Ralph Nester: Moving on to PA, 1969

There comes a time when one has to try to improve their income and position and that time had come in 1969. With the uncertainty of the position at Penowa Farms and the suggestion of my mentor, Dr. Wright, I decided to make a move.  I was offered double the wage (was offered the equal to it by Penowa farms),  but, I decided to move on. My mentor Doc Wright was about to be done doing the vet work at the farm, and without him, it would have been a different show.

So, Doc got me a job with Derry Meeting Farm in Cochranville, PA.   It was a new, upcoming farm in the industry owned by a wall street business advisor.   He had a few horses and it was a great place to live.  There were many horsemen and families: the Hannums,  Morans,  Bruce Miller Farm,  Morris Dixon, Cromptons , Weymouths , Andrew Wyeth (the painter)  Ledgards, Mrs. Thourons, Buck and Doe Run Farm, Fisher… a lot of hunt meet people,   fox-hunting , steeplechase races. Barclay Tagg, a steeplechase rider was among them.

I remember him riding a horse for us (Fiddler). in Upperville or the Maryland Hunt Cup. He was a great steeplechase rider and the top trainer of Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner Funny Cide.   We conditioned a few steeplechase horses there, broke and schooled them, something new to me, but I caught on quickly.  Galloping in the huge King Ranch fields…you had to jump the jumps to enter and leave and many jumps throughout the fields and woods.  There were regular fox-hunting events.

One time I was galloping a filly that D. Michael Smithwick had sent us, her name was Up In The Clouds.  She was a granddaughter of Citation and had chronic bucked shins.   It’s a painful condition and they couldn’t get her to the races, so I called Dr. Wright.  He said for thirty days jog her up the hills and don’t gallop her.  Well, after thirty days of jogging, the swelling went down and her shins cooled out.  I started with slow, long gallops up the King Ranch fields,  where the Santa Gertrudis cattle were kept in the summer. They shipped in on box cars from King Ranch in Texas.  Cowboys would ride into the box cars and drive them off the train cars.

One morning, I was galloping up the dirt road and there was high grass on both sides.  I was standing straight up; I galloped with short stirrups.  I was leaning back and had a snug hold on her as she was a strong-headed mare and feeling good now that she was sound and over the shin problems thanks to the carefully-followed directions by the great Dr. Wright.  (You had better follow his expert advice or he would have no interest in you.)  I was up late the night before,  half asleep and halfway up the field.  At about daybreak, these three steers jumped up out of their bed and startled my mare, Up In The Clouds.

The next thing I remember, my heels hit the ground and I was being dragged backwards very far as she had propped and stopped on a dime. I knew not to turn loose of the reins as the steers would be after me.  I did complete a somersault forward and only thing that hit the ground were the heels of my galloping boots.   No helmets in those days.  I did some talking to get her stopped and finally after about thirty yards, she stopped.  I got up, jumped back on her and galloped home.

I went to get breakfast and sat down and when I finished, I said to Pat, my wife, “I can’t stand up.”   I had whiplash and had to call a doctor, a family doctor came to the house to get me moving and give me a muscle relaxant,  I couldn’t call Doc Wright,  my vet,  he was teaching at New Bolton Center.


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