This past October we had the opportunity to purchase a horse that we hoped would provide new challenges and moments of joy for our daughter. We looked forward to the 2020 show season with anticipation and excitement and were fortunate to watch as our daughter entered a Park class for the very first time with a longtime friend joining her in the ring and showing for the same barn. It was all we could have hoped for ... until it wasn’t.
On the heels of that fun-filled horse show weekend came the COVID-19 pandemic, and everything came to a screeching halt for us, as it did for most people. Barn Days were cancelled, and we all sat stunned as show after show disappeared before our eyes. While there are clearly larger concerns than missing Barn Days or horse shows, it is still difficult to lose things that bring so much joy to our lives.
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.
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)!
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.
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.