Ted Macklin: A Life Time as a Horse Trainer
(Part One)

By Jane Simmons
Saddle and Bridle Magazine Equine Articles

Crane logo The life and times of trainer Ted Macklin. Written for Saddle & Bridle magazine by Jane Simmons.
© copyrighted horse article.
I extend my appreciation to Mr. Macklin's daughter, Cynthia Macklin Preston, a fellow writer who worked for Saddle & Bridle in the early 1970s. I consider her a co-author of this article, as she shared so many of these wonderful stories from her father based on her own interviews with him.***

Ted Macklin has spent his entire life in the Saddlebred Horse business, except for four-years of military service to his country during World War II. Even at his octogenarian-plus age, "he keeps about 10 horses with Sunset Commander bloodlines that he has carefully developed," his daughter Cynthia Macklin Preston told me. He and Joyce, his wife of 60 years own a 32-acre horse farm that has a 24-stall barn and a small barn with six more stalls."

Horse photographer Tod Macklin, the older son, "lives with wife Jan on the farm property, where he has his photo lab," Cynthia said. At one time, Cynthia "helped her brother, and others, with the horse photo retouching for about 10 years." Younger son, Scott Macklin, "does all of the training and riding now." The youngest daughter, Wendy , lives in Montana, about a two-hour drive from her sister Cynthia, and she is a school teacher.

Many Saddle & Bridle readers will best remember Ted Macklin from his years at Mrs. A.R. Anderson's stable in Amarillo, Texas. When he "arrived there in 1959," he "found Sunset Stables filled with colts from her two best brood mares. The colts were sired by Wing Commander, Anacacho Shamrock, American Dictator and Sparkling Waters. Seven out of the nine young horses went on to make exceptional show records, including Sunset Commander by Wing Commander, out of Anacacho Del Oro by Edna May's King," Mr. Macklin told his daughter.

Earlier in his career, he worked in Pomona, California, for B.B. Tucker, who had leased a former Carnation Farms barn, which had been designed by John T. Hook many years earlier. This part of Ted Macklin's life will be covered in Part II.

Mr. Macklin is known for his lifetime of breeding and training good Saddlebred horses throughout the western part of the United States. However, he "did not come from a horsey atmosphere," noted Cynthia. Rather, Ted Macklin "was born into a family of academicians. The first son of four siblings, he was born in Manhattan, Kansas. When he was two weeks old, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin," his daughter told me. His mother, Miriam Robinson Macklin, "held her Masters degree in music" and his father, Theodore, "held a Ph.D. in economics and was a noted professor in that field. He headed Wisconsin University's Agricultural Economics Department."

When "Dad was 10 years old, his family moved to California." Not only did the Macklins not have horses, they "didn't even have pets in their home until they finally gave in to my dad's begging for a dog," Cynthia said of her grandparents. Both of her "great grandfathers loved and kept horses." Her "great grandfather William E. Macklin was a missionary doctor in China for 42 years and founded a hospital in Nanjing that is now the teaching hospital for Nanjing University."

So, how did horses enter the life of Ted Macklin? He rode his first horse in Yosemite National Park, located due east of San Francisco. The Macklins, with their four children - Doris, Ted, Richard and Walter - "were on a family vacation in Yosemite Park in 1930." Here, "at age 11, my dad begged his father to rent a horse for all of the kids to ride. He won my grandfather over," Cynthia said. "My dad's first ride was on this hired trail horse that took two of them to make move at all," Cynthia said, "until that is, a bee stung the horse. For a very short space, it was quite exciting for the riders." After that trip, Ted Macklin "thought about horses, drew horses and read about horses all of the time." He "subscribed to Saddle & Bridle in 1935 at age 16, as well as the West Coast magazine Sportalog, and other show horse magazines." He was "hooked on horses, even to studying pedigrees" Mr. Macklin told his daughter. "It was a mystery to my grandparents how Dad became so enamored with horses," she commented.

"When my dad was 13, his mother had to go into the hospital for an eye operation. His parents hired a wonderful woman, Romania Clark, to keep the house and do the cooking," Cynthia said. "Romania," Mr. Macklin recounted, "was in the kitchen one day, when I came in and flopped down on a chair in utter disappointment. A riding stable had turned me away. I had saved up enough money to rent a horse, but they told me that I was too young to ride without a parent along." At that point, "Romania told me I should go out to her husband's barn. She said she would set it up for me, and the frosting on the cake was hearing that there was a new baby colt by the big black stallion her husband had. I was thrilled," Mr. Macklin said.

"A few days later, Dad did go out to Henry Clarks' barn in Atherton, California, a small town located between Palo Alto, where my father lived, and Menlo Park," Cynthia said. Teenager Ted Macklin "had an epiphany that first day at Mr. Clark's barn when he saw Sun Beau Chief, the black gaited stallion by Waveland's Choice by Kentucky Choice. He was forever hooked on Saddlebred horses," Cynthia said. "He would go as often as he could to help at Mr. Clark's barn."

