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'Horse show mom' back in the saddle

July 27, 2009|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- Raising horses has been part of Donna Folmer Schmidt's life since she was a child. Her family did the "backyard kind of thing" on the 7-acre property near Hagerstown Community College where Schmidt still lives.

When her daughters, Laura and Valerie, came along, she and her husband, Barry, took it to the next level. Donna, 58, who was not involved in 4-H growing up, volunteered with the 4-H program in which her daughters participated.

Twenty years later and long after her grown daughters moved on, Donna Schmidt is still active in 4-H in Washington County, where she's leader of Bits and Bridles 4-H Club.

She is also on the board of the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

The girls started showing horses and traveled on most summer weekends to outdoor horse shows with their mother, something Donna Schmidt never had the opportunity to do as a child.

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Barry Schmidt, who earned the affectionate nickname "Barry the Stable Guy" from his family, stayed behind to tend the horses at home.

This year's Washington County Ag Expo & Fair kept the Schmidts busy. Donna Schmidt was anxious to show off the horse ring, a work in progress for about eight years.

The ring at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center began with fencing and has been the source of several Eagle Scout projects, with the potential for several more, Donna Schmidt said.

Within the past few weeks, a county crew put down stone dust to create a ring in a spot where water wouldn't pool, as it did before.

Placing a border around the bottom of the fence and planting trees around the ring for shade are on the wish list for Schmidt and the other volunteers who have worked to get the horse ring to this point.

Other horse shows held by the Bits and Bridles club raise money for a college scholarship that is given to a student who has completed horse projects, Schmidt said.

Schmidt, a 1968 graduate of South Hagerstown High School, retired last July after 36 years of teaching. After graduating from what was then Towson State College, she taught middle school science in Baltimore County, then at Clear Spring Middle School for 12 years and Smithsburg Middle School for 20 years.

Donna and Barry Schmidt, who is from Baltimore County, met in college, where Barry was a natural science major.

"We met in astronomy class. It was in the stars," Barry Schmidt said with a laugh.

Barry Schmidt, who describes himself as "kind of a country boy," said Donna warned him that she had horses before him and would have horses after him.

These days, Donna Schmidt travels to horse shows with Liza, a horse one of her daughters used to show and one of four of the Schmidts' horses.

"This is my first year back, literally, in the saddle. I was always the horse show mom," Schmidt said.

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