strong," Anita continued. "Her smile never faded. She giggled all the time. I don't remember a stern or sad moment. She worked through her frustrations carefully and methodically. She rode Leo at Preliminary-what a victory after all of his feistiness and spookiness. He couldn't faze her. She just kept at it with a smile. Her work ethic endured. She evaluated and tweaked and persisted."
No words can really express what Dawn meant to Last Frontier Farm. There are a hundred different stories that illustrate why everyone who knew her loved her. She was the kind of friend anyone would want to have. She will be missed.