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In Memory of Pam Jackson

October 12, 2008

On Saturday evening October 11, my Dad called me as I was driving home to tell me that Pam Jackson - our friend, and a beloved friend to scores of people within and outside of the horse community - had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I had seen Pam less than 2 weeks before this, and I was immensely stunned and saddened at this tragic news. Yesterday I was honored as I was asked if I might write a tribute to Pam. I have been thinking of what to write, and I came to the conclusion that I should write about Pam as I knew her – as my friend and part of our Friesian family. So this is a personal story, but I hope from this story readers will get to know or remember Pam and feel the love and respect I have for her.In 2002, Karen Waldron hosted a keuring at her estate in southwestern Virginia. The “Belle of the Ball” was a stunning mare named Lies van Bommelsteyn. Lies became Model mare and Best of Show that day. My parents were vocally enthusiastic as Lies took the honors. “That’s Pam Jackson’s horse!”, my mom exclaimed. “You remember Pam, she used to show saddle horses with your sister and Karen Waldron when y’all were kids”. I could not quite remember (I was a kid a long time ago), so my dad just grinned and said “Pam is a great lady”. After all those years, my parents still had an obvious affection for Pam, and that was how I was reintroduced to her.Over time I would see Pam more and more – at inspections, shows, FHANA meetings. She and her husband Bill were inseparable in their devotion to one another and their love of their horses. Pam became a breeder of some of the best Friesians in North America. I would look for Pam and Bill at each Friesian event. Often I would see Bill first. He’d give me a big hug and ask about my family and I would kiss him on the cheek and ask how he and Pam were. Soon I’d ask about the horses – where they were showing, and what the plans were for the next breeding season. Bill would just laugh, point to his wife, and say “you’ll have to ask the boss!”. Very few knew Friesian horses as well as Pam. As soon as could, I’d monopolize Pam’s time, asking her about the new crop of stallions or how the training of her show horses was going. I remember her laughing that infectious deep belly laugh followed by some incisive quip in her smooth South Carolina drawl. Sometimes I would try to say something funny, just to hear her laugh.In 2004 Pam persuaded our family to bring two of our horses to Statesville, NC for a Friesian under Saddle class Pam was organizing at a big saddlebred show. We are not really into the show circuit, but Pam was a woman on a mission and it was tough to say no to one so passionate. She felt very strongly that the Friesians needed to be performance horses. “Jeannine”, she would say (Pam would start many sentences to me by saying my name first. This is an old southern trait that shows friendship and respect to the listener). “People need to see these horses. It is good for the breed”. After that show it took us 2 hours to get our horses from the stable to the horse trailer 100 yards away. We were swamped by crowds of people wanting to know about this beautiful, impressive breed. Once again, Pam Jackson was right and had done yet another positive thing for the Friesian horse and our Friesian community.Later on Pam became heavily involved in the Friesian performance horse group, IFSHA, and her horses competed all over the southeast. I saw Pam’s mare Tessa van de Zuiderwaard in Roanoke at one of Tessa’s first showings as she blew away everything in the ring that night. I was so impressed that I meandered to the stables to see the horse, not knowing a thing about her. The rider, Ashley Walker, told me a lady named Pam Jackson owned the mare. “Of course”, I thought. “Who else…” Tessa went on to win nearly every class she ever entered as she had the show career of a lifetime for a Friesian in saddleseat. Pam and Bill became good friends of Tessa’s breeder, Femmy Fien from the Netherlands. Femmy has since visited the Jacksons often to see Tessa and Tessa’s brother Maurice compete. And so, through her horses, Pam is loved in the Netherlands, just as she has been loved here in the US.Pam has hosted the South Carolina keuring for the last three years and it was at that keuring this past September that I last saw Pam. She was running on all cylinders to get through the keuring as organizer and owner of a number of adult horses and foals. She excitedly told me about her and Bill’s plans to go to the IFSHA show with Femmy in late October. Thinking of hauling those expensive horses for thirteen hours to attend a show sort of made my eyes glass over. Pam saw this and said, you guessed it, “Jeannine, people need to see them. It is good for the breed.”At the time, we were standing over by Tessa’s stall. Tessa is now retired from the show ring, but was there in the keuring stall with a little filly by her side. “I thought she was not pregnant this year”, I said. Pam’s face softened and she stroked Tessa’s nose. “Tessa was not pregnant. This baby’s mother rejected her and Tessa took her in and has adopted her.” I could not believe it – Tessa adopted this baby without even having any milk for her (and thus – one would think – no maternal instinct). I commented on that to Pam and Pam just said “Tessa is special. She has a heart of gold”.You know, you can tell the character of a group of people by the character of their leader. In a similar way, you could tell the character of Pam’s horses by knowing Pam. Like Pam, her horses are tough and impressive. They are also kind and dedicated. When I think of Bill and the horses and all of us without Pam, and I get overwhelmingly sad. I have to think of something to cheer me up. Somehow I imagine Pam is with her own angel now. An angel, who like Tessa, took a wide-eyed newcomer and is teaching her the ropes. And no one deserves that angel like Pam does – Pam was, and always will be, special, with a heart of gold.