> Saddlebred Training Tips: March 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Who is this guy blogging here

My name is Richard Swiger

I was born in San Jose CA in 1948. Yea I am an old fart. My parents were in the horse business and I came by it naturally. My Father dealt in pleasure horses and ran a livery outfit trail rides, lessons, the usual. I rode and drove horses at an early age. I remember driving mules to a hay rake when I was eight or nine. The trick was to press the pedal at the right time to release the raked up hay. I messed this up wile day dreaming of a show horse I forgot and the rake became too full and jammed. I can remember the words. "Whats a matter with ya" yelled in the background.

One day a friend of mine Larry Cook, who rode at our place every weekend told me about a place in Woodside CA that had really fancy horses. I was curious to see it. Larry made arrangements for a tour of Why Worry Farm.

We turned left off of Woodside road onto the pea gravel drive at Why Worry Farm entrance. The tires on Larry's new 1965 Pontiac were making a popping sound as the gravel spread from beneath the wheels. The long drive was lined with 5 rail wood fence painted green. On the right was cyclone fence, it too was green. At the end of the drive we entered a court yard. On the left was a tutor style barn with a ships lantern above the huge double doors. It looked more like a large home or mansion rather than a barn. On the right was the boarding house for the help, and carriage room full of old but like new coaches. This two was elegant looking from the outside. The whole thing together was as a large elegant compound. Later I learned that the owner was the daughter of Captain Matson. He had started the Matson Steamship Line.

It was Sunday. There were caretakers on duty to feed and clean but that was it for Sunday. A little guy named Johnny came out and volunteered to show us around. We entered the horse barn through the double doors. to the right was a tack room with work tack all hung in perfect order. An older gentleman sat in the corner reading the paper. Johnny opened the door and hollered " Felt" what are you doing. Felt answered " kiss my ass". OK OK Johnny replied, and closed the door. Felts been here for forty years; said Johnny. On the left was another office and tack room for the show tack. Johnny let us in there to see. The show harness was hung in perfect order in glass cases on blue velvet. Brass shined like gold. This covered two of the walls and it reminded me of a jewelery store.

It was a short walk down the Aile to the horse stalls. The Aile was clay brought in and packed. each time a horse would step the shoe would leave a perfect impression. This was easy to walk on . At the end of the day this floor was swept and watered down. There was a smell of pine mixed with the clay that gave it a pleasant earthy smell.
The walls were painted a glossy royal blue and the ceiling was a creamy yellow. The electrical switch plates, door hardware were polished brass. On the walls pictures of past show horses. Sweetheart On Parade. Chief of Longview. Doug Rob, Bobby Winkler, Stan Morrison and some others I can't recall. All very impressive to me, just a kid.

This truly was a show stable. In front of each stall was a tack trunk for that horse. Blue and Gold were the stable colors. The trunks were blue with gold trim. The bars on the stalls were gold the fronts were blue. On the door was a cooler rack with a plaid blue and gold cooler. To the right hung the halter and lead shank, brass polished like gold.
Johnny slid open a stall door and immediately this horse that had its head down browsing rose up like a giraffe. It was winter and he was wearing two blankets blue and gold a full hood to match, a tail set, and four white cotton and flannel bandages on his legs. The stall was bedded up to the tail boards with beautiful golden straw. The rest of the barn looked the same. I had never seen anything like it. I knew I liked it and wanted to be part of it.

The following week I went back and got a job rubbing horses. I was a professional groom. Back then in that barn it was a profession. Men had been there twenty thirty and forty years doing it.
I had my own room in the boarding house. The French laundry picked up the sheets every week. There were three meals a day in the Kitchen. Bertha the cook saw to it. Her husband Newt ran overall farm operations. I can tell some stories about the goings on in that boarding house. Perhaps later if anyone is interested.

