Retired horse trainer recalls experience
The walking horse training business has changed a lot over the past three decades.
Bob Reid from Cornersville, Tenn., has been out of the walking horse training business for “15 years or so,” he said. “I sold my barn and got out of the horse business. The government has run the business down, and all those inspections and restrictions really made it tough. The politics with the judges, well, it just wasn’t a good thing to be in.”
Bob, or “Bobby” as he was known when he was a young man, moved from West Virginia to Marshall County in 1962 with his family. He continued in the horse training business with his father, Robert Reid, after moving to the area. The business had its ups and downs. “We got customers that wouldn’t pay,” Reid said. “You always have con artists in the horse business. You know, when you work a horse, pay help, feed and vet bills, and they don’t pay it can get expensive. I had some good customers, though, but they sorta died out.”
Reid further cited the challenges of the U.S. Department of Agriculture examiners, which drove him and others out of the horse training business. “I’ve seen a horse step in a mud hole when it was being unloaded from the trailer,” Reid said, “and they said it has a ‘foreign substance’ on the horse’s foot and turned it down,” disqualifying the horse from competing in a horse show.
Although Reid’s negative experience training horses -- tighter restrictions that came as a result of regulations prohibiting horse soring -- near the end of his horse training career prompted him to quit the business, he did have some fond memories. “I bought a mare for $5,000, worked with her for three weeks and sold her for $50,000,” Reid recalled about Coppey’s Angel. “If you’ve got the right horse with the right breeding and training, they can be real valuable.” Reminiscing about his good fortune, he recalled the business arrangement. “I went down to People’s and Union Bank and talked to James Stammer and told him I needed $5,000 to buy a horse,” Reid said. “I went back in three weeks and paid off the loan. James Stammer told me ‘any time you want to borrow money to buy a horse, come see me’.”
Going back three-quarters of a century, the retired trainer recalled his start in the business. “Daddy started training horses after World War II in Wheeling, West Virginia,” Reid said. “Back in the ‘50s we’d show every weekend, and win, and maybe make a thousand dollars… that was a lot of money back then.”
The training routine is a lot different today for gaited horses than it was 50 or 60 years ago. “These days trainers do more doctoring on horses’ feet than training them,” Reid said. “We used to get them out on a Monday and train them all week and take them to the show on the weekend. You don’t see a horse rode around here on a Monday anymore. It takes an awfully good horse to only train them two days in a week and show them and win on a weekend. We used to ride every day but Sunday.”