Helen Dent Lenahan, a passionate, life-long horsewoman and philanthropist, passed away on May 19, 2017 at the age of 91. Lenahan was the dedicated horse owner of many successful performance horses, including several SBS Farms’ hunters and jumpers, after being a rider herself for many years prior.
Lenahan owned more than 100 horses and ponies throughout her equestrian career, showing them herself or supporting the competitive aspirations of other riders. She received several high honors in the equestrian industry, including induction into the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame in Old Salem in 2000.
She was presented with the Mrs. A.C. Randolph Owner’s Legacy Award from the United States Hunter Jumper Association in Lexington, Kentucky in 2011, and the Welles Family Award at the 2016 CP National Horse Show for being “a special individual who has made an exceptional commitment and contribution to the equestrian sport and industry.”
“I don’t know that there are many people who have been given those three honors in their lifetime,” said Susie Schoellkopf, owner of SBS Farms. “Helen had an amazing background, and she was such a great horsewoman.”
Schoellkopf enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Lenahan, growing up with her daughter Susie and spending time riding and showing horses together over the years.
Earlier in her career, Lenahan enjoyed racking up ribbons aboard her three-gaited and five-gaited American Saddlebred horses at National Horse Shows — she also rode to great success in side-saddle classes along with her good friend Sharon O’Neill.
Together, Lenahan and O’Neill won high honors in the side-saddle division at prestigious venues such as the Washington International Horse Show and the National Horse Show. Most recently, Lenahan had taken up driving competitions with Welsh ponies in championships across North America.
“Helen was very smart,” Schoellkopf said. “She knew good horses, she knew what a nice hunter was and she was competitive.”
Lenahan’s niche for identifying and developing the finest show horses was indisputable. Several of her top horses, Logically, Roses Are Red and Gabriel, have been awarded United States Equestrian Federation National Horse of the Year titles.
Lenahan was the owner of SBS Farms' elite performance horses Miss Lucy and Girl Crush. Her horses have won numerous honors in elite arenas, and most recently, Miss Lucy won the prestigious $100,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship in 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Lenahan left a remarkable legacy on the equine industry, and most notably the hunter arena. She offered show opportunities to talented junior riders such as Molly Ashe Crawley, as well as numerous other professionals including Brian Flynn and Gary Raman. All went on to win in the national arena with her horses. Among those professionals, Lenahan had a successful 25-year partnership with SBS Farms trainer and rider, Jennifer Alfano. Her guidance and presence at horse shows as an encouraging role model will forever be remembered by those she supported.
“Helen not only watched her own horses at the horse shows,” Schoellkopf said. “She always went back to watch the customers and the kids, regardless of if the horse was hers. She was very much a part of the barn and the team.”
Lenahan’s philanthropy was seen through her service as a board member of the Harry M. Dent Family Foundation, the Helen Dent Lenahan Foundation and the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center.
Also passionate about educational opportunities, Lenahan created the Helen Dent Scholarship Fund at Canisius High School and provided continuous support to the Buffalo Seminary, Elmwood-Franklin School and Nichols School.
Lenahan is survived by her daughter, Susan Lenahan, two sons, John and Christopher, and four grandchildren — John IV, Mackenzie, Christopher, Jr. “C.J.” and Reilly Lenahan.
A dear friend to Schoellkopf and a proud supporter of the SBS Farms team and numerous other equestrians throughout the years, she will be dearly missed by all.
Special thanks to Phelps Media Group, Inc., for the press release.