Elizabeth M. Solter, accomplished equestrian and teacher

Nationally known competitive rider who was a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team also trained horses and taught students riding

  • Elizabeth Solter
Elizabeth Solter (Baltimore Sun )
September 24, 2014|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | The Baltimore Sun

Elizabeth M. Solter, an accomplished equestrian and teacher who had been a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team and went on to a successful career as a rider, died Sept. 12 of breast cancer at Amberly Farms, her farm in Berlin, Worcester County. She was 47.

"I saw Elizabeth come up through the ranks and hit the heights, and it was a joy to watch. She just had natural ability," said Tommy Serio, one of the top riders and trainers in the country, who was a longtime friend and competitor.

"She had just plain talent and lots of it. That girl got along well with the horses she rode. Her disposition was quiet, and the horses liked the way she rode and her techniques," said Mr. Serio, who lives in Keswick, Va.

"For a long time, she was one of the best hunter and jumper riders in the country. She got and had a feel for it," he said.

The daughter of J. Ritchie Solter, a banker, and Beverly Brooks Solter, who trained top show ponies, hunters and steeplechase jumpers, Elizabeth Monell Solter was born in Fredericksburg, Va., and raised in Glen Arm and later Upperco.

After graduating from Hereford High School in 1986, she attended college for a year at what is now the Community College of Baltimore County's Catonsville campus. Then she launched her career as a professional rider.

"My wife had started a small business, Amberly Farm in Upperco, where she also taught riding. My daughter was 3 years old when she first sat on a pony and just took to it," said Ms. Solter's father, who lives in Upperco.

By the time Ms. Solter was a teenager, she was winning numerous awards and had already earned the nickname of the "child professional."

"Elizabeth had so much natural talent and nerve that she was able to hop on ponies other children had problems with and straighten them out," her mother, who died in 2001, once said in an interview with an equine publication.

"Her riding career spanned riding so many top show hunters over the next 30 years, including the legendary Rox Dene, who is regarded as one of the greatest show hunters of the 1990s," said her father.

Ms. Solter compiled an impressive record of awards. From 1991 to 1994, she earned six overall American Saddlebred Horse Association Horse of the Year awards. In 1992, Rox Dene was the Chronicle of the Horse's Hunter of the Year, and two years later, Overall Horse of the Year.

"She showed winning jumpers in the Grand Prix de Penn National in Harrisburg, Pa., and won two consecutive years, 1994 and 1995, on Flirtatious, and rode with the U.S. Equestrian Team in 1995 and 1996, representing the U.S. in Toronto, Brussels and New York," said her father.

Ms. Solter told The Baltimore Sun in 1994 after winning the Grand Prix de Penn National that concentration is vitally important on the course.

"The only thoughts I have is what I have to do next, or I watch the pace. The pace is important," she said.

She was also a member of the 1996 World Cup Team.

Don Stewart, who lives in Ocala, Fla., had been Ms. Solter's teacher and gave her horses to train and ride.

"I got to know her in the early 1980s, when she was a student of mine back then. In 1992, she was the winner of the World Championship Hunter Rider Award, that was first presented that year, and she won it again the next year," said Mr. Stewart.

"She was just phenomenal and very accommodating. She was mild-mannered like her parents and everyone liked her," said Mr. Stewart. "She had a great smile, was easy to get along with, was always upbeat, and had absolutely no ego."

Cindy Allner, a lawyer and a partner at Miles & Stockbridge, was a student of Ms. Solter's for 13 years.

"She was an extraordinary talent and had the ability to communicate what came so innately to her to others and get them to perform at levels they never thought possible," said Ms. Allner, a Glyndon resident.

"Elizabeth could communicate with her horses in such an amazing way. She thought like a horse and understood their personalities, which she communicated to her students," she said. "A lot of people can ride well and teach, but very few can do both. She did both."

She said Ms. Solter was an "elite in this sport, and an exclusive talent who had won everything" but "loved teaching. You never took a lesson from her that you didn't feel that you learned something new."

"Elizabeth loved to see her students do well in the show ring. It gave her both pleasure and pride," she said.

Ms. Allner said her friend imparted another lesson as she endured chemotherapy treatments.

"She taught us a lesson 10 days before she died. She never missed a day of work. She was still coming to the barn because it energized her and gave her joy," said Ms. Allner.

In an email, a brother, John Ritchie Solter Jr. of Lutherville, described his sister's determination to continue working throughout her illness.

"It was a truly remarkable display of strength. Elizabeth had no time for whiners," he wrote. "If you were discouraged or hurt or just complaining, Elizabeth had a simple and consistent response. Get back out there and make it happen."

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at St. John's Episcopal Church, 3738 Butler Road, Glyndon.

In addition to her father and brother, Ms. Solter is survived by her husband of 11 years, Aaron Brent McMullen; two sons, Rodney Allen Bros Jr., a student at Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin, and Eden Michael McMullen, a student at Buckingham Elementary School in Berlin; another brother, Thomas Wagner Solter of McLean, Va.; and a sister, Kristin Solter Edmunds of Berlin. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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