Shirley Drew Hardwicke (1916 – 2004)
Shirley Drew Hardwicke was a nationally recognized horsewoman from Missouri. She greatly influenced and contributed to equestrian education in the United States. She instructed hundreds of students in the training, management, and showing of horses.
Shirley Drew was born on January 22, 1916, in Clifton Hill, Missouri. Her parents were Claude H. and Caroline Reed Drew. They were both well-known professional horse trainers. Shirley had a brother named James Howard. The Drews made their home on a farm near Fayette. Shirley’s parents worked together training and showing horses. One of the most famous horses they trained was the legendary Missouri sire Stonewall King. He was a national champion that won every class a five-gaited stallion could enter.
Shirley grew up surrounded by horses and horse people. As a young girl, she absorbed horsemanship skills from her accomplished parents. She helped with the family business of training and showing horses. Shirley made “catch” rides at horse shows, filling in for exhibitors unable to work. This meant riding unfamiliar horses and winning if she could. Shirley also helped her mother Caroline Drew teach horsemanship and horseback riding at Christian College, now Columbia College, in Columbia, Missouri. Caroline Drew directed that equitation program for thirty-five years, supplying many of the horses used in the program from the Drew farm.
A Career in Horsemanship
After first attending Christian College, Shirley earned a degree in dramatics and physical education from the University of Missouri–Columbia. She intended to teach physical education, but recognized her true calling when she found herself shouting “Whoa!” at hockey players instead of blowing her whistle. When William Woods College in Fulton, Missouri, offered her a job teaching horsemanship, Shirley was thrilled. Her feelings changed, however, when she discovered that the stables held very few horses that were suitable for student riders. Additionally, the collection of necessary horse equipment was incomplete.
During her first few months at William Woods stables, Shirley began her days at 5:00 a.m. She rode every horse “to take the edge off” before the students arrived. The horses had to learn how to be “school horses” while students were learning to ride them. By the time Shirley left William Woods in 1942 to serve with the Red Cross during World War II, the equestrian program was well on its way to becoming one of the most respected riding programs in the U.S.
Building a Premier Equestrian Program
After the war, Shirley returned to Columbia. She was hired in 1947 as director of horsemanship at Stephens College. Her schedule at Stephens was demanding. She had many twelve-hour days and no rest during school vacations. The stable operations were ongoing and Shirley, in addition to teaching, also had the tasks of horse shopping, judging shows, and coaching Stephens’ students on the show circuit.
In 1951, Shirley married Dr. H. M. Hardwicke who directed the State Division of Health. Unlike Shirley’s parents, the Hardwickes had separate careers and no children. Dr. Hardwicke kidded Shirley by saying, “I won’t teach riding if you won’t practice medicine.” They lived at Walnut Hill Farm, a 240-acre farm north of Ashland, Missouri.
Over the next thirty-three years, until her retirement in 1980, Shirley developed the Stephens course of equine study into the nation’s premier college-level program. By the late 1950s, Stephens College had the most extensive and the most admired riding program in the nation. It involved one thousand students, a hundred horses, six teachers, and a stable staff of fourteen. Other schools used it as a model.
Training Future Equestrians
Under Shirley’s leadership, equestrian students did much more than ride horses. She helped transform a student’s love for horses into a meaningful and productive career. While building a strong foundation of horsemanship through hands-on training, Shirley emphasized assertiveness, self-confidence, and dedication to reaching professional goals within the equine industry.
At Stephens College today, students learn how to work with Saddlebred, Arabians, and Morgans in saddleseat classes. In classes in hunt seat, Western riding, combined training, and dressage classes, students learn how to work with Throughbred, Warmbloods, and Quarter horses. They take business courses in equine management and equestrian business as well as courses in methods of teaching, horseshoeing, and nutrition.
Shirley Drew Hardwicke was a remarkable equestrian who set the standard for college equestrian studies in the U.S. Her students are among today’s leading American Saddlebred owners, trainers, instructors, and judges. She received many awards and honors for her contributions to the show horse industry. She died on July 23, 2004, at the age of 88.
Research and Text by Carlynn Trout
Christensen, Lawrence O. et al, eds. Dictionary of Missouri Biography. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1999. pp. 257–58.
Columbia Daily Tribune. Obituary. “Shirley Hardwicke, 1916-2004.” July 26, 2004.
Dains, Mary K., ed. Show Me Missouri Women: Selected Biographies. 2 vols. Kirksville, MO: Thomas Jefferson University Press, 1989, 1993. Vol. 1: 243.