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.
Saddle & Bridle’s first General Sire Rating was published in 1931, and quickly became a powerful tool for breeders, but by the early 1940s it had become apparent that an additional rating was needed to honor younger stallions – those whose get were still competing in futurity classes and open classes for horses under the age of two. This new rating was called The Breeding Division, and it became so invaluable that a new point system was even put into place. In 1948, an additional rating was added solely for futurity sires; it utilized the same point system as The Breeding Division, and since the discontinuation of The Breeding Division in 1950, has stood the test of time alongside the General Sire Rating (now called the Performance Sire Rating), guiding breeders to make informed decisions and aiding them in their quest to produce American Saddlebreds of both quality and purpose.