Sara Marjorie Riggins

14 July 1965 - 25 August 2017



Sara  M. Riggins of Piney Flats, beloved wife, mother, daughter, friend and  teacher, passed to her eternal ride through green pastures on 25 August  2017 at home surrounded by her family and friends.

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, a business that her brother  continues to this day. 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 parents enjoyed caring for “that  old nag” and actually fought over who got the privilege of caring for  him 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 thereafter. 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 be 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 Therapeutic Riding  Center and also served on their board of directors.

Sara  was an active supporter of many 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 soprano  Carl Tanner on their thirtieth wedding anniversary this past April, 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  school to serve the staff and teachers an impromptu barbeque. Show and  tell would involve her 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  2006, 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 a high standard but  loved each and every one with all her heart. She was able to intuitively  know what students’ strengths and weaknesses 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 one 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 her students, initially  hesitant only in her mind to ride to the level required of this event,  was the Grand Champion.

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 humor, 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.

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 local “family”, barn family, “barn rats”  and a multitude of friends.