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Fancy Lad

Fancy Lad’s Long Ride to the Celebration

From the November/December 1982 Journal ©MFTHBA

Fancy LadThe LeRoy Seiner family is exactly what they appear to be: Good, basic, hardworking people who love their horses. Milking 200 cows doesn’t leave much time for foolishness.

LeRoy is a big man with a ready smile. His huge hands have obviously known a lifetime of toil. His wife, Jo, lets LeRoy do most of the talking, but we can bet she has just a little more say at home. I met the Seiners at Rhoten-Johnson Stables in Rogersville, Missouri. Trainer Billy Johnson warmed himself by a fuel oil heater while LeRoy made the rounds on a young horse. ‘He’s looking better now, LeRoy. Just hold him right there.’

Jo .sat beside her 20-year-old daughter, Donna, proudly watching LeRoy ride. ‘We don’t have much chance to get away from the milking barn,’ she explained. ‘Riding horses is just like a vacation for us.’

LeRoy made a few more rounds, then climbed down and handed the gelding over to Billy. ‘You folks go on into the office,’ Bllly motioned, ‘I’ll be right in.’

As we all sat down, LeRoy looked a little uneasy at the sight of the tape recorder. ‘This is your story, LeRoy,’ encouraged Billy, ‘you do the talking.’ Jo and Donna nodded in agreement…they weren’t making any speeches.

‘Well,’ LeRoy began a little haltingly, ‘we all are from Humansville. That’s 50 miles north of Springfield (Missouri) on Highway 13… about 17 miles north of Bolivar. Our favorite horse,’ he began warming up, ‘is Perfection’s Fancy Lad. He’s out of Kenneth Morrison’s perfection horse and a Sterling Merry Boy mare we raised on our place, Ginger’s Miss Smokey.

‘The mare’s 18 years old. Her mother was killed by lightning when she was only five weeks old, so we raised her on cow’s milk. But she turned out smooth stomached and as fat as a bear. She won her first colt class. We’ve raised colts out of her all these years.

‘Fancy Lad was born a mousey looking gray. And, well, you know how every colt that comes along is going to be THE big colt?’ Well, when I first saw this little colt get up out of the fescue, reaching just as far as .he could reach…his little old tail right up in the air…I knew this was the best colt we ever had raised. He was born reaching out.

‘I let him run till he was 2 ½ before we even broke him to lead. He wasn’t a great big horse, so we just let him go, A neighbor boy, Dee Stacey; green broke him for us, Dee, of Flemington, does all our gentling and breaking’.

‘Because we were new, we were asking Kenneth Morrison about a Fox Trot trainer who’d be good with Fancy Lad. He said Billy Johnson was our man. Lad came to Billy with some rear foot problems, but Billy was patient and had him ready for Ava’s Spring Show.’

‘They won their Ava class, then planned to move on the next week-to the Marshfield Saddle Club Show. But something had happened to the horse’s front feet at Ava. Billy went on and won at Marshfield, but something was obviously wrong with Lad’s feet and getting worse.

‘We took him first to (the University of Missouri Equine Center at) Columbia, then to Dr. Hamm in Fayetteville (Arkansas). Doc Hamm is the one who finally was able to beat his infection. But by now it was October, a month after the Celebration.

‘Billy took him on again, riding him light till after the first of the year. When Fancy Lad’s reach and style started coming back, he rode him harder.
‘When we took him down to the Bentonville (Arkansas) Show; he was looking real good, Lad’s a solid steel gray with dark mane and silver tail, He’s about 15′ hands and a thousand pounds. Billy and Lad won aged studs and geldings, then w’nt on to win the Senior stake. We were off to a good start in the new season.’

‘Fancy Lad was always easy to work with. We just had a lot of problems that first year keeping his feet sound. Once we had those vet problems solved, he was ready to win. In 1982, he lost only two qualifying classes, and two stakes. That’s pretty good for a Senior horse’s first season out.

‘Keith Mizer did all of our shoeing. He set Lad at 51 degrees up front, and 50 degrees in back, using cowboy shoes. We used a short shanked aluminum bit.

‘Heading towards Ava, we knew we would have an uphill battle. We were riding against a horse that had been world champion the previous two years (Red Fox). And that horse was ridden by one of the breed’s best known trainers (Jerry Middleton). But we still thought we had a team strong enough to win it.

‘You see; Fancy Lad had never before been to Ava. We were riding a horse that had never seen the long classes, the crowd or tensions of Ava. We were betting high stakes on a long shot. But Billy and I  and my whole family, thought we had a horse the judges couldn’t ignore.

‘In Thursday’s qualifying class we got what we all felt was a good ride. The horse rode hard and showed good. Friends came up and told us we had it beat. We were all feeling pretty good till the Judges’ cards came in: Two seconds and first…

‘That was an awful big disappointment. But we still didn’t feel discouraged. We believed in our horse. It would just be a little harder because we’d been beat in the qualifying class. Lucky for us, the crowd was looking at us, and the word started getting around.

Saturday’s night’s ride would be 35 to 40 minutes. A long one. But he’d come out of Thursday night’s class looking strong. So we felt like he had it in him to ride hard in Saturday night’s world champion stake. Billy took him down to Keith that evening and had him put on the lightest shoe he had. We were tooling up for a tough ride.

‘Billy, and most riders, will deliver a decent ride the first way of the ring, then really pour it on during the reverse. But that night Billy and Lad both rode in winning. They both wanted it bad. They both looked like winners, like favorites, from the first round.  Lad is not a quitting horse.

