by Margaret Lindsley Warden
Exhibitors of show horses become so absorbed in sitting at the ringside and watching their pets win a prize that they forget or have never known the fun of getting out in the country an having a ride for themselves at their own pace.
A year ago Wayne Dinsmore, then secretary of the horse and Mule Association of America, stated that there were known to be about 1000 riding clubs in 11 states and that probably there were a great many more unknown to him. As compared with 1930 census figures of 1,300,000 riding horses in the United States there were 1,700,000 in 1949.
As only a small number of these can be show horses, it is evident that pleasure riding is on the increase.
To a Southerner reading the Western horse magazines, California must be the pleasure riders' heaven. At the end of 1949 there were in that state 215 riding clubs totaling 14,000 riders, according to figures in the October-November "Horse Lover". A visitor in Tennessee from California stated that her county, which one I forget, had one horse to every three people.
All these clubs are members of the California State Horsemen's Association which originated in 1941. By polling so many members, the Association has been able to further a state-wide trail program.
Not very far behind California is Iowa, with 116 riding clubs, averaging 100 members each. In the "Farm Journal" of 1949 appeared a very charming story of some of these Iowa clubs composed largely of farmers and their families. The fun they were having in the saddle was downright inspiring.
The increasing number of what used to be called endurance rides and are now called trail rides is noticeable. Iowa's Hundred Mile ride started in 1938 while the better known Green Mountain Horse Association 100 Mile Trail Ride in Vermont has been going since 1936. Its sweepstakes prize in 1949 went to Pine Flag, a three-quarter Thoroughbred, owned and ridden by 68-year-old Mrs. Fletcher Harper of The Plains, Virginia, mounted side-saddle.
These long train rides are the testing ground, or show ring, of the pleasure m mount and rider. Speed does not win them, but stamina and condition, for a good sound horse to get in the money requires a rider who knows how to take care of his or her mount and conserve energy.
They tell us that horseback riding is a recreation that builds health and character an many have written that they consider their horses and stables and riding equipment an investment in health and happiness, not an expenditure. Practically everyone who can ride and does any amount of it in pleasant surroundings loves it. Then why are there not more riders?
Three good reasons occur to this scribe. Leadership is lacking, places to ride are lacking, and horse breeders and dealers have neglected the pleasure horse end of their market in favor of the show horse. They say that it takes just as much time and skill to develop a really desirable riding horse as a show prospect and that the latter outsell the pleasure mounts by five or 10 times. This is quite true, but how do they dispose of the many that can't make the show grade? A cull show horse is not necessarily an enjoyable riding horse.
As to leadership, it is much more abundant and aggressive in the fields of show and race horses. Besides show and racing organizations, there are the examples of success and fun in these departments that lure new recruits very obviously.
People follow leaders and we believe many more would become pleasure riders if they saw more of it going on. If the pleasure riding set would get together and have more group rides and shindigs of some sort and have their activities publicized, we believe that more and more people would join them.
The idea prevails that one has to be rich to be in the "horsy set". A plethora of cash does help in the show and race horse game, but is not necessary for riding and horse addicts should correct this notion.
In most places today leadership and places to ride are closely related, for it takes leadership and organization to obtain and keep riding trails. As places to ride are essential before one sets about riding, it seems to us that farmers and residents of small towns are in the best position to become horseback riders. The former surely have places for riding and the latter still do unless every road in the vicinity has been hard surfaced.
People who like to ride horseback will do well to band together and see to it that a few back roads in their communities are left in gravel or dirt condition, else they will go out some day and find them being "improved" for faster automobile driving.
Between Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee in the Brentwood community there seem to be more riders than anywhere around the midstate with the exception of Dickson where there is a flourishing riding club. The Tennessee Walking Horse is the prevailing type in both these areas. The state of the roads around Dickson we do not know, but it is obvious that the soft surfaced lanes set in beautiful country is one of the reasons why riding flourishes around Brentwood. The other reason...and just as important...is leadership and example. Riders will attract other riders and we know of two families who moved to Brentwood recently because they wanted to live and ride in a congenial neighborhood with active horsemen.
Around Chicago riding trails were opened in 1922 in the Cook County Forest Preserves and in the last few years about 33,000 people have been patronizing the more than 100 stables in or near them. Near Cleveland, Ohio, 70 miles of trails are available in the parks just out of town. As these increased the number of horses kept for pleasure riding mounted from 695 in 1938 to 1017 in 1946.
It is our impression that nearly all natural parks near cities have bridle paths and rent stables and schools attached to them. Why not more rent stables and riding schools near small towns in the country? There are some and they have been very successful, especially for children.
In Middle Tennessee just before World War II, hundreds of Tennessee Walking Horse fans were participating in 10- and 20- mile Ride-a-thons. The war put a stop to such gatherings and they have not been renewed, just because no enthusiast has worked and led them.
The first hundred mile Trail Ride in Tennessee that anyone has heard of was sponsored by the Williamson County Horsemen's Association, June 14-18, and the winner was a three-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse stallion by the name of Adcock's Pride. No second or third awards were made.
Adcock's Pride, a strawberry roan with stockings and blaze, is by Golden Jim, by Last Chance, son of Hunter's Allen F-10; and his dam is Adock's Red Lady, by Colonel Allen, second dam, Daisy Westbrooks, by Ben Puckett F-43.
