About Amanda

Amanda was born on May 2nd, 1976, the year of the Fire Dragon. Like the mythical beast of her stars, Amanda radiated beauty, charisma, and power.

As a young child, Amanda – or ‘Mandy’, as her family called her – was a joyful and potent presence. Easy to smile, and always happy to share her warm spirit, other children flocked to Mandy. Her charm brought smiles to faces. Her fearless bravery inspired admiration and respect.

One of her closest friends remembers a day in Mrs. Crow’s elementary school class. He’d found a large snake out behind the school, and brought it dangling between his fingers into the classroom. When all the children saw what he was carrying, they ran to the far corner of the room, screaming and giggling. All the children, that is, except for young Mandy. The tall, lanky girl with the fine, blonde hair approached the slithering animal, reached out her hand, and felt its dry scales. Soon, one by one the other children followed suit, timidly stepping forward to inspect the mysterious serpent. Her courage led others to find the courage within themselves.

Those who knew Amanda as a toddler remember fondly how she loved to shake, wiggle, and dance. It is no surprise that soon she followed her sister Melissa into the dance studio. Among the disciplined rhythms and arching movements of ballet, Mandy excelled, and it was not long before she was accepted, like her sister, into the professional training program at the Boston Ballet. Her statuesque figure and her natural grace made her a dazzling dancer. But soon, she would realize that she was destined to dance not in a studio, but in a saddle…

Amanda had an amazing love for animals. She adored all fashion of critter and beast, and she found comfort in the company of nature. It was this - and fate - that first drew Amanda to what became one of her life’s deep and abiding passions. With horses - as with everything she loved - Amanda ennobled her passions with focus and discipline. She trained tirelessly, learning the quiet language of horsemanship and perfecting the minutiae of competitive Equestrian Dressage. It was not long before people realized this young woman’s extraordinary talent. Her immaculate style and easy grace inspired one Olympic trainer to call her a ‘dream girl’. At 16, she competed in the North American Young Riders Championships, as one of the youngest riders ever to qualify. Due in large part to her pristine riding, her team won the competition that year.

She would train and show horses for the next fifteen years. During an adolescence already filled with myriad joys, Amanda was happiest in the barn, among the majestic animals she so loved.

Her stunning beauty acquired many an admirer, tall and elegant, with eyes that “shimmered like pools of clear, deep water”, Amanda was a striking young woman. Soon, modeling-scouts came calling, and it was not long before the adventurous Amanda was traveling the globe – from Milan to Bogotá – working as a fashion and runway model.

As with all the adventures she embarked upon, Amanda approached modeling with a light-hearted and carefree good-nature. And though she claimed to be nervous in front of the camera, the images reveal a rare and powerful individual, one who worked comfortably and professionally in front of the lens. They are stunning evidence of Amanda’s rare ability to sing with her eyes, to communicate deep emotion without words. One photographer she worked with recalled her delicate cheekbones, her slender legs that seemed “to never end”, and her absolutely beautiful, wonderful ears.

By the time she finished modeling full-time at the age of twenty-six, her image had adorned the pages of countless magazines and billboards. With her effortless elegance and her grounded sensibilities, Amanda had found amazing success in an often cynical and cunning industry. One adoring photographer remembers Amanda as “not just a beautiful model, but a sheer beauty…A gorgeous human being.”

In 2003, Amanda returned to her native New Hampshire and began working again with her beloved horses. Never one to shrink from a challenge, she soon founded her own Training & Boarding business, and began working with top-flight Dressage horses at the Kendrindge Farm in Exeter.

And soon, she would fall in love...

Amanda met Derek on a cool Saturday evening in Maine. Within days, the two were inseparable. In Derek, Amanda found a roughened romantic…individualistic, steadfast, and fragile. In Amanda, Derek found bliss….complete, utter bliss.

It is rare when an individual finds the ‘one’…the person who makes you whole, while somehow helping you realize you were never really incomplete. For Derek, Amanda is this person.

In the days and years that followed, Amanda continued to celebrate and embrace life. She worked tirelessly to build her nascent business - training several horses to major competition wins, while committing full-time hours to her barn duties. She spent many weekend afternoons on the lakeshore with her loving parents Jayne and Peter, her sister Melissa and brother-in-law Rheagan, and her adorable niece, Lucia. And she began planning for her own wedding…for the new family she intended to build.

But above all, she loved to be at home. On a typical day she’d be changed into her pajamas minutes after she walked through the apartment door, and you might find her sitting on the living room floor, patiently teaching the cats to perform silly tricks. She loved soft, cuddly things, and she could barely sleep unless wrapped in her cherished baby-blanket Wooby. She adored the color pink, and wore pink often because of the way it made her – the woman who smiled while she mucked horse stalls and sauntered the muddy fields - feel “light and pretty”. Fittingly, her tattoo, which traced its way up the nape of her neck, was of a pink Dragon in repose.

And she loved wearing hats. Her favorite – a beat-up ole’ railroad engineer’s cap – often graced her head while she ran errands, threw horseshoes, or washed the laundry.

She thrilled in the rush of scary movies, and watched them incessantly. Ghosts and goblins, ax-wielding zombie hitchhikers, she thrilled at them all. (As long, she said, as the plots were so unrealistic that they couldn’t really happen.) But she watched plenty of love stories too. She was enamored with the idea of love. With never-ending, boundless, hopelessly romantic love.

And sometimes, on certain lazy afternoons, you might find her watching one of her childhood favorites, Charlotte’s Web, just for the good cry it gave her.

Occasionally, when she thought no one was near, she’d sing. And she sang beautifully, with a soft timber and a sweetness that sent her voice afloat upon the air. If you heard her, you might wonder if there was anything this woman couldn’t do.

Regardless of where she was, or what she was doing, Amanda lived brightly. She offered her strength when friends despaired, her warm shoulder when loved ones needed rest. She smiled upon all life with pride and delight, as a gardener does her fragile blossoms.

Legend has it that as the Buddha was about to depart the earth, he summoned all the animals to say goodbye. Twelve came to him, and to show his appreciation he vowed that each year would bear the name of one of the animals. Under the celestial guardianship of the mighty dragon, Amanda Rae Ward was born. Like the dragon, she lived powerfully, vibrantly, and with a smiling heart. She smiles still.

To make a donation into this fund, please write a check to:

The Dressage Foundation: Amanda Ward Legacy Fund
Mail to: The Dressage Foundation
Wells Fargo Center, Suite 732
1248 “O” Street, Lincoln, NE 68508

Thank you.