After 25 years of married life, my wife, Christy and I wanted to plan a special trip to celebrate. Of course, the show season is too hectic a time for vacations, so we planned a trip for early December. Our first thought was to go to Italy, but after checking our “bucket lists,” we decided on South Africa. My brother and I had travelled to Bloemfontein about a zillion years ago, and I remembered what a beautiful and exciting country South Africa was.
A veterinarian, a biology professor and a college senior walk into a barn, and it isn’t the start of a joke. It is a regular occurrence at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri, where staff veterinarian Dr. Paul Schiltz, biology professor Dr. Nick Pullen and senior Joanie Ryan are working together to successfully grow a line of equine stem cells from horse bone marrow, an ambitious project that is benefitting both university students and horses.
The rediscovery of Missouri’s Saddlebred industry has taken me through towns and countryside, to meet trainers who had grown up in Missouri and some who only recently began to call Missouri their home. In these travels I encountered established trainers and assistants just starting out, those who breed, and those who teach, each one breathing life into our beloved industry, and proving through the first two parts of this article exactly what I’d hoped to – that all was not lost. “The Show Me State” may no longer have Art Simmons or Betty Weldon, but it still has a number of horse people who are determined to continue its Saddle Horse legacy. And, it seems, those travels were only the beginning.
Glendale Stables Columbia, Missouri
At most barns, a Saturday in mid-May would be a lesson day, with customers arriving to practice on their show horses. It might have been that at Glendale, too, except that the customers had willingly stepped aside so that Kent and Stacey Swalla could open the barn up to their other great love – hosting a practice for the USEF Young Riders Home Team.
“We have wonderful clients who are willing to let us use some of their horses and give us the time,” Kent said.
Part 1 discussed the history of Saddlebreds in Missouri, and how much had changed since the old days. It is a sad fact that one faces in every aspect of life; nothing is ever how it used to be.
Yet as I began my journey, wandering from barn to barn, first witnessing the work of Brenda Benner as well as Virgil and Sandra Helm, it became clear that all was not lost. A number of dedicated trainers are protecting the legacy of Saddlebreds in Missouri, and my next two trips solidified this belief: there are still amazing things happening here in our “home state” and there is still much to celebrate.
There is a reason for the saying, “If Kentucky made the Saddle Horse, then Missouri made him better.” The Show Me state has a long history with Saddlebred horses; among others, Missouri lays claim to horse trainer legends Art Simmons and Tom Bass, as well as the renowned breeding establishment Callaway Hills Stable, from which hail many of the champions of both today and yesteryear. While The Kentucky Horse Park has its American Saddlebred Museum, the Audrian County Historical Society in Missouri had one first with its American Saddlebred Horse Museum; in fact, the great horse Rex McDonald is buried on the grounds. And while Kentucky may be home to the World’s Championship Horse Show, Missouri is home to the National Championships, at Kansas City’s American Royal. And, of course, it is of particular interest to us at Saddle & Bridle Magazine as we also call it home.
Yet it has been a struggle lately to keep the Saddlebred legacy alive in Missouri; the loss of the horse show facility at the Boone County Fairgrounds was a tough blow, and the future of the American Royal, too, remains uncertain. And, as always, it seems that as many of the great trainers pass away, it will be impossible to find others to fill their shoes. Luckily, though, there are some who are keeping the torch burning, and on a recent trip to the Columbia area I got the opportunity to witness their work first-hand.