On Tuesday 30 May, Rhita McNair passed away. She was best known in our world as part of the team at Gleannloch Farms. The following was shared by her son, Dan McNair, and her daughter, Maggie McNair Huggins:
Our loving mother, Rhita McNair, passed away Tuesday morning at the age of 90. You may remember her best from Gleannloch Farms as a part of the team that she and her husband, Tom McNair helped build.
Rhita and Tom started dating after he asked to see a horse magazine in one of their ninth grade classes. They rode horses on the dirt roads in Sussex County, Virginia, and eventually married in Biloxi Mississippi in 1955. They moved to Houston in 1959 to work for the Marshalls who owned Gleannloch Farms.
Rhita with Faleh (Alaa el Din x Farasha). Credit Johnny Johnston
Rhita was an original and probably the first female trainer to compete in the big leagues. She was a pioneer and a trailblazer.
Starting with 12 horses, they helped the Marshalls by winning two Horse of the Year awards and many National and or Reserve National Championships in the US and Canada. Tom and Rhita were named AHSA Horseman and Horsewoman of the Year in 1986. With the Marshalls, they imported 67 horses from Egypt and built Gleannloch into one of the premier, Arabian horse farms in the world.
At Gleannloch, Rhita was responsible for almost all the advertising and correspondence for the farm. She also sewed her families’ show clothes, including the native costumes with which they won several national championships. She was an ambassador for the Arabian breed in several countries around the world.
Rhita and Faleh. Credit Sparagowski
Rhita’s love of teaching was boundless. She fought vigorously to promote the family oriented atmosphere that was largely responsible for the continued growth of the Arabian breed in America throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990’s her dedication and success was recognized by Region 9 AHA with a Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2014, Rhita was awarded the Trustees Award at the Egyptian Event at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
She loved the horses as individuals and probably most enjoyed working with giving the young horses confidence and what she called “good minds.” She had a sixth sense with regard to communicating with young horses. But Rhita was also fearless and not afraid to work with broken horses at training clinics.
Her contributions to the Arabian horse breed in America will be fondly remembered, and difficult to overstate. She was the epitome of integrity and class. She was a force, and we miss her!
Dan and Maggie