Friday, February 13, 2009

Once Upon a Time... Part 2

Things were starting to liven up around the old Terrace Farms. Besides Saturdays, several times a week, when I got off the school bus Ganey's ancient, ramshackled, Cadillac would be waiting in the driveway to take me to the barn. We would work the horse, then put him under a cooler, and my real education would begin. We would retreat to the warmth of the local diner for a sandwich (there was never any food in the Ganey household) or we would go to the Horse Room which held the largest collection of photos, books and magazines about the Saddlebred that I had seen before or since.

I learned more while that horse was cooling out... Ganey and I were a good team. I did the high stuff, and he did the low stuff. We hauled trunks full of ancient tack out to clean. I learned how to tell the difference between "Shit and Shinola". I saw wonderful old fashioned equipment like wooden sweat scrapers and handmade bits... and a blonde, wooden "walk-trot stick". I learned how to take care of a set tail. I learned never to trust a measuring stick, and to bring my own when horse shopping. I learned that not all L.S. Dickey's horses were really by Des-de-mon-ee-a Denmark, and that (unofficially of course) Guided by Love was named that because that's the only way anyone could steer him. Ganey was a wealth of knowledge, and of entertainment. He had a hundred stories, and they were all entertaining. My Grandmother said at first she thought he was lying, but over the years the facts never changed with the telling, and she said that was how you could tell a story was true.

More horses started to show up in the barn. There was the black three gaited mare with nerve damage in her mouth who had developed the nasty habit of trying to knock her rider off with her head, and at least three Tattersalls specials including a "Nine Year Old" gelding who turned out to be 17 when his papers were finally found. During the week, I would work these renegades trying to figure out their quirks well enough to get them to go nicely for their owners and not get anyone hurt. Ganey had never been much of a rider (but was a darn good minor league baseball player), and he would be the first person to admit this. He was short legged, and ham fisted, but his wife told me "he was the best damned ground man I ever had". He would hold my finger tips and show me how he wanted me to feel the reins. He taught me to "con" a horse, to get him to do what you wanted. We also rode everything in the same snaffle bit. The day he told me to "put the work bridle on the black mare and ride her around the farm" I objected. Strenuously. He told me if I couldn't ride her in a snaffle, I might as well not ride at all. It was true, she couldn't feel any bit, so which one we used wouldn't matter much. Ganey taught me that bits don't control horses, your mind does. If you can't learn to get along with a horse, and reach some sort of amicable arrangement, no fancy equipment was going to solve your problem. The mare and I had a nice little walk around the farm, and thankfully I managed not to piss her off before I got her back to the barn.

We did make it to some shows over the next two years. The second year was the summer I met my good friend Adolph, who was the son of Al Morando who had been a horse trainer back in the day. His wife had started to trail ride for fun, and as was Adolph's nature, he took over the hobby and went whole hog. He had tackroom curtains made with his farm name, and Ganey's old colors. We found his wife a fancier horse, polished up the old black mare, borrowed Ganey's wife Theo's outdated riding clothes (which didn't fit me), and headed to the Erie racetrack for a show. The racetrack was a pretty appropriate place to show that black mare. She did a bank turn off the announcer's booth, lengthened the ring with my knee on the other end, and lined up on top of the ring master. But, we had a blast anyway.

Adolph had bought an old schoolmaster of a gaited horse by the name of Sparkling Five Speed. He was a pretty good old horse for our area, and I was happy to go the shows and groom while watching that golden horse burn up the tanbark. Ganey was feeling pretty young again. He had gone from doing absolutely nothing to do to having a barn full of horses and being the hub of the horse activity in our area.

Besides working the renegades, we were trying to gait the 3 yr old colt, but things were not going well. We started by just raising his head, progressed to shaking him, and finally out of desperation, nearly knocked him over! Still nothing. A few people sent mares to be bred to him (we rode those too, just in case there was something good in the lot) and he was developing a stallion's attitude. He was never mean, but if things got complicated, he would simply tune you out. Ganey finally gave up, and the lady sent him to Lavery's. They also found that the horse didn't want to rack, and he was later sold. Since the ASHA website has become so well developed, I've looked the horse up and see that much later in life he actually placed 6th out of 10 in a jr. exibitor five gaited class... Lonnie and I remain skeptical about this fact. The problem this all posed for Ganey, is that he now no longer had a decent horse to get ready to show. We were busy working about 5 horses, but it was becoming more and more obvious that none of them were any good. There is a lot to be learned working renegades, but if you want to learn how to improve a nice horse, you need some nice horses to work with. He decided that my education had progressed to the point where I had better have my own show horse, and so he went to work on my Grandmother.


Christine said...

