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Lorraine Jackson


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Horses in History: Mr. President, Tear Down These Stables!

It’s Presidents Day! Pop quiz: Whose idea was it to replace the White House stables with a four-car garage? From the archives of Horse Nation‘s “Horses in History” series, Lorraine Jackson explores a bit of horsey presidential history.

President William Howard Taft on horseback. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

I couldn’t help but wonder while writing about Britain’s Royal Mews whatever became of good ole’ USA’s First Horses and presidential stables. Were the horses elected out of office? Run out of town by the horseless carriage? Impeached after a treasonous tumble? Well, more or less, all of the above turned out to be true.

According to official White House history, the presidential stables were, throughout its many incarnations, always quite simple and modest in design. The first was built in Georgian brick in 1800, the second in 1806, rebuilt again after the war of 1812 saw their complete annihilation, a fourth time after they burned down accidentally in 1864, rebuilt once more when the previous was torn down to make way for the War and Navy Building (now the Executive Office Building) and finally, permanently demolished in 1911. It would seem the only person who had a more unlucky stay at the White House than the horses was William Henry Harrison, who only made it a grand 32 days in office as President.

The final incarnation of the White House Stables in 1873. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Gander a guess at which U.S. President did the White House Stables in for good? It was in fact William Howard Taft, the giant of a man and 27th president of the United States. While it would seem that W.H.T. had it out for horses, you might say that they had it out for him too. At the age of nine, the family horse went running off with the carriage, William in tow, and the ordeal ended with him sporting a skull fracture and a terrible cut to the head. And so began an infamous relationship.

Taft by carriage. Photo via Library of Congress.

In 1909, President Taft  took a long tour of the American West, and as part of the visit was slated to ride down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on horseback. His aides repeatedly begged him not to, on the basis of his “hearty constitution” (at this point in his life Mr. President weighed a mighty 345-360 pounds) noting that the trail would require multiple mounts and dismounts along a narrow trail. Up until the morning of, Taft insisted he’d be going, but after looking down the steep edge of the canyon, Taft paled to a ghostly white and thought the better of it, supremely disappointed.

He was thwarted yet again on the tour when visiting Yosemite Forest, when the assigned horse “appeared to be unequal to the President’s bulk, so Taft was advised to walk” and a soaking perspired President arrived at the site without a change of clothes for a day of meetings.

Hearty Taft in Yosemite–poor man. Photo via Library of Congress.

In fact, the President’s equestrian jaunts were generally frowned upon by staff, as demonstrated by the following exchange. After a hack on the White House property, President Taft sent a telegram to Secretary of War Elihu Root stating in regards to his health “Took long horseback ride today; feeling fine.” To which Mr. Secretary responded, “How is the horse?”

Not all rides went so smoothly on the White House grounds, and President Taft was the last president ever to be thrown on the property. Only weeks later, he was riding again and took a bug to the eye which laid him out for several days. (That must have been some bug!)

In 1911, Taft finally did away with the stables and the horses, as well as the White House’s last personal milk cow. It is not said what became of the president’s horses, but it seems Taft’s transportation back luck voodoo didn’t end by replacing ponies with a four-car garage and a Model M. After switching to cars, he was involved in a number of traffic accidents, including having his “horseless carriage” collide with a New York City street car and being dragged eight blocks, among other mishaps.

Taft traveling nominally safer by car.

Horses have made a few re-appearances at the White House since then for special occasions, but Taft was the end of the practical use of horses at America’s presidential seat.

Go riding.

Originally published April 16, 2012.

Best of JN: Due to USEF Handling Error, Glefke and Farmer Will Return to Show Ring

Kelley Farmer. Screenshot via YouTube.

Almost a year to the day since the explosive announcement that Larry Glefke and Kelley Farmer were being suspended from the USEF, our sport’s governing body announced that they acknowledge their mishandling of the blood samples, and all suspensions and fines will be lifted, and the trainer and rider now have full standing in the sport once again.

Here is the full statement from US Equestrian:

USEF announced today that it has resolved the litigation with Kelley Farmer and Larry Glefke for their alleged July 2016 GABA violation. USEF is voiding the proceeding from the outset and vacating all penalties and suspensions, thereby restoring Ms. Farmer and Mr. Glefke to active membership effective July 1, 2017. They are free to enjoy all privileges of membership including participation in competition.

