FRIENDS AND STUDENTS
Tom Bass was friend to the famous as well as a kind and respected mentor to students and fellow competitors. Here are contemporary photos of a few of them, all mounted on horses trained by Tom Bass.
Belle Beach (also known as
Mrs. A.E. Ashbrook) was a famous Kansas City equestrienne and a student of Tom’s, who wrote a well-illustrated 1912 book entitled “Riding and Driving for Women.” Tom said that she was the best woman rider he had ever known; she was one of the few he permitted to ride
Miss Rex. Here she is mounted on the very handsome black Kentucky Blue Eyes.
The irrepressible Loula Long Combs, sidesaddle in about 1912. Her father was Kansas City lumber baron and philanthropist R.A. Long. The family built Longview Farm, a palatial facility enclosed by 5,000 miles of white board fence, in order to house the hundreds of saddle and harness horses owned by
Loula. When she needed a facilities manager and head trainer, she went to Tom Bass and he recommended John Hook. Loula’s mount in this photo appears to be Richland Chief, foaled 1907, a full brother to Marshall Chief.
The rider in this photo is a young Curtis “Jumps” Cauthorn, one of Tom’s protégés from Mexico, Missouri. The horse is Abdallah who was shown in open five-gaited classes under the name of “King Lee” (back in the day, “open” really meant “open to all breeds”; many Arabians can rack). Abdallah was one of the first Crabbet-bred Arabians to succeed in American horse shows.
Like his friend Tom Bass, trainer John Hook hailed from Mexico, Missouri. Hook stated that he had learned how to train “high steppers” from his father, but he was also 20 years younger than Tom Bass and credited him with giving him help and advice. In this photo, Hook performs a correct, lively and expressive passage aboard the American Saddlebred Hall of Fame mare Princess Eugenia.
George Ford Morris posing on the most famous of all Tom Bass horses, the fabulously beautiful Rex McDonald. The graduate of prestigious art schools, Morris was one of the first to use photographs as the basis for paintings. Such a fan of the American Saddlebred was he, however, that he became guilty of flattery and exaggeration, and is largely responsible for fixing in the public mind the high head, high tail, eyes bulging, snorting-and-blowing image of the Saddlebred horse. My experience with these horses is that they are gentle but always looking for leadership from riders and handlers. They are also highly intelligent. High-School trainer Dianne Olds Rossi has said, “If you want to work with Saddlebreds or Arabians, you had better be smarter than they are.”
William Jennings Bryan on a gelding that Tom Bass trained. This photo was taken in 1899 when Bryan still lived in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nominated for President by the Democratic Party three times between 1896 and 1908, Bryan needed a well-moving, tractable, stylish and comfortable riding horse. Notice the cavalry-style bit and saddle. It is noticeable that every horse trained by Tom Bass, no matter the skill level of the rider, shows correct collected posture and movement under saddle.
Theodore Roosevelt visited Tom Bass on several occasions in order to obtain horses. Bass gave Roosevelt much advice on horsemanship and introduced him to the Tom Bass bit. The whole Roosevelt family benefitted; in this photo, we see Teddy Roosevelt’s distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt in about 1905, when he was in his 20s, long before he contracted polio. The horse is the sort of Thoroughbred wanted for Hunter Hack competition; note the docked tail. Evidently the pair has been awarded a prize. The horse wears a Tom Bass bit.
President William Howard Taft on a gelding purchased from Tom Bass. By the time he became President,
Taft weighed upward of 300 pounds and needed a big horse capable of packing considerable weight. The 16-hand gelding Bass chose for him combined broad coupling and powerful hindquarters with the elegant carriage demanded by men in high places. Even so we can hope that Taft did not stay mounted for very long on his daily rides on the Capital Mall and in Rock Creek Park; note the double-thick saddle pad.