Tom Bass and Miss Rex

EQUUS - - Conformation Insights -

in an an­i­mated and pow­er­ful medium trot. The sweet­tem­pered Miss Rex car­ried Bass to numer­ous cham­pi­onships, and her spec­tac­u­lar wins at the 1893 Chicago Ex­po­si­tion—in both high school and five-gaited com­pe­ti­tion—kick­started his ca­reer as show­man, trainer and breeder. Horse shows in the Gay Nineties nor­mally in­cluded classes for “high schooled” horses, the style be­ing in­flu­enced very lit­tle by Ger­many but greatly by the French school of François Baucher, whose numer­ous stu­dents in 19th cen­tury Amer­ica were pop­u­lar rid­ing in­struc­tors. High-schooled horses were rid­den to mu­sic, which at the big­ger shows was pro­vided by a live or­ches­tra. Rid­ers chore­ographed in­di­vid­ual pro­grams; there were no “tests” or re­quired move­ments, but no com­peti­tor could hope to win if he or she did not ex­hibit cor­rect col­lec­tion, smooth tran­si­tions and numer­ous changes of tempo. They per­formed fig­ures, pas­sage, half-pass, Span­ish Walk, Span­ish Trot, se­quence changes of lead, bows and ei­ther a pe­sade or high rear. Some­times “tricks” per­formed on a cir­cus plat­form or drum were added, i.e., “The End of the Trail” or “Salute the Crowd.” The lovely Miss Rex could not can­ter or trot back­ward (Tom Bass had two other horses, the geld­ing Colum­bus and the mare Belle Beach, who could), but she won thanks to an el­e­gant com­bi­na­tion of great power, deep obe­di­ence and as Bass chron­i­cler Bill Downey puts it, “the light­est step any­one ever saw.”

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