Page 32 - The Hunt - Spring/Summer 2023
P. 32

It’s been quite the journey for Jill Forbes Willcox, from postwar England to Tory Hill Farm.
spring 2023
At 91, Jill Forbes Willcox no longer needs to ride high in the saddle. “I have more sense than that,” she says.
Willcox has ended her riding days at Tory Hill, the horse farm, riding school and center in
Glen Mills where she’s never really saddled horses so much as set them free. She’s led a full horsewoman’s life, including 20 early influential years as a dressage judge at the Devon Horse Show starting in the 1960s. Back then, she thought she’d arrived in the horse world. Then she unraveled the truth, which begins and ends with “getting rid of the tack” and its associated money. “I began to understand the psychology of everything, to be part of the horse’s experience—so much so that you had a horse without stress. You could go up to a wild horse and have it trust you,” she says. “That’s an art.”
Over the past three years, Tory Hill has been focused on rehabilitating and re-homing wild mustangs secured from western prairies, a niche within the Trainer Incentive Program sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation. “I admire wild horses, wild animals and wild people,” she says. “But you have to learn to melt around these animals.”
While the rider is obviously important, Willcox thinks mostly about what’s right for the horse. “He’s got to enjoy it,” she says.
Established in 1958, Tory Hill is inspired by Willcox’s philosophies and managed by Emily Dugan, a long-term apprentice and equine body worker. The two work closely with visiting riders and their horses to ensure an understanding and mutual relationship between the pair—so-called natural horsemanship. “For her, this is a good ending—though I don’t want it to be an ending because I don’t want this to be an end for her or me,” Dugan says of her mentor. “If not for her, I may not be able to do this.”
Willcox endured a torn and tattered World War II childhood in England and came to America in 1954 at the age of 22 to chase cowboys. “There was a spirit about it,” she says.
Soon, she found herself positioned between the cowboys of her dreams and the foxhunters and other “posh people” of her reality. She married into money after meeting Mark Willcox, an attorney. His family was known for the famously successful Ivy Mills and what’s now a national historic district in Concord Township adjacent to Tory Hill. Dating to the 1700s, Ivy Mills is home to the second oldest paper mill in America, known for printing Colonial
and Continental currency. A 1730 mission chapel there is also the oldest Roman Catholic parish
in Pennsylvania.
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