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Hello Darlings - Horse sports have always been a series of high and lows - no matter what level of competition you pursue. Horses always seem to find a way to bring cheers and tears to everyone. Just when it looks like you are unstoppable, colic or tendons or veterinary advice get in the way. Just when you have flown over the highest hurdles, your back, a concussion or loss of a sponsor step in to bring you right back down to reality. And the longer you ride, train or own 'em, the more ways these critters will find a way to smash your dreams or deliver you to a place beyond your greatest dreams.


DEBORAH HECHT STEPHENS has stepped over, under, around and through the roadblocks that tested her determination during a lifetime with horses. With her seemingly endless energy and determination she might be first cousin to the Energizer bunny. Read on...


DEBBIE was born in Joliet, Illinois, the only child of WINCENT ( Yes, with a "W" ) and HELEN HECHT, He owned a construction company which specialized in gas, water and electrical line installation and her mother was beautiful, flamboyant woman who loved to shop, dress well and spoil her only child. DEBBIE'S father was a visionary and a great business man and when the opportunity came for a large gas line program in New York, WINCENT moved his family to Syracuse.


LIKE MOST horse crazy little girls DEBBIE always wanted a toy horse instead of a doll, and by the time she was six years old, tiny DEBBIE HECHT had convinced her parents to let her take riding lessons from JOHN VASS, whose stable was down the road. What a wonderful dream for DEBBIE until JOHN VASS announced he was moving his stable to Dalton, Pennsylvania. Without taking a deep breath, DEBBIE'S father built a stable and hired ADOLPH MOGAVERO to be her personal trainer and to show horses for the farm. MOGAVERO came with excellent credentials... He was a top rider and trainer.

At the age of 12, DEBBIE was off and living her dream ! Her first 'nice' horse was a hunter named SUN IMP, which was purchased from the legendary conformation specialist and horseman, EDDIE BYWATER... She spent a lot of time on the ground remembers - rarely telling her parents about the falls ! " They all threw me off - but I always got back on ! " GOING to horse shows and riding were her favorite things, both of which came to screaming halt when her father suffered a heart attack and was unable to work... A second heart attack, which proved fatal, stopped her riding completely. The IRS, a few bad business choices and unscrupulous lawyers led to the sale of the horses and farm... The dream was gone.

HER MOTHER insisted that DEBBIE continue her schooling and DEBBIE graduated from Casanovia College and later from Syracuse University with a degree Sociology. All during this time she still wanted desperately to ride and took a job with New York horseman, TED RALSTON. Mucking, foxhunting, braiding, riding... Anything that needed to be done in the stable. Showing was the carrot at the end of the stick. " The best thing that happened to me during this time was a work ethic I have never forgotten. I really learned the meaning of yes and no !!

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The nicest horse I rode for TED, was a field hunter named PLEASE NOTE. In those days, most of the horses showed and hunted, but PLEASE NOTE was more than a field hunter - he was a beautiful gray horse and we won everything at the shows ! Just before the indoor shows started, MARVIN VAN RAPPOPORT bought him and my dream of riding a sure winner at THE Garden was gone. "I was offered another horse by MARVIN and traveled to the Garden all by myself. Without a trainer to help, I fell at the second jump in the first class. I gathered up my luggage, hailed a cab, and angrily threw my Pariani saddle on the sidewalk, and flew home !! "


THE SYRACUSE area was home for many top show stables of that era... ROGER and JUDY YOUNG, JOEY STONE and NAOMI BLUEMENTHAL, and JOHN SHAFFNER'S HURDLE HILL FARM. SHAFFNER was an attractive, personable guy who ran a huge stable - sometimes taking more than 60 horses on the road. DEBBIE was attracted to the him and the lifestyle, and they married - For all the wrong reasons.

During her time at HURDLE HILL she worked hard riding, training and living with an alcoholic husband and in an abusive relationship. There were nice horses to show including the unbeatable conformation and regular division winning gray mare MARKET RISE ( who was claimed off the race track by Canadian Olympian, JIMMY DAY ) and COLUMBIA. There were also great riding kids and adults who won everywhere they showed.


A TERRIBLE FIRE at HURDLE HILL started on a day when DEBBIE and one groom were the only people on the farm and tested her bravery as nothing else in her life ever had. A spark from a welder's torch started a fire in the stable... She ran in and out of the stable, dragging horses who didn't want to leave their stalls, wrapping her belt around their necks when there wasn't a halter on the door ! At one point she ran so fast she ran out of her shoes yet continued to race back into the burning barn - barefooted! She was able to save 19 horses by turning them loose in the indoor ring, and then racing back for another. Smoke and flames were terrifying... But time after time she ran back in - leading the last ones, MARKET RISE and EDDIE EASTMAN through a narrow people sized door on the side of the barn. EDDIE EASTMAN reared up, got loose, and ran back into the barn and DEBBIE followed him into his stall and dragged him out of the flames for a second time. Broken hearted and driven back by the fire, she watched as the barn burned to the ground... There were still 7 horses which had died from smoke inhalation still lying in their stalls.


THREE YEARS after marrying JOHN SHAFFNER, DEBBIE cut her losses and divorced him. She moved to MICHAEL MATZ'S farm in Collegeville, Pennsylvania and started CENTENNIAL FARM with her friend BILL GLASS. Even with a nice group of horses to show and sell it was starting all over again.