Hello to the writer of "Once upon a time". This is truly hard to believe and no joke but my family and I live at Terrace Farms which you were writing about. I rarely go on the computer and this is my first blog or comment I have ever done and can't explain why I decided to goggle Theo Ganey this past weekend but am so happy that I did. I came upon your stories and pictures which we have found very interesting. I don't know who you are and I don't know if there is a way for us to connect but I hope someday we can. I was not raised with horses and had a reading done about 20 years ago that said there would be horses in my future and I said yeh right! Well, to make a long story short, we are restoring the original house which has been moved from its original location and also trying to gradually repair the barn back to completely usable condition. I have a daughter who turned 14 this past Monday. She has finally found her calling and niche in life and it is horses! We started with 2 rescue mini horses to start out slow and small. They live at the barn. We now also have 2 appaloosas which we are boarding until we get the fencing up on the property which will hopefully happen this summer. Her first horse is a fast one that she has been training with for barrel raising, the 2nd one is a very well natured trail horse. Terrace Farms is slowly coming back to life!! I hope this is good news to you and we are beginners in the horse world and welcome the history of our property as well as the wealth of knowledge and experience you may have.

SmartAlex said...

Oh I am so so glad you Googled, and left a comment! We're practically neighbors.... my husband and I live around the corner on the dead end portion of Camp Street. Are you the same couple who had the house moved? If so, Theo introduced us at the fair one year.
Please email me at

Anonymous said...

Hello, I don't know who is writing this blog, but I want to thank you for mentioning L.S. Dickey and Mr. Ganey. I have memories of meeting Mr. Ganey in the early 60s when he brought the Franklemonts to West Baden Springs to see some of my grandfather, L.S. Dickey, and the horses. My dad, Bob Dickey, even let me skip school for the day so I could come along. The last time that I saw Mr. Ganey was at the Lexington Horse Show when he gave me a bottle of cologne that I promptly dropped and cried about. I have fond memories of many of the people that came to the Dickey Stables and appreciate it greatly when L.S. and my dad are remembered. Have you had a chance to read the book L.S. Dickey and the Valley Horsemen by Sondra McIntosh? It's available through the Saddle Horse Museum and has some great stories and pictures. Thanks again, RUTH DICKEY MARSHALL, West Baden Springs, IN.

SmartAlex said...

Yes, I have that book, and I cherish it. You don't know how many times I have wished I had recorded or written down Ganey's stories. Or how many times I have wished I could go back and ask him questions. Reading that wonderful book was like being transported back in time to hear the stories all over again. Like the boys throwing stones on the barn roof etc. Ganey has been gone well over 15 years, and I think I miss him more each day. He was a good person. He loved children so much. He had lost a daughter in his first marriage, she drowned playing in a ditch on her way home from school. He never got over that, and I think that having the client girls stay at the house each summer to show their horses kept him going.
As for L.S. Dickey, Ganey loved him like a brother. He loved to get the best in a horse deal, and he loved a little harmless scandal. They both had the same panache'.
I have gotten Sandra McIntosh's email, and plan on submitting a couple of stories that I remember so that their memories can live on. That is how they would have wanted it.

Anonymous said...

This was so wonderful reading!! I was born at Terrace Farms and I miss my aunt and uncle still to this day. Uncle Speed (we didn't call him Ganey as all the men in the family were called Ganey!) was quite the character! My Aunt Theo taught me to ride on old John. It was so sad to see the factory built but I am so glad the house survived.

SmartAlex said...

You must mean "Big Bag John". Theo just called him "Big John". My mother did a portrait of him once that hung in the kitchen over the little table. I miss them too. I'd love to here from you if you would email me at

I wrote down everything I could remember about the farm and about the Ganey's. If he ever told me about being nicknamed "Speed", I've forgotten it. He did tell me about playing baseball and about his best catch ever. I'd love to share my memories with you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for starting this blog. I remember Charlie when I moved from NY City to Busti. We knew nothing about horses. Somehow we met Charlie and he became a perminant ficture at our barn. He know famous horse people all over the US. When i accompanied him as his groom, introduced me tho Helen Crabtree after he won the Fine Harnes World Championship in Indianiapolis. Because of him I was able to collect many antique carriages and sleighs. I also learned to drive. Whenever we traveled to Betty Lou Herder's farm to access her new stock, we would sometimes take side trips. One day he gave me a tour of concrete octogon pony barn in Bath.I rode many of his green horses on that old ring in front of his house, the I always thought if one of those horses got away from me, I would wind up in front of a Mack truck. Remeber that pointer he used to show all the champion horse Theo rode? He was something else....I will never forget him.... Joe Pecoraro