Adock's Pride was bred by R.A. Adcock, Unionville, Bedford County Tennessee, bought when a weanling by W.C. Haynes of nearby Shelbyville, and owned at the time of his victory by his 16-year-old rider, Dan Moore, son of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Moore of Nashville.
The 1949 Trail Ride, the first sponsored by the Williamson County group, was also won by a registered Tennessee Walking Horse, My Rambling Pal, a gelding by Rambling Allen owned and ridden by Mrs. C.B. Murphy of Nashville. They were among those present in the 1950 event.
The steeplechase stable at Percy Warner Park in Davidson County about eight miles south of Nashville was stabling center and the starting and stopping point for each day's ride. As there were no scales there, the judging of the contestants was less severe than in 1949 when each horse was weighed at the beginning and at the end of the jaunt which then comprised some 57 miles in three days.
Adcock's Pride received the judicial nod for finishing the approximately 100 miles in the best condition. He was the least hot and tired and had the best pulse. According to those who were in his company, he displayed exemplary manners. At least one stallion had competed in the 1949 ride.
None of the contestants finished sick or sorry, though some were hotter than they should have been and were not judiciously ridden. Unfortunately the art of conserving a riding horse's energy on long trips is not well known in this area. With the small amount of pleasure riding done, there is little occasion to conserve the energy of one's mount. The weights of the riders, saddle, etc., were not considered in the awards.
As the purpose of the Williamson County Trail Rides is to foster pleasure riding rather than to test horses, the trips were not difficult. The only uncomfortable feature was the heat, the weather turning hot and sultry on the first day, a Wednesday. Even so, the enthusiastic riders denied any discomfort, saying that their routes were mostly shady.
Only five went the entire five days. Besides young Moore and his mother, there were Mrs. Murphy, Mrs. B.A. Herron, and Miss Edith Bowen. Saturday brought out 15, the largest number, and 10 rode on Sunday. Mrs. Moore, daughter of a farrier, shoes her own horses and is known as " the lady blacksmith". There was no report of needing her talents.
Hollow Tree Gap, about four miles north of the next town, Franklin, was the objective on the first day. The second, third, and fifth days were over the shady trails of Percy Warner Park. On the fourth day the group went to the Goodpasture farm near Forest Home, northwest of Franklin.
Average rides were 20 miles, involving some three and a half hours in the saddle. On longer trips lunch was enjoyed somewhere before the return to the stable. On Sunday the ride ended in a barbecue on the shady side of the steeplechase barn. Friends, relatives, and reporters swelled the number fed on pig, potato salad, pickles, and chess pies to 42.
The great majority of the mounts were registered Tennessee Walking Horses or of that type. No thoroughbreds completed and no registered saddlers that we know of. Much of the traveling was at a walk, and some at a running walk or canter. Nearly all of the footing was dirt trails, including some up- and down- hill grades.
Most contestants rode along together which emphasized the social rather than the competitive angle, an emphasis that was intentional. J. Guill McClelland had his three-year-old daughter in his "lap" on that Sunday ride. The youngest independent rider was eight-year-old Noel Anderson, who enjoyed the jaunt so much that she expressed the wish that it would last until Christmas. Her taste for horses comes from her mother, Catherine Noel (Mrs. Charles) Anderson, and grandmother, Jeanette Acklen (Mrs. Oscar) Noel, both horsewomen of note. The former is raising children and Shetland ponies.
No money prizes were given and the committee had enough funds left from entry fees to furnish a nest egg for a possible fall trail ride.
The silver trophy for the winner was contributed and so were the smaller tokens that were drawn for after each single day's trip. One-day riders could enter for just a dollar (lunch money), while $15 financed feeding and care of a horse for the entire outing.
Mrs. Noel, Mrs. Herron and Col. Campbell H. Brown were trail ride chairmen. The first two and Dr. N.J. Sibley, D.V.S., were judges.
Besides those mentioned, riders indulging one or more days were: Mrs. A.L. Ersin, Walter W. Olgivie, Jim Ogilvie, Mrs. J.T. Goodman, Jack Mabry, Mrs. Mabry, Mrs. Lois Tidwell, Mrs. Margaret Leonard, Dr. Eugene Regen, Eugene, Jr., Henry Goodpasture, Ken Goodpasture, James C. Tippens and Glen Glover. Col. Brown and Dr. Sibley did not ride.
All lived between Nashville and Franklin except the Ogilvies, who came up from Allison some 30 miles southeast of Nashville.
The suitability of the pleasure type of Tennessee Walking Horse for this kind of ride was abundantly evident. This was true especially of individuals that could canter with ease, the old-fashioned versatile type. They had the gaits and the disposition. A variety of gaits rests both mount and rider.
For those who are interested, in the 1949 ride there was a show variety of Tennessee walker that was a one-horse demonstration of the unsuitability of the show-trained Tennessee Walking Horse of today on a long trip. She was supposed to have been hardened for the occasion by exercise, but surplus weight on her large frame, the long foot that she carried and the pushing running walk that she was ridden in nearly exhausted her each day. She was unduly tired the first day, extremely tired the second, and after the third day was found to have lost 125 pounds on the trip. This would have been about 10 per cent of her weight, while the winner had lost only two per cent.