More About Joyce Goldschmidt BachnerAs Written To Eliza McGraw
By Eliza McGraw
After we published a story on Joyce Goldschmidt Bachner, the Maryland-based horsewoman who was an exercise rider, jockey, and trainer, we received an email from her granddaughter, Stephanie McGee. She had more stories and reminiscences about her grandmother, and they are published below, lightly edited for continuity.
There were so many stories she would tell us around the dining room table at dinner. I remember her saying she would work at someone’s farm, cleaning 10 stalls so she could take a 20-minute ride. She grew up in a house in Ellicott City, Baltimore. I remember she used to work hard to save money to buy her own horse. She got him when she was a teenager from an auction house. He was not rideable, so he was cheap, chestnut with blond mane and tail, her favorite color.
Pal was then housed in her backyard at her house, and she eventually rode him, mostly bareback. He died at the age of 32, I think that was the age she had said. I remember her going to the track early in the morning. Before most people turned over in bed, she would run down the streets to catch the train, or bus (I can’t remember.) She even said she had made friends with a police officer that walked that particular beat. He would walk with her most of the time to keep an eye on her while she walked that early in the morning.
I remember her saying she had galloped Native Dancer for a while because he had gotten tough. And for some reason she was amazing with tough horses; even as she aged, she seemed to handle the tougher horses best.
I remember her always mentioning a horse named Adage. If I remember correctly, he had a huge knee, and my grandfather would try to keep the jockeys distracted to not look down. He didn’t want them to be scared of him. He was a sound runner, and a good winner. I remember them talking about a horse named Dreams Are Free as well. There was also a horse that they had mentioned had won them enough money that bought the farm that I grew up on.
Other than some of the old horses they trained, she loved her pony, Pogy. He taught me how to ride as well. She would put me on his back at the track and let us walk around the shed. Pogy would stop when the horses in front of us would stop and go when they would walk, except when there was feed around. Then we might have had trouble. She had bred and raised him and used him as pony until he died around 1998.
My grandmother taught me to ride and to care for horses and eventually she and granddaddy taught me how to train, teaching me to listen to the horses and train from there. She was a tough woman who loved her horses and to ride.
When I was a kid she had always said she wanted to die on the back of a horse, and she literally did. She was about 68 or 69, can’t remember the date, she was galloping a horse, Classic Special. We called him Clown. She was going around the far turn at Charles Town when she had a heart attack. She had fallen from the horse and was dragged by her foot for a good hundred yards before her boot slipped off. When the ambulance got to her, her heart wasn’t beating. They did CPR until they got her to the hospital and managed to get her heart going again.
So even with the many strokes–one was on the back of Pogy–and heart attacks she ended up having, she had already died where she had said she wanted to, on the back of a horse. She eventually died in a hospital bed after hip surgery at the age of 82.
I would love to learn even more about what she did before I can remember. She and Granddaddy are fascinating to me. They worked hard for everything and got to a decent life. I know neither of them wanted to retire, Grandma was made to stop riding at the track at around age 75 because they feared her as a liability. Her mind was starting to go and her doctor said she should stop because of her heart. Granddaddy retired because he wanted to keep an eye on her and eventually handed over his business to my mother.
I did get her on one of my horses at a charity show. Her smile was amazing. She was in her element for a short time. I was so happy to see her so happy, I didn’t get one picture. I wish I could have. She won the class at 81.