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Nancy Ann

Missouri Fox Trotters From the Past…Nancy Ann

From the January/February 1983 Journal ©MFTHBA
By Janet Esther

A man recently came to Missouri to research Missouri Fox Trotting Horses. He was amazed that he could find no books on the subject in the great libraries of the state or anywhere else.

Missouri Fox Trotters were ridden and used by Ozarkians who worked hard to raise their children and pay their taxes and meet their mortgages. Their Fox Trotters were the best horses for the terrain and the tasks they had to do. They appreciated their horses, but they didn’t romanticize them. They wrote no books about themselves and they wrote no books about their horses.

Nancy Ann F-166 with Walter Esther up. Picture was taken in the fall of 1944

Nancy Ann F-168 with Walter Ester up.
Picture was taken in the fall of 1944

Too often; because of this, the facts about horses that influenced the breed have remained the personal knowledge of their owners and the people with whom the owners had personal contact.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to know a great number of the old timers who were horsemen, facts are hard to come by. This column is dedicated to gathering some of that history before it’s lost forever and making it available to all lovers of Missouri Fox Trotting Horses.


Nancy Ann was a fox trotting mare foaled in 1940 on the B. Mills farm near Sparta, Missouri. Although her lite spanned more than two decades, she left only two offspring. Her son was 1966 World Champion, Golden Rawhide. Her daughter was Lady Anne, dam of 1968 World Champion, Zane Grey. It was her grandson, Zane Grey, that most closely resembled the old mare’s style and motion.

Nancy Ann’s grandsire was a registered American Saddle Horse. Through the records of that breed association, organized in 1891, it is possible to gain some insight into the horses in Nancy Ann’s pedigree and the genetic melting pot of America’s 1800’s. Students of breed histories will recognize some of the horses. They are alive in many Missouri Fox Trotters today through old Nancy Ann.

Nancy Ann was sired by Knial Kissee’s Ted by Cadmus Dare 7852. Her dam was by Old Fox, a remarkable fox trotting sire whose adult life is well known, but whose pedigree was lost somewhere along the railroad trip that brought him into Springfield, Missouri in 1924. Old Fox, whose pedigree we don’t know, was eleven years old in 1924 making him a contemporary of her paternal grandsire Cadmus Dare, whose pedigree we do know.

Cadmus Dare 7852 was foaled July 5, 1916 at Springfield, Missouri. He was a chestnut with stockings on both hind legs. His grandsire was Chester Dare 10, a 15.3 bay stallion foaled in 1882 at Versailles, Kentucky. Chester Dare went back through the black father-son duo of Washington Denmark and Gaines Denmark to Denmark, a great brown Thoroughbred sired by the imported Thoroughbred, Hedgeford. Denmark was foaled in 1839 and earned himself a considerable reputation as a game four-mile racer, but it was the flash and style of his get from the saddle mares of Kentucky that eventually made him the foundation sire of a new breed , American Saddle Horses . Gaines Denmark 61 was the son of Denmark, who probably did the most to help his pappy rate the F.S. after his name. This spectacular black with white hind feet was produced when Denmark was bred to a daughter of Cockspur, a legendary individual generally believed to be a Narragansett pacer. Gaines Denmark saw heavy use as a cavalry officer’s mount during the Civil War and died in 1864 at the age of 13, before the war ended. He left a sensational black son of his own; Washington Denmark 64, out of another daughter of Cockspur. Seventy-five percent of all the Denmarks (Nancy Ann, too) trace through Washington Denmark, who was three-fourths Cockspur (Narragansett Pacer) and one­ fourth Thoroughbred.

Some Canadian horses were tossed into the genetic hopper along the way. One Canadian Pacer, who managed to plant himself in the pages of Standardbred, American Saddle Horse, and Tennessee Walking Horse history, was Tom Hal 3237. He did his bit for Missouri Fox Trotters, too, for the dam of Cadmus Dare 7852 went back through Sample Cadmus 536 to Tom Hal 3237.

Tom Hal 3237 was foaled in Canada in 1802. He was a sturdy, handsome, 15.1 blue roan that turned up in Philadelphia. In 1824 he moved to Lexington, Kentucky. The new owner rode Tom Hal from Lexington to Louisville, some 70 miles, in one day to win a $100 bet; the following day he rode him back to Lexington. Tom Hal was a legend when he died in I842 at the age of forty and stories of him abound. He was a confirmed stall-walker and it is claimed that he never laid down in his life except to roll. Whether or not that is a fact, it is true that Tom Hal’s blood is alive today in Missouri Fox Trotters through Nancy Ann.

We know this because of records and hindsight. But Nancy Ann belonged to an Ozarks horseman who knew nothing about all that. What he did know was a horse that suited him. In his lifetime as a farmer and livestock dealer he owned a lot of riding horses. There were three of that number that were never for sale. All three were fox trotting mares. He kept the first two until they died. Nancy Ann outlived him.

