Super Senior: Toni Prince
NORWICH, Vt. (WCAX) - Toni Prince lives an idyllic life in Norwich. She trains kids not just how to ride a horse but to try to understand them.
“Oh my gosh, the kids are what is keeping me alive,” Prince said. “I’ve had horses all my life and they’re still a mystery to me. How do they think? Why they do what they do?”
Her knowledge of horses goes back to McLean, Virginia, a suburb of D.C., where she grew up. “I’ve been doing it since I was 9,” Prince said. A kid, not just riding, but amazingly also teaching. “That’s where I went, up and down with my horse saying, ‘You have any children? I’m ready to give riding lessons.’”
Prince was an only child, a poor girl in a rich town.
Reporter Joe Carroll: And your mother was strict?
Toni Prince: Ah yes. I mean beating strict.
Her mom wasn’t keen on Prince’s four-legged friend, affectionately named Stinker. “My father was out of the picture and she said, ‘I can’t afford this. If you want to keep this horse, you got to figure out how to feed him.’ So, I did,” she said.
The pint-size entrepreneur also found success in the ring, horse and human leaping over the competition to win national events. “He was my best friend,” Prince said.
Now 83, Prince is still devoted to her students. “If I couldn’t teach anymore, I would have a mini-pony somewhere tucked in the bathroom,” she said.
Her ponies are old. Some were rescued from abuse.
“I love them ‘cause they’re a mystery to me, and all horses are challenges -- and ponies, too,” said Coco Yehle, age 10, one of Prince’s students. They train just down the hill from the stable. Fourteen-year-old Ella Swett helps the younger kids.
After 74 years of coaching, Prince plans to slow down a bit at the end of the year. “The physical part is -- at 83 -- is getting to me,” she said. The plan is to have a good friend take over the business with Prince taking on an advisory role. She and her husband, Gregory, would move into a cottage on the property. Gregory was a longtime college president. At the stable though, Prince reigns. “I’m the captain,” she said.
“I work, I work for the enterprise,” added Gregory
Reporter Joe Carroll: What is another goal for these kids, not just to ride horses?
Toni Prince: To understand what makes themselves the way they are and to get better at being the best self they can be.
And teaching by example. “Yay, you guys are awesome. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she tells the students.
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