Sara Marjoie Riggins

7 Sara M. Riggins of Piney Flats, founder of Hawley Farm Stables, beloved wife, mother, daughter, friend and teacher passed to her eternal ride through green pastures on 25 August 2017 at home.

Sara's philosophy, "I teach life lessons, the horses are only tools" was  often said to family and friends.  This was also true of her battle  with breast cancer; courage, grace, dignity, good humour, perseverance  and living life every moment in the present.  Even though she did not  realize it, she taught many, many people how to deal with adversity.

Born in Stone, England 14 July 1965, she was the daughter of William  Owen and Marjorie Coles Brown of Seighford, England. She attended school  at Cooper Perry Elementary School, Seighford and Sir Graham Balfour  School, Stafford, England. She completed nursing training  at the Mid Staffordshire School of Nursing, Stafford, England in  November 1986 and worked in the English National Health Service as a  registered nurse until the time of her marriage.It was during her  training in mid 1985 that she met a young medical student from  Tennessee, Matthew Riggins, who would be fortunate enough to become her  husband. Initially she refused his request for a date saying "he must be already married because his socks match!" It was only after the intervention of a mutual friend that she said yes. He proposed on their second date with her accepting by asking "what took you so long?" They were joined together 29 April 1987 in her home village church, The Church of England of Seighford Parish. Returning to Kingsport in May 1987, they enjoyed many adventures over the next 30 years of marriage. While  her husband was completing his post graduate training, she worked as a  Registered nurse on the orthopaedic and oncology wards of Holston Valley  Medical Center until a move to Bedford, PA in 1989, then returning to  Piney Flats in February 1991. Their greatest adventure began on 14 May 1996 with the arrival of their son Ian James Riggins. 

She was raised on her family dairy farm, however, Sara pursued a passion for horses and all things equestrian from an early age. It was during her early teens that she brought home Winston, her first horse. Her  father objected strenuously not only to an animal eating the grass  which should be for cows only but also to an animal used for foxhunting,  a sport which damaged pastures. Sara won this disagreement as she did  many others if it involved her lifelong passion. Her  mother enjoyed caring for "that old nag" with her father relenting and  letting him have the run of the pastures after Sara left for America. In 1988, a year after arriving in America, she obtained her first of what would become many horses over the years.After initially  returning to Tennessee Sara resumed her nursing career but found her  attention being drawn to farriery (horseshoeing). She attended Eastern  School of Farriery in Martinsville, Virginia, completing her training in  November 1991 with the establishment of Horseshoeing by Sara Riggins  following shortly. As one of but a handful of  female farriers, she faced an uphill climb to be accepted in this area  but, as with every attempted endeavor, she succeeded and operated this  business successfully. She and her little helper Ian could  frequently been seen traveling together in her corporate headquarters  throughout the northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia During  this time, she was honoured to donate her services to Small Miracles  Therapeautic Equestiran Center and also served on their board of  directors.

Sara was an active supporter of may organizations. She  and her husband were honoured to open their home to musicians over the  years for the Symphony of the Mountains orchestra, many of whom remain  friends. The highlight of symphony involvement was the  honour of sponsoring tenor Carl Tanner on their thirtieth wedding  anniversary in April 2017 , an event shared with several hundred of  their closest friends. Sara was also active in the  Sullivan County School System from the time Ian entered kindergarten at  Holston Elementary School until he left from Holston Middle School. This  involvement was mainly as a school nurse volunteer, but she also was  known for periodically bringing a grill to the school to serve the staff  and teachers an impromptu barbeque. Show and tell would  involve a trailer being loaded with horses and brought to the school  parking lot for children to experience a horse up close. A play  structure was donated in 2005. In 2006, she was conferred the honour of a Friend of Education Award by the Sullivan County Education Association.


In 2004, another  dream was realized as land was purchased, a stable built and Hawley Farm Stables, a boarding and equestrian riding facility, became a reality  with Sara as owner, operator, instructor, maintenance engineer and  farrier. It was at this time that Sara discovered her  innate ability and gift to teach others the joy of horses and pursued  this passion fervently. Students ranged in age from 4 to  70 and all were treated with individuality for their strength and  weaknesses. Not only was riding instruction taught, but all aspects of  barn care and management as well as appreciation of the horse as a  living being to be cared for as family. "Mean Mary  Poppins" was the loving phrase students would give to Sara because she  held her students to high a standard but loved each and every one with  all her heart. She was able to intuitively know what a  student's strength and weakness were and helped each rider overcome what  was only a perceived weakness. She helped people achieve personal  goals, not only equestrian. but in life. There were many people who would hear her practical advice of "no whining, get your big girl pants on and deal with it." Many people became friends and family during this time. The  highest honour one could achieve was to become on of her beloved "barn rats," meaning that the right had been won to care for your horse and  use the facility without supervision. Over the years, she and her  students attended many horse events throughout the area winning many  ribbons but, more importantly having fun and exhibiting the highest  level of sportsmanship to other people; there were no losers at these events, only winners One of her greatest achievements came as Western North Carolina Hunter Pace  reserve champion 2015-2016 while undergoing chemotherapy. Even  though she was proud of this accomplishment, she was even more proud  that one of her students, initially hesitant only in her mind to ride to the level required of this event, was the Grand Champion.

Sara is survived by her husband, Matthew, and son, Ian, of Piney Flats; parents, William and Marjorie Brown of Great  Bridgeford, England; brother, Neil William Brown and partner Judith Newman of Seighford, England, as well as an extended  "family", barn family, "barn rats" and a multitude of friends. 2