More than 125 community members and guests attended the "Women of the Turf" Opening Reception and Award Presentation that was held recently at the Hays-Heighe House at Harford Community College. The "Women of the Turf" exhibit honors women in Maryland and beyond who have excelled in all aspects of equestrian sport, including thoroughbred farm owners, trainers, jockeys, and journalists.

Attendees had the opportunity to view the exhibit before the reception and catch up with old friends and acquaintances. Harford Community College President Dr. Dianna G. Phillips opened the event with a welcome address. Following her comments, Photojournalists Cappy Jackson and Lydia A. Williams accepted their 2019 Robert & Anne Heighe Awards for Excellence in Equestrian Journalism from Cindy Deubler, Associate Editor for Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine and Cricket Goodall, Executive Director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and the Maryland Million. 

For more than four decades, Cappy Jackson has been a professional photographer. While she has photographed for the international fashion industry and the NFL, she is best known for award-winning equestrian photography. Jackson's work has appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and GQ, and appears regularly in Western Horseman, Horse & Rider Magazine, and Practical Horseman. Jackson became an assistant to Peter Winants, the staff photographer for Maryland Horse, when she was just 14. Much of her early work is in black-and-white, and her emphasis is on unobtrusive photojournalism. She covered equestrian events at the Olympics in the 1970s and 1980s, and continues to do commercial work today for clients such as ABC Sports and Budweiser.

Despite a day job in another industry, Lydia A. Williams had a passion for the track. She formally combined her two loves, photography and horses, when her photograph of J.O. Tobin at Santa Anita was published in The Maryland Horse. Since then, her work has appeared in Sports Illustrated and The Baltimore Sun, and could formerly be found in the pages of The Thoroughbred Times and Maryland Horse. Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, Bloodhorse, and Daily Racing Form continue to rely on her photographs.

Also in attendance was special guest Kathy Kusner, winner of several gold and silver Olympic equestrian team and individual competitions. She participated in a Q & A with the audience, touching on her groundbreaking lawsuit to earn her jockey license and on her "Horses in the Hood" program for at-risk youth. Kusner was the first woman to receive a jockey license in the United States, to race in the Maryland Cup, and to commercially pilot Lear Jets. Michael Hopkins, Executive Director of the Maryland Racing Commission, presented Kusner with a Proclamation of Appreciation from the Maryland Department of Agriculture. The evening ended with closing remarks from Hopkins.

The Robert & Anne Heighe Award for Excellence in Equestrian Journalism was inaugurated in 2012 to celebrate the equestrian heritage of the Hays-Heighe House and Prospect Hill Farm – the land on which Harford Community College is now located. The Heighes ran a successful thoroughbred race horse breeding and training operation from the 1920s through the 1940s that was headquartered here. Their green and white racing silks were recognizable along the Eastern seaboard, and Anne Heighe was the first woman nominated as Vice President of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.

Past recipients of the award include Joe Kelly, 2012; William Boniface, 2013 (awarded posthumously); Humphrey S. Finney, 2014, (awarded posthumously); Pierre "Peb" Bellocq, 2015; and Jim McKay, 2017 (awarded posthumously). 

This was the fifth equestrian exhibit curated for the Hays-Heighe House by Maryanna Skowronski, director of the Historical Society of Harford County. A woman of the turf herself, Skowronski strives to preserve and promote the equestrian history of this region.

The "Women of the Turf" exhibit at the Hays-Heighe House at Harford Community College will be on display through December 20. Exhibit hours are Tuesdays, 1-3 PM; Thursdays, 3-5 PM; and Fridays, 10 AM to noon. Admission is free.