Horsewoman, Sailor, Skier: Grande Dame of GMHA Passes

We have word that after a very long and full life, Ruth Whitney Dickson Orcutt has died. She was 92.

A passionate participant in Green Mountain Horse Association activities since its inception, she was also a world-class skier and sailor.

When in Vermont, she resided in Brownsville.

A memorial service in her honor will be held at GMHA on September 7th at 1:30pm. All who knew and enjoyed her are invited to attend.

Here is an obituary provided by the family:





Ruth Whitney Dickson Orcutt died peacefully at her home in Naples, Florida on Aug. 19, 2012. She was the wife of the late Lyman Orcutt, co-owner of Orcland Farms in West Newbury, Massachusetts.

Ruth was born on Dec. 27, 1919 to the late Brenton H. Dickson Jr. and Ruth Bennett Dickson, at the Ivey Abbey, the Dickson family farm in Weston, Massachusetts.

Ruth Whitney Dickson Orcutt grew up on the farm with seven other siblings. It was a remote part of town, and the children found plenty of amusement in the outdoors. Sliding down the steep connecting roofs, digging hay tunnels, building shack cities and riding horses, driving ponies or even dogs into many different adventures were all parts of life. There was always activity, and later in life almost every sport was played or at least attempted.

Ruth was a Concord Academy graduate and went on to graduate from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in Physical Therapy.

At the University of New Hampshire, she won the first intercollegiate sailing race in which women were allowed to participate on the Charles River in Boston. She was an accomplished sailor who won a multitude of races through out her life.  She sailed her last race in the late 1990’s at the Chatham Yacht Club.

Ruth later interned at Boston Children’s Hospital.

In her 20’s she was a Boston Debutante and a member of the Boston Junior League.

When she was not competing her Morgan Horses, she was an avid Sailor on Pleasant Bay on South Orleans.

In Vermont, Ruth was one of the first skiers to compete at Mt. Tom in Woodstock and use the Rope Tow.

She went on to qualify for the 1948 U.S. Winter Olympics Team. She was on the ski team for the University of New Hampshire.  She skied all over the world.

In the Woodstock area, Ruth was a longtime supporter of the Green Mountain Horse Association since its inception. She competed in the first 100-Mile Ride, and placed sixth overall in the 50th anniversary 1986 100-Mile Ride on Orcland Highness. Ruth also competed at the First Morgan Horse Nationals at Upwey Farms, which is now the Green Mountain Horse Association.

She was also named Woman of the Year in 1977 by the American Morgan Horse Association. She was also named Woman of the Year by the American Horse Show Association.

At Orcland Farms, her farm in West Newbury, Massachusetts, Ruth had a successful training, breeding, and lesson program for many years. She helped many famous horse trainers start their careers and grow their love of the Morgan Horse through her Summer Camp Program and lesson programs.

Under the leadership of Ruth and her husband, Lyman Orcutt, Orcland Farms gained was world-renown. The family bred many famous Morgan horses that were bought and sold across the world. Ruth and Lyman showed horses all over the United States and were great supporters of the youth involved in the horse industry. Ruth also judged some competitions. At one point in the 1960s, the Orcland Farms head count reached 95, and – despite a rigorous summer show schedule – Ruth still managed to sustain her youth-oriented Summer Camp Program at Orcland Farms, which was near and dear to her heart.

Ruth Whitney Dickson Orcutt

She was also an avid worldwide traveler, taking numerous trips throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia Minor.

During her retirement years, Ruth summered in Brownsville, VT and remained active in the GMHA community. She would help with crossing, awards, and would always be there for her seat on the porch for vetting out.

Ruth never missed the New England Morgan Horse Show until her health began to decline in 2007.

Orcland Farms was inducted into the American Morgan Horse Hall of Fame in 2011.  She made cameo appearances at the shows through her late 70’s and early 80’s, driving her homebred Morgans.

Her last show ring appearance was in 1999, showing in the Family Class at New England Morgan with her sister Anna Ela, nephew Mark Caisse, niece Nancy Caisse, and granddaughter Christine Orcutt Henderson.

Ruth is survived by her daughters, Elizabeth D. Orcutt, Louise Orcutt Henry, her son Chip Orcutt; her granddaughters, Christine Orcutt Henderson and Lark Renee Henry; grandson Charles Chandler Henry;  and a great-granddaughter, Megan E. Carlson. She was predeceased by her brothers, Brenton H. Dickson III, Edward M. Dickson, Theodore Dickson, William Dickson, and her sisters, Anna Ela and Mary Dickson.

In lieu of flowers please make donations in her name to either the GMHA Education and Competition Scholarships or the UPHA Benevolent Fund. The GMHA mailing address is: P.O. Box 8,
South Woodstock, VT, 05071; and the UPHA Benevolent Fund mailing address is: UPHA Benevolent Fund, Cheryl Innis, c/o Somersdream Stable, 341 Watchaug Rd., Somers, CT, 06071.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Kevin Connor on October 2, 2012 at 20:12

    In the mid-late 70s I worked summers at Orcland Farm. I have many positive memories of the farm and the Orcutts. Mrs O was a wonderful lady – I did not have a true appreciation of her life’s accomplishments (as outlined in the article) – she was without a doubt the always the graceful lady. She taught me how to save money as a college kid…. at the end of the week, we’d hand in out hours. And she’d always negotiate how much pay we’d get and how much she’d hold until the end of the summer. She blamed this on her check book – in reality, she was just looking out for us. My life was enriched having known and learned from her and her example. KC


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