On Family, Friends and Being Thankful This Christmas

The eventing community was shocked to learn about the explosion that occurred early Saturday morning at Holly Hill Farm Equestrian Center in Benton, Louisiana. There has been an outpouring of support for Bobby and Tracy Hewlett, and former boarder Watson Copeland penned this heartfelt piece in honor of this very special farm.

Holly Hill Farm Equestrian Center. Photo via Bossier Parish Sheriff Office. Holly Hill Farm Equestrian Center. Photo via Bossier Parish Sheriff Office.

I began riding at Dr. and Mrs. Bobby Hewlett’s Holly Hill Farm in Benton, Louisiana, as a freshman in college 10 years ago in the fall of 2005. Hurricane Katrina had just hit my home town of New Orleans. My friends and family were scattered throughout the nation, and many of them had had their lives destroyed. The city I loved and so many things I cherished had been shattered. Lastly, the barn where I had ridden throughout high school had to be closed in the aftermath of Katrina.

I came to Holly Hill secretly looking for some solace in what was a very difficult time for me. And solace I did find for four wonderful years, and I continue to find it to this day every time I speak to any Holly Hill Farm family member.

My first experience at Holly Hill Farm was watching David O’Connor teach dressage lessons during a clinic he and Karen gave that fall. That afternoon, I introduced myself to the friend of a friend who would become my trainer for four years, and she introduced me to Tracy and Bobby. To this day, I have never felt so welcomed when visiting an equestrian facility.

Throughout those four years at Holly Hill Farm, I was able to ride many horses — to whom I am indebted for the knowledge they shared with me — and eventually purchase my own horse from Holly Hill. I was able to ride with some of the top trainers in the world.  I came to Holly Hill asa  very introverted person and a naturally timid rider. Holly Hill helped me grow, not only as a horseman but also as person.

Bobby and Tracy Hewlett were and still are like my second parents. They are always there, whether it means giving advice on life or answering those ever pesky late night calls and texts amidst the panic that can ensue with our four-hooved friends. As I sit in Mass this Christmas, I will say a prayer of thanksgiving for the safety of my second family, the riders of Holly Hill Farm and especially Bobby and Tracy Hewlett. I will also thank God that I am lucky enough to know them all and count them as friends.