- Published: Friday, 26 February 2016 14:26
Gretchen Mobberley, a longtime Maryland horsewoman, passed away Feb. 21 after a five-month battle with cancer. She was 84.
A celebration of her life will be held Monday, March 7, at noon at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Glenwood, Md. A reception will follow.
Mobberley was a horsewoman through-and-through, says her daughter Bird, “She was more comfortable on the back of a horse than most people are on their couch.”
Mobberley was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Manassas, Va. When she and her late husband, Jack, got married in 1952, they bought a farm in Middleburg, Va., but moved to Maryland in 1963 when they bought Summer Hill Farm in Howard County and made it their permanent residence.
Over the years, the couple developed more than 20 stakes winners before Jack Mobberley’s death in 1995. Afterward, Gretchen, an owner, breeder and trainer, and their daughter Bird, also a trainer, continued the racing operation, with stalls at Laurel Park.
“My mom was something else,” Bird says wistfully. “My mom and dad were a team and after he passed away, she continued. She loved to ride. She was still galloping her horses at the track [at age 82]. After that, she still rode and we took our last ride together Sept. 15th, the day before she went into the hospital for her operation.”
Bird Mobberley says her mom loved horses and all animals.
“One of her passions was horse rescue,” Bird says. “When a horse was sold or claimed away from us, she always made sure it came back to the farm when its racing career was finished. Basically, we kept retired horses. I’ve got a field full of them. Her best horse, I would say, was Sarre Green.”
Sarre Green was purchased after a race at Bowie in 1971 for $6,000 and went on to earn $217,897 before becoming a valuable broodmare.
“She claimed her and she ended up winning a bunch of stakes,” Bird says. “She eventually passed away on the farm and is buried here.”
Gretchen Mobberley also was active in 4-H and was a “founding mother” of the Howard County Horse Show Association. She was still vice president of the association’s board of directors when she died.
Mobberley’s daughter says her parents both loved helping people start out in the business and willingly shared their knowledge. Trainer Tim Keefe was one of the recipients of the Mobberleys’ generosity.
“Everyone on the backstretch knew Gretchen,” says Keefe. “She was a wonderful person and I owe a lot of my education to her and her late husband, Jack.
“They gave me my first job galloping their horses when I was putting myself through college. And she continued to support me, giving me stalls when I started training. They taught me a lot of things. She and Jack were great role models. It’s sad they’re both gone.”