Zane Grey

My wife, Janet, and I live in the house where I was born on a 600 acre farm that lays along Hwy 5 thirteen miles north of Lebanon, MO. My father was a cattle buyer who made a living from the back of a Fox Trotting horse from the turn of the century until roads improved in the 1930s. I started riding young and have a life long involvement with Fox Trotters.

We usually keep around seventy head of registered Missouri Fox Trotters. The foal crop runs from ten to fifteen per year. Most buyers seem to want a cute weanling or an experienced horse.

I've never cared much for riding a circle. The horses that I won on when I was young were all using horses. Golden Governor, Golden Rawhide, and Red Rawhide were raced, roped off of, worked on cattle, and broke to do anything that I wanted. Zane Grey despised cattle, but even he worked as lead horse at Tan Tara Resort before he became famous.

Janet enjoys training and showing her own horse. I take care of the feeding and shoeing for her. She won the Three Year Old Futurity on Gold Exchange when they still cantered and there was no amateur division. Cody's Platinum Plus and Sundust's Tiger Lily won Celebration classes for her. I show at least once year at the Celebration. I'm the only person left who has ridden in every one.

Rick Watson showed a three year old stallion, King James, for us. King James is by Sundust E. out Missouri's Echo. Carl Potter of Springfield, MO raised him. I bought him as a yearling from Jam McCracken at Gale Thompson's sale in West Plain MO. When I got home and told Janet that I'd bought horse, she said, "just what we need, another horse." After I backed him out of the trailer, she said, "I see why you bought another horse."

Back in 1957, Joe Hinds of Willow Springs, Mo. saw me ride Golden Governor to victory at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia. After the class Joe introduced himself and stated that he'd been thinking about starting a registry for Fox Trotters, and Governor looked like the horse to base it on. I'd been considering the need for a registry myself. I told him however, that selecting one stallion as the standard probably wasn't a good idea even if it was mine.

When we applied for a charter, the Secretary of State informed us that a registry already existed for the Missouri Fox Trotting Horses. "Where in the ______ is it?" asked Joe. "In Ava, MO." was the reply. The organization was dormant but their corporate paperwork was intact. We re-organized MFTHBA in 1958 and began registering horses at number 100. In 1959, we held the first Celebration Horse Show.

I had borrowed $300.00 and bought Golden Governor from Wheeler McCain's widow in 1954. There was no place locally to show a horse that fox trotted, but I was proud of my horse and hauled him to parades. Few knew what a fox trot was, they just wanted a horse like Governor. They bred whatever they had: Governor put a fox trot on 90% of the foals. Golden Governor was sired by Ozark Golden King by Old Fox.

Prior to Governor's arrival on the farm, I already had a pair of mares that were to become important factors in my bloodline. They were Snip Lady by Allen Black Magic by Merry Boy and Nancy Ann by Ted by Cadmus Dare. Nancy Ann's dam was the B. Mills mare by Old Fox.

Nancy Ann was hard to settle, and I raised only two foals from her by Governor: Golden Rawhide and Lady Ann E. Of the thirty-eight World Grand Champions in performance, twenty-five trace to Golden Governor. The Golden Governor - Nancy Ann cross accounts for twenty-three of the twenty-five!

Lady Ann E., Nancy Ann's first foal, lost an eye when a hay hauler put my brother Dean's horses together in a stall in order to save himself the effort of opening and shutting a gate. Although the one-eyed mare was never shown, she established herself as Golden Governor's most influential offspring as the dam of Zane Grey, Missouri Traveler E., Sundust E., Black Angel E., and Rawhide's Lady Ann E.

Her younger brother, Golden Rawhide was a wonderful horse that any man, woman or child could ride and show successfully. I never had him cheat me whether he was working as a pick-up horse in a rodeo or winning the stud class at the Celebration. When I shod him the first time, he had an overstride in his fox trot that the public wouldn't accept back then. I pulled his shoes and showed him barefooted until he was four.

Golden Rawhide sired Red Rawhide out of Snip Lady by Allen's Black Magic. Red Rawhide had an incredibly smooth fox trot, lots of cow sense, and no head shake. Red didn't sire show horses, but I've always valued his blood for fox trot rhythm and heart.

I bought Zane Grey by Sterling Merry Boy as a weanling from my brother, Dean, purely because he was out of Golden Rawhide's sister, and I wanted to own him if he amounted to anything. He fox trotted the first time I rode him, but he had a big overstride and a headshake that moved my hands four inches. I thought he was a phenomenal horse, but I wasn't naive enough to think that everybody else would agree.

Zane Grey was the most controversial horse the breed had seen. People loved him or they hated him. They thought he was either the wave of the future or the road to destruction.

Zane had absolutely no interest in cattle. He didn't care whether he headed cow or not. And I never could be sure that he wouldn't nicker. Both of these qualities were very irritating to me. On the other hand nothing could move down the road like he could.

Before the Celebration, I'd have the farrier mule foot Zane behind to shorten his overreach as much as possible. He won the Three year Old Championship in 1967 and became World Grand Champion in 1968.

Zane's first foal was Diamond Duke out of Diamond Head by Golden Rawhide. Wayne Jones of Waynesville, MO rode Duke to the World Grand Championship in 1971. The following years, I had bred Zane to 140 mares in a breeding season that extended in to the fall. Zane Grey died of a twisted intestine on March 28, 1973, two months short of his ninth birthday.

There's a lot of interest in alternate breeding methods now, but I don't ship semen. Despite advances in technology, the success rate is too low for me to justify the trouble and expense.

When trying to decide which stallion to cross on a particular mare, I keep in mind that every horse has a weakness whether it's in size, gait, conformation, or disposition. Avoid crossing individuals with the same weaknesses. Never breed for color unless quality is there. Acquired characteristics aren't passed on.

The best promotion for the breed has always been selling a good horse with a true fox trot. Anytime a Fox Trotter goes into a new area, it's probably going to teach it's new owner and all of the owner's friends, the gait. Horses that need gait modification don't fill the bill.

Back in the '80s Janet was struggling to design a silhouette of a horse fox trotting. One day she asked me to look at her latest effort, I knew she wanted me to say it was ok, but I blurted out, "They're either fox trottin' or they're not." She gave me a funny look and shortly came up with a horse doing a proper fox trot. She later created the emblem currently seen on MFTHBA registration papers and merchandise; she designed the Breeder's Cup emblem. Last winter she designed a Fox Trotter whose conformation is about ideal and copyrighted it.

Lots of things have changed in the last forty years. There are more horses. There are more good horses; they're better looking and better trained. The Celebration has gone from a one night show with horses being approved for registration before they could compete, to a week long event with an international flavor. The Breeder's Cup, of which I'm president, offers more prize money than a good farm used to cost. These things are not beyond my vision of what a breed registry could help do. I just thought they might not occur during my lifetime.

Published in the August 1998 Issue of the Trainer's Voice.


copyright by Dale Esther