By Linda White
The first Chincoteague Pony Swim, made famous by author Marguerite Henry’s book, Misty of Chincoteague, took place 30 years earlier. We mention the Chincoteague ponies because they figured prominently in the early life of Stanley White Sr., family patriarch, and perhaps the Arabian horse community’s most highly-esteemed living horseman. His influence has been incalculable, not only as a trainer, but also as a mentor of young people seeking careers in the Arabian realm.
Michele Blackwell-Betten is one of those. When Betten was nominated for the Arabian Professional and Amateur Horseman’s Association (APAHA) Hall of Fame, she told the Hall of Fame Committee, “Stanley White, Sr. was the first professional trainer who influenced me. He sat me down at 16, and taught me about lateral bending, and softening a horse from his nose to his tail. I have spent time at Stanley’s farm in Ocala, learning how to be a true horsewoman, throughout my career.”
No one has felt White’s influence more strongly than his son, Stanley White, Jr. He readily tells anyone who asks that he has always loved the horses as much as his father does. “When I wasn’t at school, I was always near the horses,” he explains. “I never once thought of doing anything except training Arabian horses; I didn’t know there was anything else in life.
“Arabs have gotten me to places I never would have been, and to meeting people I would never have met … and the horses have made it fun. I found out early that shows were fun, but they became more fun when I became a trainer myself.” Stan, Jr. recalls his early show ring experiences. “I showed a purebred mare in western pleasure for William Peebles, and showed some in jumping. My first major win was the 1973 US National Stock Seat Equitation Championship. Mother was there to make sure I didn’t get hurt,” he adds, smiling.
“Dad grew up in Waverly, Virginia, and even as a young boy, horses fascinated him. William Peebles, was a family friend. Mr. Peebles would buy pony foals at the annual Chincoteague auction, and Dad would help train them.”
“I was five years old when Dad began training at Al-Marah Arabians,” Stan, Jr. continues. “At first, we were at the home place, which was an equine zoo! Mrs. T. [Note: the late Bazy Tankersley, legendary breeder and founder of Al-Marah Arabians] had a pair of every kind of equine; she even kept zebras for the Washington [D.C.] Zoo. I wasn’t supposed to hang around the barns, but it was always the horses, for me.
“When I was about nine, Mrs. T. took me into the 3-year-old fillies’ pasture, to pick out one for me to train. Next, she built a training barn, and moved everything to Barnesville, Maryland, where I got to ride the ponies and draft horses. If I could catch ‘em, I would ride ‘em. In the evenings, we would cut cattle with the Arabian horses.”
In 1972, Don Ford was seriously thinking about selling all his Polish- and Crabbet-related Lancer Arabians, and getting out of the horse business. Ford took his idea to Lancer trainer and farm manager Stanley White, who had joined the Lancer team three years earlier. Stan White, Jr., an impressionable 13 at the time, remembers what came next.
“They came up with a game plan, and the original Lancer herd was sold in 1973. Then, they all went to Cairo, to the Egyptian Agricultural Organization (EAO), to look for the best Egyptian Arabian bloodstock. *Asadd (Sultan x Amani, by El Sareei) was one of the horses Mr. Ford bought. Dad trained and showed him to the 1975 U.S. National Champion Stallion and 1979 U.S. National Champion English Pleasure titles.”
Jim Lowe cleaned stalls at Lancer when he was in high school, went to Florida with them, and eventually, got to ride. Watching White’s approach to training horses and managing the farm, he came to idolize the man – a reverence that continues, unsullied.
“When you think about it, Stanley trained and showed an untrained, straight Egyptian stallion to a US national championship in English pleasure – at a time when the ring was filled with *Bask sons and daughters! Stanley was magical with horses,” marvels Lowe. “He could do in 10 days with a horse, what it would take somebody else six months to accomplish.”
In 1980, *Asadd became the linchpin of a second Lancer sale: a private auction at which dignitaries from Egypt, Argentina, England, Canada and West Germany joined Hollywood celebrities and Arabian enthusiasts from 42 states at Lancer’s Ocala, Florida facility. The sale was a benchmark for the Arabian breed.
In an article in the October 15, 1980 Ocala Star-Banner, Lifestyle Editor Alyse Lounsberry wrote, “Lancer’s Sale of Sales was a night of nights! I mean, how can you top a cable from Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat, wishing his pals Don and Jeanne Ford all the luck in the world for the private auction of their entire collection of Egyptian Arabian horses – an auction that lasted just a few hours, and netted well over $6.5 million?” Lounsberry continued, “They were paraded rather spectacularly by Stanley G. White, who some say is the best in the business when it comes to the training of prize-winning Arabians.” *Asadd was the first lot; Tom Chauncey had the winning bid: $1,525,000.
Stanley White, Jr. and his wife, Kathy have owned and operated White Rock Farms, in Argyle, Texas since 1985. Countless champions and national winners have been developed and campaigned by White and his clients since then. When asked what he believes is his greatest gift as a trainer, White replies, “Putting the finish on. That’s the part I like the best: when the horse tells you it’s ready to be fine-tuned, not just when you think it’s time. You have to have patience.
“An 8-horse Clydesdale hitch taught me patience. It took hours to braid them and hitch them! I have found that all horses will respond positively to learning to be patient. I have slowed everything down. I teach them to just be patient, and boy, has it made a difference! I get them ready, then let them relax. After a few minutes, being Arabians, they will look at me like they’re asking, “What would you like to teach me today?”