Walter Esther was born in 1886 on the northern border of Laclede County in Missouri. His father had migrated from Tennessee to that spot in the Ozarks in 1850. Walter was the youngest of his father’s ten children. When he was a lad of ten years, his father died.

As a youth, Walter began buying livestock in his community and driving them eleven miles to Sleeper where stock pens stood along the Frisco Railroad. From there he shipped them to market in St. Louis, Missouri. Many folks were more than happy to sell their animals at home and avoid the hassle of a long drive to market. There were few fences along the wagon track roads that wound through the hills and the livestock itself could be difficult. Hogs and cattle were often ear-notched for owner identification and turned loose to roam at will on free range. They reached market weight at mature ages and their attitudes quite often weren’t too domestic.

What sort of horses the Esthers brought westward from Tennessee is unknown, but it’s obvious that Walter developed a preference for fox trotters early in his life. When he was a young man, he drove a pair of saddle mares on a buggy eighty miles to Sedalia, Missouri, where he bred them both to a five-gaited stallion. (At that time the fox trot and running walk were still accepted “easy gaits” in American Saddle Horses.) One mare was Walter’s; the other one belonged to his brother. From his mare Walter got a palomino filly that fox trotted. He named her Raleign and he rode her hard for many years. She earned his respect and he always considered her to be the best all-around horse he ever owned. When the years finally overtook Raleigh, he retired her to pasture. She died of old age, leaving no offspring.

Sally was the next horse to win a permanent place in Walter’s esteem. She was a handsome dappled-brown fox trotter with a bad reputation when he bought her from Charlie Hufft. She had some scars on her legs that spoke of a bad experience with wire and she was terrified if a wire even touched her. But Sally was a road-eater, high-nerved and responsive; and she and Walter got along fine. Nobody but Walter ever rode Sally and she carried him faithfully for years, generating some funny stories along the way. Sally died of old age in retirement in the mid 1930’s. Like Raleigh, her line ended with her death as she left no offspring.

For several years after Sally’s death Walter was without a horse he liked. He kept on the lookout for a suitable mount, but was discouraged by the deterioration in the breeding since automobiles had finally put horses out of the transportation business. He told his son, Dale, that he intended to own one more good horse before he died.
In 1943 he heard about a mare near Marshfield, Missouri. She was owned by a man named Russell Burchfield, who operated a grain and grocery store at St. Luke, a tiny settlement a few miles from Marshfield. He drove over to take a look.

Nancy Ann was a 16 hand, shining chestnut with one hind sock and was out of a stallion named Ted. She had a magnificent high- tail carriage and her neck had tremendous elevation with a thin throat. Her bone was flat and clean and she grew no fetlock hair at all. Her mane and abundant tail had fine silky hair. Her stride was big and bold. In motion, she was spellbinding. Walter wanted her very much, but Mr. Burchfield wanted $400. By way of comparison, a new Chevy pickup had cost Walter $750.00 in 1941; he left without the mare. She stayed on his mind. He hadn’t seen a horse he wanted to ride in years until her; he went back and bought her one afternoon.
That same day, when Walter’s son, Dean, came home, he rode Nancy Ann the mile to the Zion Church, then turned her around and rode back home. She covered the two miles so quickly it seemed like magic; the power and motion was thrilling. When he reined her to stop in front of the house, Walter surveyed the tall mare and his delighted youngest son and observed, “There’s only a few horses that’ll give all they’ve got. When you find one, you’ve got to look out for her. Lazy horses never hurt themselves; a good horse will.”

Walter enjoyed riding Nancy Ann and the neighbors came to identify the rhythm of her hoofbeats from other horses on the road. They claimed they could tell how close she was when they began to hear the jingle of her bit. Walter would ride her to Eldridge to Harry Waterman’s blacksmith shop. Harry shod her with handmade shoes, giving extra attention to points of extreme wear.

Nancy Ann was tall and Walter was short. However, she was no problem for him to mount; he simply had her to stretch out until he could, step up on her easily. She was shown locally with spectacular success and Ted mares became vogue around Lebanon. Eventually, Bill Smith, Walter’s brother-in law bought Ted, Nancy Ann’s sire, and brought him to Laclede County.

Knial Kim, a member of a well-known family of horsemen and livestock dealers from Ozark, Missouri, raised Ted and was his Jong- time owner. Tennessee Walkers started their registry 1935.and Knial went into showing Walkers in a big way while Laclede County stockmen continued to use fox trotters. Through the common meeting ground of the Union Stockyards in Springfield quite a few Ted and Old. Fox bred horses wound up in Laclede County. Knial offered Walter a free service to Kirk Allen, a stallion he’d brought up from Tennessee, the sire of Desert Gold. But Nancy Ann was hard to settle and the trip to Ozark was in vain.

Walter Esther died in September of 1950. Nancy Ann was retired from the showring at his death and was rarely ridden afterwards. Dale kept his father’s mare until she passed on, raisin two foals from her out of the stallion, Golden Governor. Nancy Ann and Golden Governor shared the same grandsire, Old Fox. But that’s another story.

From the January/February 1983 Journal