‘You could see Kenneth Morrison’s grin from clear across the arena. A horse out of his stud was riding hard for the world championship. But more important… was the crowd’s support.

‘We had the underdog. We were riding against what many people thought was a sure thing…and we were looking good. Well, you know when the crowd starts to cheering you on, that both horse and rider want to do even better.

‘We were all lifted up by the excitement. Here was our own little colt we’d first found in the fescue…the horse we’d been told all last year would never again see the show  ring…here he was his first time at Ava, knocking their socks off! I just can’t explain how proud and happy my whole family was.

‘Well, it was about then that Jerry’s stud broke his gait at the east end of the arena. He broke it bad, and the crowd at that end gave out a loud whoop. My first reaction was that now they’d have to give it to Fancy Lad.

LeRoy, Jo and Donna

LeRoy, Jo and Donna

But when I got to thinking about it, I didn’t want Lad to win just because last year’s champion broke his gait. Sure, I wanted us to win. But I wanted him to win it horse-to-horse. I wanted a winner that rode best, not one that made less mistakes.

‘When the cards came in, it was two and one, the reverse of Thursday night’s cards. We were amazed by that one judge’s hold out, but still excited by the win.

‘We’d spent a load of money on vet bills just keep him healthy enough to ride. But given his health, he gave us everything he had. He’s got an awful big heart for such a little horse.

‘I don’t begrudge a dime or a minute spent on Lad. We believed he had it, and he proved himself–to us, to the crowd, and finally, to the judges.

‘It means so much more to us because he’s been ours from the beginning. We didn’t go shopping for a world champion. We found him right in our own backyard,.

‘This was our first year of showing since 1968, the last time I rode in some of our local shows. Lots of people don’t know us. But that’s because we can’t afford to get out much. I’m just a dairyman–100%. Two hundred cows to milk twice a day doesn’t leave much time for following the show circuit. We usually finish that last cow sometime after 10:30 p.m.

But the people have all been so good to us. And that’s really meant a lot to us. They’ve really made us feel welcome. And I appreciate that from the bottom of my heart.

‘And we can’t say enough good about Bllly and his wife, Jill. They’ve always been patient with us, and have always been confident about the horse. Every good horse needs a good rider to believe in him. Billy did that for Fancy Lad.

As I said, the vets played a big part in bringing Lad to the championship. Doc Hamm down in Fayetteville was the most important. But our own two vets from Stockton (Missouri) also deserve credit, Dallas Cramer and Gary Whitesell. From May till October of 1981 it seems like all we did was trailer to vets and write checks.

After Ava’s win, we brought Lad home. He hadn’t been let out in a field for over a year. He kicked and ran and played and had a real good .time. He even jumped into the sewage lagoon where we drain the calf barn. He was a sight.

‘We’re looking for another good year in 1983. We plan to be out there again, maybe with a few other horses. A lot depends on how often I can get away from the milking machine. We’ve got great hopes of Lad winning the big one next year…Lord willing, and everything goes alright.

Mare and Colt Class

‘Winning the Four-year-old World Champion Performance class was exciting, but we were also pleased with winning the mare and colt model class. The colt was out of Billy’s sorrel stud, Ozark’s Traveler. The mare was by Kenneth’s Perfection horse and one of our old gray mares.

‘They were as perfectly a matched pair as you could ask for. It wasn’t until l got the pictures back that I realized just how close they were…and it was me and Donna who’d groomed them all summer long. It was unreal.

‘During most of the late summer we kept them up during the day, then only let them out at night.  That keeps their hair pretty. Donna shampooed little Sam (Ozark’s Yosemite Sam) every day, from July on, because of his skin problem, a fungus, While Sam was worked with the medicated shampoo, the mare got brushed­ down. They both stayed pretty.

They also had to be taught obedience, and how to stand still side by side. They weren’t fed any better than the others but we feed all of our horses pretty heavy. Lot oats, clover hay, and a shot of Clovite, a vitamin-protein supplement, is regular rations.

‘I’ve rode horses ever since I was ten years old, Elmer Hicks was a close friend of mine ever since I was just a small boy. We had adjoining places down in Bolivar. Elmer and Alice were always like family.

‘Later, up at Humansville, we had this old Walking bred mare that we used to drive cows. One day Elmer and Alice was up visiting and he said, ‘Why don’t you bring that old gray mare down and breed her to my horse?’

‘That old mare’s filly colt was Lad’s mother. We were in the Fox Trotting business from that day on. We’ve got a couple dozen horses now, all out of that Sterling Merry Boy original stock.

Horses is just something we all like to do. Our four daughters were all raised upon horses.  There’s Barbara, 31, a professional entertainer and school teacher; Marsha, 28, a beautician; Janice, 26, a housewife, and Donna, 20, a vet technician, still at home. With almost 800 acres and 600 head of cows, heifers and calves, it’s a good idea to know how to ride.

‘Some people like to fish, hunt or go boating. But we like our horses.  That’s all we do besides work. I love to ride them, but anymore I can’t hardly find the time. Today is the first time I’ve rode in almost two months.

‘Because we have so little time, I’m glad we found a trainer we can trust and depend on. Billy’s rode our horses right and taken good care of them. If problem comes up, he calls us. Billy and Jill have been as honest and fair to us as we could ever want. Billy’s been a true gentleman and a good friend.

From the November/December 1982 Journal