Henry Clark "trained for C.H. Merrill, until he went out of the horse business. After that, Henry continued running his own operation out of that same barn. He was never allowed to show any of his own horses, or those of his customers, because he was black," Mr. Macklin pointed out. "Henry's brother, Buford Clark, was a trainer in Bakersfield. He was allowed to show but, for some reason, Henry Clark had to find others to ride in the ring for him." In spite of the show ring restriction, "Henry Clark was highly respected as a trainer and had a barn filled with wealthy customers' horses," Cynthia said. "He was especially known to be a good hand with a spoiled horse.

One day Mr. Clark told my dad that he didn't want him to come out to the barn until he called him and told him it was OK." As Mr. Macklin told the story: "Some people were sending a four-year-old stallion by Chief Of Longview to him and the horse was a 'real bad actor,' Henry told me. He was going to be the seventh trainer to get the horse. He didn't want a boy under foot if the horse was that dangerous." Less than a week later, "I got the call from Mr. Clark, telling me it was OK to come back. I'll never forget going back to the barn and watching Henry come riding out on this classically beautiful horse wearing a halter instead of a bridle and doing a breathtaking true slow gait." Why was he slow gaiting the horse in a halter? Because, Mr. Macklin said: "Henry Clark trained with his brain. He had quickly figured out that the horse's problem was a broken jaw."

Impressed with "this horse named Tibo Tib, I enthused about what a wonderful gaited horse he was going to be." Mr. Macklin said. However, "Henry burst my youthful bubble when he told me that the horse would never make a good gaited horse because he had 'box joints,' which wouldn't hold up to the work. He would throw spavins, Henry continued. I didn't know at that time exactly what he meant by box joints or spavins," Mr. Macklin said. "Henry's prediction was right," Mr. Macklin said. "Several years later, when I was working for B.B. Tucker, I recognized Tibo Tib in one of the stalls next to ours at the Bakersfield horse show. The horse had been gelded, trimmed and was sporting a spavin on both hind legs." In spite of the spavin condition, "it was arranged by the end of the show that B.B. would take the horse home to Pomona to sell. When we were showing the horse to a man by the name of O.B. Davey, he walked around Tibo Tib and stopped at his rear. He said: 'Why, I believe this horse has a spavin.'" Mr. Tucker "calmly walked over to the horse, lifted up his tail, looked at one leg then the other and said: 'They look the same to me.' The two men made the sale," Mr. Macklin continued. "Two horses came in as part of the deal, a King Barrymore gelding and a gray mare. The mare had a spavin! Mr. Davey just might have known what he was looking at after all!"

To this day, "my dad has enormous respect for Henry Clark and his knowledge of horses," Cynthia said. "Dad often got to go with Mr. Clark to look at horses. He feels that was an education in itself. He helped out at the barn and was allowed to ride." One of Dad's favorites to ride "was Troy Chief, a gelding that had been a gaited show stallion at one time. The horse was out of a daughter of Rex McDonald and by a grandson of his. Troy Chief was bred by a Dr. Shumate, who loved Rex McDonald, and owned seven broodmare daughters by him," Cynthia said.

"Dad continued to go out to Mr. Clark's barn all through school until my grandparents moved to Sacramento just before my father's senior year of high school. Dad was not happy about leaving his Palo Alto prep school, but Sacramento High School did have a riding lesson program," Cynthia said. He "joined the riding program and even had a chance to show." At that time, "it was the largest high school west of the Mississippi." When "Dad graduated from high school at age 17, a year early, his parents were appalled when he announced that he wanted to become a horse trainer and not go on to college as they wanted," Cynthia revealed. "They finally gave in, though, as my dad can be very determined.

Of course, jobs were tight during the Depression. Dad wasn't sure where to begin." Mr. Macklin said: "I wrote to Susanne. I had bought her books, which I still have to this day, and figured she might be able to advise me about how to find a job as a horseman. I had lots of youthful optimism. Sure enough, she wrote back. With her advice, I put an ad in the Kentucky Livestock Journal, and shortly, I had a letter from W.H. McGinnis, who hired me."

This first job took young Macklin to Southern California. "Mr. McGinnis was a lawyer from Canada. By the time he hired my dad, he owned the Golden State Livestock Company in San Diego County, where he had cattle, hogs and Saddlebred Horses." Mr. McGinnis "had owned Easter Cloud in the famous stallion's later years. The stallion had died the year before my dad arrived, but his boss loved that horse and talked about him."

This is one story told to Ted Macklin by Mr. McGinnis, who said he "would turn Easter Cloud out in a large ring, put on the horse's favorite piece of music and watch the horse perform. Barefoot, no tack, no rider, the stallion would go to the rail and put himself through all five gaits."