“The USEF must always treat its members fairly,” said Murray S. Kessler, President of the USEF. Kessler continued, “Late in the arbitration discovery process, the legal teams for USEF and Ms. Farmer and Mr. Glefke learned about errors in the laboratory’s handling of the blood sample in this case, that the USEF hearing committee was unaware of. Simply said, these errors were serious enough that we no longer can rely on the validity of the test and therefore, regret any negative impact that this had on Ms. Farmer and Mr. Glefke. All our members must be treated fairly. Accordingly, we are setting aside the suspensions as the USEF’s procedural integrity must be pristine in order to fairly protect our competitors. I have ordered a thorough compliance audit of the laboratory to ensure that what occurred in this case never happens again and that the proper procedures and checks are in place to be certain of that. I can assure our membership that any necessary corrective action will be taken.” 

Importantly, USEF continues to be committed to aggressively investigating all reported drugs and medications violations as well as enforcing the rules. Maintaining a fair and level playing field and ensuring the welfare of our horses remains a top priority for USEF.”

Ultimately, this final settlement ensures that not only will there be no consequences for the prohibited substance found in the horse’s system, but also that there will be little recourse for US Equestrian’s failure to effectively test and prosecute cheaters. Short of USEF members collectively making a massive stink, it is unlikely that testing procedures will change, and even less likely that people gaming the system will be held accountable.

You can read all our coverage of this case below. As we said back in August, we sincerely hope that US Equestrian will make good on the promise someday to prioritize clean sport and enforcement, and that genuinely good horsemen in the sport will find a way to rise to the top and be the heroes that the hunter world so desperately needs.

Arbitrator Lifts Suspensions of Kelley Farmer and Larry Glefke – Jan 5, 2018

Editorial: Pres. Kessler, Please Put Our Money to Good Use – August 3, 2017

US Olympic Committee Sides with USEF, Glefke and Farmer Likely Exhaust Options – August 2, 2017



USEF Agrees to Grant Farmer/Glefke Rehearing Request on Doping Case – February 23, 2017


‘Unexpected’ Tests Positive for GABA, Suspensions and Fines for Kelley Farmer and Larry Glefke – January 11, 2017

Thursday Video: This Little Boy Refusing to Get Off His Pony is All of Us

Adulting is the absolute stink of all stinkages. Today alone, I’ve had to cancel a stolen credit card, take my car to the shop, and spend $50 at the post office mailing things. That’s real life.

In child life, the saddest thing you will do is be forced to get off your pony. But as all of us know, sometimes that’s the cruelest responsibility of all.

Perhaps no one single human better embodies this emotion than our little friend Devon, who — when his mother politely informs him that it’s time to get off his white wonder pony, Roxy — has a meltdown on the outside that we’ve all had on the inside.

So, we were a little upset to have to put our pony away…

Posted by Adrienne Smyrl on Sunday, December 17, 2017

Favorite excerpts from this tearful negotiation include:

“I don’t want Roxy to go away.”
“But she’ll just be right in the pasture.”
“NO, (followed by incoherent wailing)”
“Well, what else do you want her to do?”
“I want her to play with me!”
“But you’ve already been riding her for an hour.”
“I don’t want her to go awayyyyyyy….”

Devon, you are all of us. We applaud your willingness to say what we’re all thinking when it’s time to get off our unicorns.

Thanks to Gemini Farm for sharing this hilarious, wonderful clip with us, and Go Riding!

As seen on Horse Nation!


EN’s 12 Days of Christmas: Horseware Outfits for Human, Horse and Dog

Ladies and gents, Christmas is closing in, and with our proximity to the arrival of Old St. Nick, EN’s 12 Days of Christmas is going to get increasingly more jolly. Wait until you see what’s coming for you today!

We can always count on Horseware to get us into the holiday spirit. This is the company whose signature weatherproof, rip-proof, downright dark magic-infused blanket is green and red, after all! Did you catch their new Christmas commercial? Featuring top riders, ponies with impressive tree decorating skills, one very adorable little kid, and some magical snowglobe action, it’s a holiday must-watch.

In addition to the fabulous advent calendar giveaway they’re running on their own Facebook Page, they’re spreading the love to Eventing Nation, too. Today — and today only — you can enter to win a seriously amazing prize: A deluxe outerwear set for human, horse, and hound!

This prize pack will include a select Horseware winter jacket, turnout blanket, and dog blanket to keep everyone you love warm and toasty through the rest of this winter and many winters to come (except for your cat, who will just have to stay curled up in your duvet for 21 hours a day like always).

Enter below for your chance to win a genuinely epic trio of Horseware Goodies! The contest closes at midnight tonight: