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The Kentucky Harness Horse

The Kentucky Harness Horse

Foreword by Larry Evans
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    The Kentucky Harness Horse
    Book Description:

    This informative book shows how the influence of Kentucky Standard breeding spread across the nation and finally around the world. Here is the story of the horses and farms, the men and women who made it possible. Rich with anecdote and founded on a unique store of learning, it will delight both the newcomer to the sport and the lifelong devotee.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5969-0
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Larry Evans

    The publishers of this series could have found no finer historian to chronicle the harness horse’s past in Kentucky than my friend Ken McCarr, who died in May, 1977, after a lifetime in the harness racing sport.

    Ken’s more than seven decades were spent almost entirely in harness racing. Several of his boyhood years were spent at the Savage Farm in Minnesota where his father, Ned, handled the colts while stable star Dan Patch was barnstorming around the country. To the end of his life Ken cherished affectionate memories of Dan Patch, and sometimes dreamed of writing a book about...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. A Prefatory Note
    (pp. xii-xii)
    (pp. 1-14)

    The long afternoon shadows of October, 1974, were stealing across the dusty old clay surface of the Lexington trotting track. The greatest group of two-year-old pacers ever assembled was battling out an important race. Among them were Nero, undefeated in twelve races, and Alert Bret, who already had eight two-minute miles to his credit. Nero led to the quarter, yielded for a moment to Farthebest Hanover, then reached the half in :56 3/5. Then Alert Bret moved up to challenge him, matching Nero stride for stride until he led by a neck at the head of the Red Mile’s long...

    (pp. 15-24)

    In frontier days, the breeding of horses was a hit-or-miss proposition; the owner of a mare would take her to the nearest stallion or the horse with the cheapest service fee. In the spring stallion owners would move their horses from village to village and set up headquarters at the local livery stable. Competition was keen and often the mare owners were influenced by the jug of homemade liquor, and/or a reduction in the established service fee.

    Systematic breeding was first introduced at Woodburn Farm, the greatest of the early Kentucky breeding establishments. It was the first farm in the...

    (pp. 25-33)

    The first son of Hambletonian to come to Kentucky never had a chance to show his true worth. Had Alexander’s Abdallah been spared Kentucky would have started its climb to trotting importance at a much earlier date. It fell to another son of the great father to fan the trotting spark into flame.

    George Wilkes was not blessed with a fashionable family tree as he was the son of one of those old-time mares that had no given pedigree. In 1851 James Gilbert of Phelps, New York, happened to notice an attractive mare being ridden by a cattleman on the...

    (pp. 34-46)

    As tbotters improved, the world began to beat a pathway to the Bluegrass. Woodburn was not only the first farm to sell all of its yearlings but its selective breeding methods made it the first in the South to produce champions; Woodburn’s success drew the attention of the northern horsemen. One of these was William Russell Allen, a prominent New England breeder, who went to Woodburn to obtain the choice stock that became the foundation for his farm near Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

    Another visitor to this pioneer Kentucky establishment was Christopher F. Emery of Cleveland, Ohio, who stocked his Forest City...

    (pp. 47-68)

    Like their human counterparts, horse families are named for the masculine side of the pedigree. Over the span of many years four stallions emerged as the patriarchs of trotting clans. All four were either born in Kentucky or had their taproots deeply embedded there. Two of them made their reputation as great sires while in the Bluegrass.

    PETER THE GREAT. The dominant trotting family of today has stories in its background that read almost like fairy tales. One of the early branches came from the plantation of T. J. Wells of Rapides Parish, Louisiana. This family had lived under five...

  11. Color illustrations
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 69-80)

    While in the cities of the East the demand was for runners and trotters, on the American frontier the pacer was also valued. Here owners and breeders freely mixed the bloodlines of Thoroughbreds and pacers, producing some worthy progeny. Even in this part of the country, however, the pacer was far from a fashionable animal; his stud fee was typically just a few dollars and rarely did he serve any but the commonest mares.

    The first attempt to popularize the gait was made in 1875, when the “Pacing Championship of the United States” was held at Mystic Park in Boston....

    (pp. 81-98)

    Belgravia was a fashionable district located in the West End of London. Here the aristocratic society lived and the women were called Belgravian Dames. Harness horses too have their Belgravian Dames. These are the matriarchs whose blood has bred on and on through their daughters.

    The covering of a mile in two minutes or less was at first a rarity. But as tracks were better constructed and modern equipment appeared, and as the breed was improved by selective breeding and crossing of bloodlines, harness horses have consistently increased in speed. The result has been an increasing number of these fast...

    (pp. 99-114)

    Some of the great early farms of Kentucky have already been discussed, from Woodburn, which affects all of today’s harness horses, to Walnut Hall, which for nearly eighty-five years has influenced breeding and racing methods, especially in early colt speed and futurity winners. Some of the other famous old Standardbred nurseries in the Bluegrass are described in this chapter.

    CALUMET. J. W. Bailey, a U.S. Senator from Texas, raised many good trotters at Fairland Farm—which is known today as Calumet—before selling it to U. G. Sanders about 1905. At about that time Henry Schlessinger of Milwaukee had the...

    (pp. 115-130)

    During the 1840s trotting horse racing had been established in the North but the tracks were all located near metropolitan areas. The only racing south of the Mason-Dixon Line was in Louisiana and the contests there were generally confined to pacers; most of them were Narragansetts or imports from Canada. The first real trotting news was when Lady Suffolk, the “Old Gray Mare” of story and song, was being featured inthe Spirit of the Times,the first weekly paper in the United States devoted mostly to sports.

    In the October 5,1850, issue of this journal was the initial hint...

  16. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 131-132)