When "my dad first went to work for Mr. McGinnis, they had him stay in the big house with the family, as room and board was part of the salary. For a young man, the board part was pretty skimpy," Cynthia said. "Mr. McGinnis, his wife and his mother-in-law were the other occupants of the house and were quite a bit older, thus not realizing just how much food a young fellow needed." Fortunately, she continued, "they hired 65-year-old Henry S. Burnam to train the horses and the boy, and Dad got to move into a smaller house on the place with him for the remainder of the year Dad worked there. Mr. Burnam had written a whole series of articles for the Kentucky Horseman on learning to ride, and taught Dad a lot." By the end of that year, "my dad felt like war was a definite possibility. He decided he wanted to be nearer his folks for a while. He prepared himself to remain calm and be able to ride out the explosion he expected from Mr. McGinnis when he told him about leaving. Mr. McGinnis was a hard man to satisfy and went through three trainers during that year. But Dad parted company with him on good terms and they remained friends," Cynthia said.

Once back in Sacramento, Mr. Macklin said he "heard that Charley Dudley had been hired by Erwin C. Easton to coach a young trainer by the name of Boyd Chapman. Boyd had been in charge of a boxcar load of horses the Eastons had purchased in Kentucky and had shipped to California. Charley A. Dudley "was in his 70s then, but I thought I could learn a lot from him. I went to Mr. Easton's law office to ask him for a job." When Mr. Easton "saw my 5'8" slim youthful looking Dad, he said he wouldn't hire a boy, but Dad talked him into it. He told Dad he would get a boy's wages. However, when Dad got his first paycheck, it was a man's full wages. Mr. Easton told him: 'You worked like a man, so you get paid like a man.'" Cynthia said that "unbeknownst to my dad at the time, my grandmother had called Mr. Easton's office and asked that her son not be hired because she and her husband wanted their son to go to college."

At first, "Mr. Dudley didn't pay too much attention to my dad. After all, he was there to coach Boyd Chapman. But, Mr. Chapman resented Mr. Dudley and soon quit. Dad got to start riding with Mr. Dudley coaching." In the Easton barn, "there was a bay mare that wouldn't rack. Mr. Dudley wouldn't let me try an idea for helping her. When you rode for Charley Dudley, you rode the way he told you," Mr. Macklin said. "At some point, Mr. Dudley was contacted by the Donald Rheems family and asked to manage their farm and help develop a show string. He wanted me to go with him. I told him I thought I should stay with the Eastons until the new trainer, Buford Waller, arrived from Kentucky. I was working all of the Easton horses and I didn't want to go back to grooming. And, I now saw my chance to try my idea on the bay mare."

At the very first opportunity, "I set the bay mare's head differently, let her flex over more, and lifted her neck up, and then, I took her to a place where she had a long straight-away. I asked the mare to rack from a full trot. She took to racking like gangbusters. She just needed to see that she had somewhere to go besides round and round. Mr. Waller went on to do very well with that mare."

When Mr. Waller arrived, "my dad did decide to go to work for the Rheemses, working under Mr. Dudley. The Rheems family had a beautiful home and stables and they had an iridescent red stallion named Me-Ma that was a natural born pacer," Cynthia said. "He was out of a Chief Of Longview daughter, Spirit Of The Blue, and by Rex Pahala, a stallion Mrs. William P. Roth had brought from the Hawaiian Islands." The "colt just paced, even though both parents had strong trots. The horse had been broke to ride and drive, but there wasn't a sign of a trot in him," Mr. Macklin said. "I had an idea. This time, Mr. Dudley finally let me try it. I set up cavaletti and worked the horse over them. Sure enough, that broke up his pace and forced him into a trot. The horse actually developed a good trot with quite a bit of speed and also took to racking." Cavaletti "are little rails or bars set up at specific distances apart that hunter and jumper people work horses over to help the timing of the trot," Cynthia explained.

Another time, Mr. Macklin said he "was showing a Rheems mare by the name of Gypsy Moon in a model class. In those days, the model class was judged strictly on the ability to pose like an artist's statue. Most of the horses walked into the ring and just posed. Motion was not judged. I knew this mare woke up if you trotted her a bit, so I entered the ring first, trotting her down to the far end where there was a little rise. When I stopped her, she struck a pose and ended up winning over Country Gentleman, the most touted Model Horse of his day. I was tickled."

Eventually, "Mr. Dudley wanted to retire. The Rheemses bought about half of Orca Island in Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington, and the family wanted my dad to work horses for them there. He didn't want to be in such an out of the way place, " Cynthia said. Her father also told her that he "had an offer to go to work for B.B. Tucker in Pomona and it was an opportunity he didn't want to pass up."

*** Part Two will cover working with Mr. Tucker, Lee Butler and Anacacho Shamrock.

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