Cassi Wentz, Allie Layos and Katy (Layos) Anderson enjoying the Quentin playground in the early '90s.The Quentin Riding Club was sold on Saturday July 13, and though the end had been teetering on the edge of our sight for years, still I can hardly believe it. The loss of any equestrian facility is a real blow to the show horse community, and Quentin was a mainstay for equestrians in the Northeast. It hosted countless events each season, and since it originated as a Hackney farm, it had a particular propensity toward saddle seat show breeds. The Quentin logo even included a Hackney.
For a while, I tried not to think about the loss of Quentin, but when I finally let myself, I found that I had a hard time explaining to others why it saddened me so much. Yes, I left Pennsylvania when I was 18 and have been back precious few times since. I attend horse shows at a dozen different venues each year. But, while it may have sold at auction for $2.1 million two weeks ago, to myself and many others who grew up there, the Quentin Riding Club was priceless.
Did you ever stop to think about why we do what we do? For me, a recent experience drove that thought home.
It was actually an experience long in the making, starting with a trade of the horse Winsdown Day Trader for advertising. The plan was to take this three-year-old and sell him quickly.
My friends Louise Gilliland and Randy Waller agreed on the horse, and he showed up in Missouri to begin his journey. But then Randy moved to Orlando and retired from the business, so off to Reiser Stables Day Trader went, also a trade for advertising owed. After a year on the Kentucky circuit, we sent him to friends Scott and Carol Matton at Knollwood, thinking pleasure was his calling. Then, since my young teen daughter had fallen in love with him (okay, maybe we all had) after about a year there he came home and settled in as my daughter’s pleasure equitation horse at Star Galaxy Stables.
Driving in a pleasure cart was much different than practicing in the jog cart.Those were fun years, close to home, great people … until that barn closed. So off to Glendale Stables and the talents of Kent Swalla we went, which was convenient, as my young teen was now a college student at Truman University, making Glendale Stables the exact halfway point between Kirksville, Mo. and our home in Creve Coeur, Mo. Day Trader was regularly ridden by my daughter, Kari, and shown locally. All was good. Daughter happy, dad could see daughter regularly, great new barn mates that were already friends…
“Dad, I’m going to study abroad this semester.” Those words instantly crushed my happy coexistence of having a college student that was still showing. There is no taking a year off from training in the show world, at least not for Day Trader. So what’s a dad to do, owning a horse, paying for its training, but not having a rider? Kent Swalla had the answer (of course)!
“Why don’t you ride him?”
“I have no suit,” I exclaimed, “and I’m not paying for a 48 portly suit for two shows!”
Kent was unflappable, and said, “Can you get a hat?” That I could do! Next thing I knew I was taking weekly driving lessons. Though I had never driven before, it was seemingly easy. I felt ready. Then came the Bridlespur Horse Show and an actual pleasure cart, meaning actual tanbark was being flung at me and hitting my gigantic smile right in the teeth. It was all a blur. I noticed that an old Patsy Cline song that was playing for some reason, and then I noticed Laura Logan had a very nice horse in the ring with me. I was in a real class, the first class, in fact, for the Missouri show season, and I had a competitor!
Day Trader and I with a very patient Kent Swalla.As John Frye guided me into the line-up, I thought I’d done well; it had been 40 years since I had last been in the ring and I survived. Laura Logan was the winner, for whom I was thrilled … so thrilled that I forgot my reserve ribbon. But I had survived, and it seemed like a dream.
So that is the odyssey of how I found myself in the show ring after a 40-year hiatus. I will say it’s different as an adult. I’m a rookie. I didn’t see anything but a set of ears in front of me the whole time, but I was happy for Laura, and she was gracious in complimenting me as well. On the way back to the stalls, and especially walking back to the ring, the congratulations from friends, customers and associates (many of whom are one and the same) made me realize why we catch the show fever. I knew about this fever, but I remember thinking I was cured of it when I went off to college. Apparently it never goes away. I think I’ll try again at Nebraska, but my daughter will probably feel differently about sharing her horse. Plus she has a new Frierson suit that also must be worn!
I don’t know how long it’s been since a publisher of Saddle & Bridle actually did an ad for himself, but I did in what I’m now calling our Commemorative May Issue. It’s a crazy world, this horse show business. But advertising is so affordable to make these memories last; I’ll have that issue on the coffee table for some time. As my daughter sarcastically pointed out I’m not smiling in the picture. For the record, I was concentrating, and I was keeping the dirt out of my mouth.
But I’ll try to smile next time, as it was a fun weekend, and I think that’s what makes our world actually go around. Fun with the horses, fun with the barn mates, fun with the show officials, fun with the family, and mostly fun with all my friends. Thanks for clapping!
