SOME OF TOM’S HORSES
Note that there is not a set tail, nor any heavy shoe, nor a martingale or tie-down on any horse shown in this article. They are all ridden in a double bridle, but their mouths are not tied shut with a dropped or even a tight noseband. Riders typically carry a hickory “wand,” which is not used like a dressage whip but, in the manner of Robichon de la Guérinière, it was carried upright or across the body like a scepter and used to touch the horse upon the shoulders in order to assist him in turning and for lateral work. Sharp or long spurs are not seen. Saddles with “cutback” heads had not yet come into wide use; riders ordinarily sat in the British manner, with their butt against the cantle and feet extended forward, and for this reason favored saddles with forward-cut panels.
Tom Bass on Chester Peavine, in a photo taken about 1910 by his friend George Ford Morris. Compare the flawless conformation of this great stallion to that of his longbacked sire Rex Peavine—proof positive that conformation faults can be corrected by judicious selection of the mare.
Tom Bass on four different horses in front of the old Clark and Potts barn (later, the Lee Brothers barn, now preserved by the Audrain County Historical Society as the Art Simmons Stable) in Mexico, Missouri. The four horses are (left to right) Miss Rex, Forrest King,
Rex Blees, and Columbus. This lithograph was made from a painting by E. A. Filleau, a Frenchman who came to Missouri and spent “several years painting saddle horses and blooded hunting dogs. Note that the complexion of the rider is not dark; effort was often made, both during Tom Bass’s lifetime and afterwards, to disguise the fact that he was Black.
Rex Peavine, sire of Chester Peavine and many other top-class American Saddlebreds. Long necked but also long backed, he had very correct legs. He had such great heart that, as Tom Bass averred, he would die before he would quit.
Thornton’s Star with Joseph
Potts up. This painting is based on a photo taken in about 1887, at the time when Tom Bass first became Potts’ employee. In Potts’ younger years he was less portly and showed this horse to many championships. After he hired Tom Bass, Tom took over the training and showed him in the last few years before the decision was made to retire the stallion at over 20 years of age. “Star” is less substantial of limb than most Denmarks of that era, while also presenting a rounded and somewhat heavy-bodied appearance.
Rex Blees, foaled 1897. This stallion shows a little more angulation in the hind limbs than the others, and a tendency to stand and move rump-high. This can be compensated for by training, which teaches the horse not to brace the hind limbs but instead to “sit down” somewhat when in movement (the High School air called Spanish walk is especially helpful for this). Note the long, muscular neck; very short back and excellent coupling; long and powerful hindquarters; well-articulated joints and huge, “laid back” shoulder. This horse had “action” to burn and sired many good foals.