Health problems have sidelined Stan, Jr., for the past three seasons, but his son, Stanley White III, took up the metaphorical family torch and ran with it, years ago.
“Ironically, until I was about13, I wasn’t interested in the horses,” says Stanley White III, or “Three Sticks,” as his pals call him, alluding to the III after his name. “Then, I went to US Nationals and watched Chad Veenendall show, and it inspired me; I knew him from living in Michigan. That winter, I called my grandfather. I went to Ocala, and he picked out a show, gave me a horse to work, and a week of lessons. We got me some show clothes, and went to the show. I won both my classes.
“The following summer, I went to my dad’s, and he gave me a few horses to show. I did all right, and decided I wanted to train horses. When I was 16, I went to Texas, and stayed. That’s where the horses were. After high school, I started working for him.
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, a Lifetime Achievement Award winner, and his father, an APAHA Hall of Fame recipient, Stanley White III has twice been named
APAHA Western Trainer of the Year. In 2007 he went to work at Long Meadow Arabians, in Argyle, Texas, for Linda and Dennis Clark, Arabian owners since 1987. White has continued his winning ways. He trained and rode PA Lillith (Possesion PGA x Lily Dancer V, by Sundance Kid V) to the 2013 US National Western Pleasure Futurity Championship for Miriam and Joe Pockrus.
The 2014 show year saw White and his horses’ and riders’ unswerving road to tricolors and Regional titles, culminating in a unanimous 2014 US National Western Pleasure Championship, AOTR 55 and Over, for Dennis Clark aboard Kristian Dior. Add DLC Thebuckstopshere’s 2014 US National Half-Arabian Western Pleasure Futurity Championship; and a 2014 US National Half-Arabian Western Pleasure, Open Championship for Jeepers Kreepers. Dancin to Victory took Natalie Hunt to a US National Reserve Western Pleasure Championship, AOTR 19-35; and Anique Weber rode Jackie O to the 2014 US National Reserve Half-Arabian Western Pleasure, AOTR 36-54 honors. As Frank Sinatra crooned, “It was a very good year.”
Today, the senior Stanley White and his life partner, Kitty, live in retirement at Grandeur Arabians, an operation they established in 1981, in Citra, Florida. White shared some of his thoughts and beliefs in a September 2007 article by Charlene Strickland, “Training: Among the Breeds” that appeared in the USEF’s Equestrian magazine.
‘“I show all the time, and do all the actual training myself,” White, a longtime R judge in the Arabian division, told Strickland. How can he tell if a horse will be a national champion?
‘“They just have a look” he replied. “I saw a 3-year-old colt in Cairo and told my client, ‘You have to buy this colt.’ That was *Asadd, who ended up being one of a handful of horses ever to win US national championships in halter and performance
“I like them all have to have trainability,” he continued. “The horse has to trust you; a good horse trainer is a psychologist. You figure out their head, their athleticism, and their mental abilities. Horses are like people: they all have different attitudes. Usually, when you have trouble with a horse, it’s because he physically can’t do what you’re asking of him.
“It takes quite a while to get a horse to do what you want in the show ring. A good trainer can put a horse in the ring and make it look good in six months. It takes about a year to get the horse into physical shape, and then keep it in shape, just like any athlete. I have a mile track here, and I let them run as fast as they want to; I build that up to five miles. I do that with the young ones before I ride them….
“I move them straight forward,” he added. “When you longe or long-line young horses in a small circle, it’s extremely stressful on their joints, but on the track, you have no sharp turns. We do a lot of circling when we’re on their backs: just 15 minutes of work a day, to teach them what you want.”
How does he start the amateurs and inexperienced riders who come to him? “What I try to do first is make sure no one gets hurt. If an amateur isn’t a good rider, they need a horse that won’t hurt them. Don’t put them on their first horse and scare them! Training the person is like training the animal: you just want to help them succeed.
“One day, I was teaching a first riding lesson to one lady, while another had been riding with me for a year. I told my wife, ‘That’s real good,’ and she asked, ‘What was so good?’ I said, ‘They haven’t fallen off, have they?’
“The main thing I see amateurs doing wrong, is that they cover each other up, and get in each other’s way. Even when you’re schooling your horse, have a plan about where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. When they get in the ring, it’s like their brains run out the bottom of their boots. They see a horse that’s already acting up, and then ride right into that mess!
‘“I tell my amateurs, “Ride five or six feet off the rail, so the horse has to depend on you. When he goes to the rail for support or protection, he can bang you into a post, or hit your stirrup on the rail.” I teach them that with 20 horses in the class, the judge will have only 30 seconds to look at you. You want him to see the best every time he looks at your horse. Nine times out of ten, the judge won’t see if you make a little bobble, but you hurry and fix it. I tell them, ‘You have to think, think, think. This is a thinking person’s game.’”
All the wisdom a teenage Jim Lowe gained from Stanley White, Sr., is only part of the legacy White has passed forward: “Everything he did was meticulous,” says Lowe. “The horses, their care, the barn, the grounds and facility were spotless, immaculate …. Perfect. Everything was perfect. He has always been fantastic with a horse, and he taught me what hard work meant. He is the proudest man I have ever known: proud of his family, proud of the White family name, and proud of his life’s work. There is no greater Arabian horseman.”