I first met Jane Savoie when I was 19. I was home from college and looking for a horse job to counter the nights I spent waitressing. Jane needed a groom. She had Eastwood, aka “Woody,” then–a big chestnut with lots of chrome.
It was a long time ago but certain moments are still incredibly clear in my memory: Jane and I standing side by side outside Woody’s stall, watching him, curled up like a big dog, napping. Jane, all business, firmly correcting my mistakes as I learned to meet her high standards for her horse’s care and turnout. Jane, with her sweet dog, Emma, power-walking along the trail that ran behind the barn as I bathed Woody in the sunny wash stall.
By that summer of 1997, Jane had already competed as a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team and written a book, THAT WINNING FEELING!, which was published by Trafalgar Square Books in 1992. She was hard at work on a new project–what would become Cross-Train Your Horse: Books One and Two (and later JANE SAVOIE’S DRESSAGE 101)–writing and rewriting her words with the help of publisher Caroline Robbins, striving to provide a truly clear how-to description of every basic dressage movement. Her aim to empower the amateur rider would become a driving force later in her life as the educational materials she was moved to create multiplied.
More recent memories of Jane are clear, too: Laughing with her and her husband, Rhett, as she related stories from the road over dinner in Wellington. Watching her dance lesson in a slick Florida studio, sensing her absolute commitment to every step. Visiting her when she first got sick, walking with her and our Managing Director Martha Cook, and brainstorming “what’s next?”
During an early treatment for her rare form of blood cancer, Jane had to stay in isolation. Never one to be idle, she decided to finish recording the audio version of her sport psychology book IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS from her hospital bed. “It is so easy to lose yourself in the physically excruciating process of battling back from illness or injury,” she said in her introduction to the audiobook. “I realized, as I forced myself to walk, IV rattling beside me, the 40 laps around the nurse’s station that would mean I’d gone a mile, that it was techniques I talk about in this book—those habits formed over a lifetime—that got me out of bed and placing one foot in front of the other, determined to get strong enough to go home.”
That was in 2016. We were all incredibly lucky she was so determined. Jane’s fight and drive, the building blocks of “her” that helped her attain her riding goals, against the odds, gave her the strength to stay with us another four years, against the odds. We had a chance to share more laughs; we had a chance to watch her dance.
Receiving the call last week, being told she was gone, was an unbelievable blow to all of us at Trafalgar. THAT WINNING FEELING! was one of the first horse books published by Caroline; it was one of the first books Martha worked on when she came to TSB after college. Jane and her passionate, innovative ideas are an integral part of the foundation for what our small company has become. But more profound is the vast impact a friendship of 30 years has–how Jane’s evolution, my evolution, and Martha’s and Caroline’s, were all interwoven. Losing a piece of that is losing a piece of ourselves.
When I first met Jane, at 19, I had no idea she would become such a force in my life. I guess we can never know that about the people we meet. But aren’t we lucky when it happens.
–Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.