Early Life and Family
Margaret Logan Cabell, also known as Nonie, was born in 1902 in Cincinnati, Ohio but spent her childhood near the James River in Warminster, Virginia.
She said she learned to ride even before she could walk and her love of horses only grew from there.
Nonie attended the New York School of Applied Design for Women from 1917 to 1919 and the New York School of Art in 1921. Her brother, Philip, introduced her to his Princeton roommate, Sydney Baldwin Self, and the two married in 1921. Two years later, the couple left South Orange, New Jersey, and rode their two horses to New Canaan, settling at Point o’ Forks Farm on Carter Street.
The Selfs had four children — Sydney Baldwin Self, Jr. (Skip), Shirley Self Brotherhood (Lee), Hartwell Cabell Self (Toby), and Virginia Logan Self Bucklin (Gincy).
Silvermine School of Horsemastership
In 1929, Self opened the Silvermine School of Horsemastership at their farm with Verl Sturgis Crew and began instructing professionally.
However, with the economic fallout during the Great Depression of the early 1930s, the Selfs feared that they would have to sell their horses.
To save them, Nonie began writing fiction and nonfiction books about horses. Throughout her life, she published forty books.
“I had to do that or give up our horses,” she recalled, “and I couldn’t give them up because they meant too much to the children and me.” Her first nonfiction work, Teaching the Young to Ride (1934), was based on her teaching methodology, and her 1946 reference guide, The Horseman’s Encyclopedia, won Nonie wide recognition and commercial success. Meanwhile, her first long fiction title, Sky Rocket, was based on New Canaan Mounted Troop (NCMT) and her horse, Sky Rocket, who she rescued and rehabilitated.
The Beginnings of NCMT
In 1939, Nonie watched a Junior Cavalry of America (JCOA) ceremony in New Jersey. Impressed by it, Nonie took a course in officer training with Major Harry Disston. He helped organize New Canaan Mounted Troop (NCMT) as the fourth regiment of the JCOA. Nonie, the commandant, had three female assistants and Major Disston acted as Squadron Commander until he was drafted in the Second World War. She ran NCMT for over 20 years and retired in 1959.
The Selfs After NCMT
Nonie and her husband became snowbirds and often spent their winters in Mexico. While there, she was an advisor-consultant to the Escuela Ecusetre de San Miguel Allende. She would teach English to locals as well.
In 1962, the Selfs moved to Block Island where Nonie would spend her time playing the violin and viola and go fishing. She co-founded the Block Island Times in 1970 with publisher Dan Rattiner. Nonie opened another small riding school and affectionately called her students “mini-Mounties” in honor of NCMT.
Nonie passed away in 1996. As part of her legacy, NCMT seeks to further its mission as a nonprofit organization devoted to building leadership, responsibility, and confidence in youth through sound horsemanship. Horses and ponies are still donated for use by all who participate in our programs.
NCMT is thriving today and this is an enduring testament to Mrs. Self’s service to her community.