Kentucky is a special place for equestrians, especially for Saddlebred enthusiasts, as it is home to the World's Championship Horse Show at the Kentucky State Fair. But, you don't have to wait until Aug. 17 to celebrate great equestrian activities in Kentucky, and you don't have to wait for Stake Night to dress up.
Coming up, just a few weeks away, is the Kentucky Derby, on May 4, which makes for the perfect excuse to nuzzle our horses and dress up in our Kentucky Derby best - floppy, over-the-top hats, pastels, feathers, ribbons, bows and ties. After all, we have a kinship with the Kentucky Derby; last year's winner, Justify, is part owned by longtime Saddlebred exhibitors, the Glasscock family, through the Starlight Partnership. Justify is also part owned by WinStar Farms, Head of Plains Partners and China Horse Club.
Daulton Van Kuren, owner of The Refined Host, based in Buffalo, New York, puts together elegant events not unlike the pomp and circumstance that centers around the lively stands at the Kentucky Derby.
For this exciting annual event, Daulton suggests the following for putting together a Kentucky Derby party that will leave a lasting impression.
When hosting a Kentucky Derby watch party, be sure to specify the dress code on the invitation (electronic is perfectly fine for an event such as this!). You want to encourage your guests to be festive and have fun with their attire to mimic that of the guests attending the race at Churchill Downs. “Festive Derby” or “Spring Chic” will help people grasp the vibe you are going for. Of course, women should not forget their hats, which are a sign of good luck. You can even provide a trophy for best dressed!
No Kentucky Derby party would be complete without a signature cocktail, such as the Mint Julep, which is a bourbon based cocktail served in a sterling silver cup. If you can, create a small sign to display that lists the ingredients in case some of your guests are not the biggest fans. Always have a non-alcoholic version too and instead of bourbon, a good substitute is to pour in fresh, sweet tea.
Order custom cocktail napkins with horse icons on them or fun derby sayings. You could also have 3-4 different sets of napkins made with trivia questions on each. Display them all around the different spaces (i.e. some on the bar area, some with the food table, some on the coffee table), so that while guests are mingling, they can test their knowledge and easily make conversation.
The rose has been the official flower of the Kentucky Derby since 1904, so if you are making flower arrangements, group together a handful of roses in silver vases (to match the mint julep glasses!).
Test Your TV & Sound
With the Kentucky Derby being coined as “the most exciting two minutes in sports” it is imperative that you have a great viewing area set up and a working tv with sound system. If you must, rearrange your sofas and ottomans to allow all guests to have an unobstructed view.
Pin The Tail On The Horse
Just like the game you played during your childhood, you can bring back this party classic but with a Horse instead of a donkey!
Of course, as equestrians, we truly will be paying attention to the race, but that doesn't mean we can't have an amazing time before and after. By implementing some, or all, of Daulton's suggestions, it is possible to have the best Kentucky Derby party ever, even if you can't be in Kentucky this year.
Daulton coordinates events and also offers consultation services, if you need a guiding hand, but not someone to completely assemble your event. For more information, visit www.therefinedhost.com.
Saddle & Bridle is truly a family, so when we lose one of our own it hits us particularly hard. On February 23 we lost Barbara Walker, or “Babs” as nearly everyone called her, and nothing in our world will ever be quite the same.
For 18 years she worked as our West Coast representative. Chris who knew her best, wrote a beautiful obituary for her in our March issue, which I encourage everyone to read when they receive the magazine. As I was proofing that particular page, I looked closely at the photo of her. While it was cropped for publication, I knew it had been taken in our box seats at Louisville in 2004. The photo was innately interesting to me, because the full version showed many people I knew, ever so slightly younger, but what I noticed most about it was Babs – more specifically the determination in her eyes.
I can recall vividly the end of the show season back in November when I was eagerly awaiting a break from the travel, the chaos, the dirt, rain, heat, mud and meals eaten in “hospitality stalls.” Well, here I am at the end of January having gotten exactly what I asked for, and I am over it. I am ready for a horse show.
I miss the anticipation of the arrival, the craziness and exhilaration of watching amazing horses and riders compete. I even miss peeling hairspray off my fingers after doing show bun after show bun. The holidays were fun with family and friends, the weekly Barn Saturdays keep us connected, but it just isn’t a horse show. My non-horse friends can’t understand why I am excited to book hotels in Anderson, South Carolina in March. But for me that weekend is circled in red and highlighted on my calendar. That weekend is my New Year. From that weekend on, I can be sure that one or two weekends every month will involve the chance to see my daughter and her fellow teammates do what they love.