I had three horses to take care of . We rubbed these horses. When your horse came in from working he was hot. You sponged between the legs, scraped of any excess, and hit the towel. You put on two coolers and walked until it quit blowing. Then you rubbed the horse dry. With the straw on the floor or a burlap rub rag. You kept the horse covered and only uncovered what your were rubbing keeping the rest of the horse wet until you could get to it with the rag. No air drying. No bathing. When you do it this way it takes all day to work three. That said you wouldn't believe the coats on these horses. Shine like you could see yourself in.

Each man had three and there were 21 horses in the barn. Seven grooms, Tack Man, Assistant Tack Man, Saddlehorse Trainer, Assistant Trainer, Pony trainer, Assistant Pony Trainer, Manager Trainer Stan Morrison. The round barn was behind the main barn. It had eleven stalls for use with Hackney Ponies. It had its own complement of trainers and grooms. The blacksmith shop was in between the main barn and the round barn. It was the center of many story telling sessions. Discussion of training techniques and strategies.

After a couple years there my goal in life was to become a Saddlebred Trainer. I didn't get opportunities to work horses at WWF. There were already too many trainers. I had great balance on a horse and had ridden since I was a child so I knew under the right supervision I could be a good horseman. I wanted people to say. That Rich is a good horseman.  I had known many horsemen. Some had personal problems, Bad marriage, cheating, drinking, gambling, but in the end people would say, Yea, BUT he's a good horseman. So if your a good horseman that's your saving grace. Or not I don't know but at the time I noticed that being a good horseman could get your frogiven for a lot of stuff.

I moved to Kentucky to Plainview Farms as Assistant Trainer. I worked for Billy Tway under Jimmy Arnold and Tom Stone. (Stone Man)
I worked there until the farm Sold at dispersal sale. I still have the sale catalogue. We had Shelby's Folly, Plainviews Commander, Plainviews Sherry Lynn, It was there I learn to gait a horse. Plainview was a thousand acres. It ran between Hurstbourne Ln. and Moser Rd. There was a lane that ran through the farm to Moser Rd and there was a saying. " That horse need to go to Moser Rd. Meaning it needed some miles.

After Plainview sold. I worked for several trainers. I picked jobs that would give me opportunity to learn and develop my training skills. Rex Parkinson, Tom Moor, Bob Robinson, Bob Lewis. After Bob Lewis I had several private jobs. Green Oak Farms, Michigan, Pine Tree Stables, Chicago, Intrepid Farm, Santa Barbara.
In the late seventies. I went back to Why Worry Farm as head trainer. I started Filoli Jewel or(Buck Rogers) Mountain Storm and many others. WWF was on its way out so I decided to do my own thing.
Terry Konkle followed me in there and stayed and helped Mrs Roth until they sold out. He was a great help to them.
Terry now operates Light Star Horse Transportation http://www.lightstarhorsetransportation.com/

I leased Stone Gate Farm in Woodside and took whatever I could get. Morgans, Saddlebreds, Ponies. At the turn of the century I moved to Morgan Hill and built my own stable. Over the years I have enjoyed some wonderful customers and great horses. I am retired from the horse business now due to injuries.

Nothing has ever compared the the grand old Why Worry Farm. I am thankful I was lucky enough to experience it in its hay day.
We took the train to the horse show. Mrs Roth had a coming out party for the Debs. Two bands played the party. The Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. Imagine that party.

In conclusion. When I was coming up, information was hard to come by. Trainers did not part with knowledge easily. You got some of your information after a couple at the local Gin Mill and some of it by watching and observing what was happening. I worked for some of the best when I was comming up. I was lucky to have some of the best customers. People who loved their horses and would give them what they needed. It was all about the horse.

Now you know where I am coming from. I am not claiming to be a guru of any kind. I just want to relate my experience so someone might benefit. There are many ways to accomplish the same goal. Take it for what its worth.  As my gift.

Qusetion or suggestions for future topics can be sent to richardswiger@yahoo.com

Thanks for reading this.

Rich Swiger