BILLIE worked hard at running the stable, getting more horses and he helped teach. HEIDI EARL came on board as stable manager. The beautiful gray stallion ABDULLAH ( owned by THE WILLIAMS and their WILLIAMSBURG FARM ) followed DEBBIE from New York and her first hope at a big time jumper was in the stable. HER first Grand Prix with ABDULLAH was the Cleveland Grand Prix which she won ! Second place finisher, BERNIE TRAURIG with EDEN VALE was more than a bit annoyed at this upstart blonde who snatched away his victory ... The following week, DEBBIE won the Cheltenham Grand Prix in Canada. Later in the year, she set a record at Kings Island, in Ohio jumping 7'8" with a half tamed, wild ride called ROCKY RACCOON. Her high jump victory prize was a new BMW in addition to her blue ribbon and prize money ! Just when it seemed life couldn't be sweeter, ABDULLAH'S owners decided that they were going to change riders and CONRAD HOMFELD was going to take over the ride on ABDULLAH.... " Was it worth it to keep riding - how could I put a fence around my heart to guard from ever having my heart broken when a horse I loved so much was taken away ?"


OF COURSE DEBBIE found other horses to ride... One of her favorites was VIP, a pretty black stallion she bought herself. She calls him, " The greatest horse I ever owned. " She showed him with great success and when the big offers started come she had a difficult decision to make... To keep him or to sell. With her mother's health failing, she decided to sell VIP and secure their future. More than one million dollars was paid and once again one of her favorite horses headed down the road.


DEBBIE met her husband, STEVE STEPHENS as the result of a blind date. The two were invited to dinner and a friend sat back while the two talked and totally ignored their good-intentioned matchmaker. DEBBIE calls STEVE, " The love of my life. " They have both ridden and showed at the highest level and appreciate what goes into the horse business. STEVE's jump building and course design are something she is very proud of. Occasionally, STEVE will hop on a horse that DEBBIE has problems with and she will make suggestions about a design for a jump. MOST of the time STEVE isn't at the ring when DEBBIE shows, but several years ago his standing at the ingate may have saved her life. When her horse stopped at the water jump, DEBBIE flew over the horse's head, hitting her head. Momentarily, no one in the ring moved as her horse galloped away from his unconscious wife ! STEVE ran from the ingate, waded into the water and pulled DEBBIE from under the water and onto the grass. The Traumahawk helicopter flew the partially paralyzed and unable to speak rider from the horse show to a nearby hospital. She eventually was moved to THE MIAMI PROJECT where she credits DR. BARTH GREEN for helping her work through the nerve pain and partial paralysis. It took more than three months of intensive physical therapy to get her close to being able to get on a horse again.


As a result of her fall and amazing recovery, she has become an enthusiastic supporter of DR. GREEN and The MIAMI PROJECT and offering assistance to other riders who have suffered a head injury.

TEACHING riders is something she thoroughly enjoys... " I am passionate about teaching others what I have learned and teaching them to be the best they can be ! " In the horse business she is well known as a great match maker of horses and riders. She is a clinician who is in great demand and flies up to Long Island once a month to give clinics at HEIDI EARL'S show stable. HER busy life includes every part of showing... She helps pack the van... Beds stalls at the shows... Travels anywhere looking at horses...She is a Jill of all trades and master of them all ! Of course her favorite car would be a speedy Ferrari... She has never been a drinker, smoker, or used drugs - all of which she considered a waste of time ! ! Her favorite show is THE AMERICAN INVITATIONAL... And, when she sits still long enough she watches The Good Wife on television.


RARELY does she look back or think about the past - she is just too busy to waste the time or energy... Were the old days better ? Ask DEBBIE STEPHENS and she'll just say " They were different ".

WHEN ASKED who her favorite horse was ? IDLE DICE, He was amazingly versatility... He could win the speed, puissance and grand prix, all at the same show ! I saw him do it many times !


WHO DOES she consider the greatest rider ? " RODNEY JENKINS - no question ! No one from any era holds a candle to him. I have never seen anyone like him. He had an innate, natural ability to help the horse create the best jump. "


PERSON I WOULD LIKE TO THANK - GEORGE MORRIS - " For some reason GEORGE gave me help when I first appeared on the scene and he gave me advice when I wasn't a client or customer of his. He just stepped up and helped me. I have thanked him so many times for his help, he was so very kind to me ".

SHE is still running from ring to ring, showing herself, training her clients, selling horses and helping young professionals get a leg up in a business where it is difficult to get a start - If they don't mind working hard she will help them... " Just work as hard as I do ! ".


She likes to quote STEVE JOBS, " Honestly follow your passion " and then adds her own, NEVER compromise the horse."


DEBBIE STEPHENS is the first person to send a get well card - often to someone she barely knows... She also hand writes her thank you notes - although her handwriting is notoriously impossible to decipher ... She calls or visits to check when someone is hurt... She makes sure her help gets Birthday and Christmas gifts, and recently flew to Mexico to attend the wedding of her former stable manager.

THE HORSE SHOW WORLD could use a few more DEBBIE STEPHENS. In a sport or business like the horses, few people have worked as hard or enjoyed the ride as much as she has!!


ALL THE BEST, BUFFY and NELL