0:00

SMITH: Now, I think I've gotten that taken care of.

CRABTREE: How in depth do you want this stuff anyway?

SMITH: Well, uh, pretty much. You know, as in depth as you want to go. Um, what we often find is that a lot of people are comfortable telling long stories and some people aren't so it's really, I mean I hope that you can just relax and tell me as much about some of these things. You know, I may just throw out a name that'll remind you of a story or of an issue and uh, please. And like I say, if you're willing to, we can do this over a period of sessions over the course of a year even. It doesn't have to be right away. Okay, I'm testing the levels, oh, periodically you'll see me look down to much sure that the recording levels are okay. I, uh, I have trouble with that too, so I'm not ignoring you. All right, this is Kim Lady Smith and it is the seventh, 1:0027th of June 2007. I'm at the home of Redd Crabtree in Simpsonville, Kentucky, conducting an interview for the Horse Industry in Kentucky Oral History Project. And to get started, this is what I ask everyone, if you can tell me where you were born and your full name?

CRABTREE: September 5th, 1935.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: My name is Charles Edward Crabtree.

SMITH: Okay. Now where were you born?

CRABTREE: I was born in a community called Aberdeen in Arkansas.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: It's no longer there now.

SMITH: Oh, really? Now is that where you were, where you lived your earliest part of your life?

CRABTREE: Several years. I was born on a, in a, a tent.

SMITH: Really?

CRABTREE: Yeah and our family lived on the river. White River.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And it's was 1935, you know, Depression time and things were not easy.

SMITH: Now where your parents from that area?

2:00

CRABTREE: Um hum. Yes. Both my, my father and my mother both from there.

SMITH: Um, do you want to tell me their names?

CRABTREE: My father's name was Poland Jones. My mother's, mother's name was Susan Goodwin.

SMITH: Okay. Now did you have uh, any siblings?

CRABTREE: I have two brothers, younger than me.

SMITH: So what do you remember about your early life, say your education, where you went to school or?

CRABTREE: Uh, my father left the river and became a, a dragline operator. He, he uh, dug irrigation ditches all over the central Arkansas, where the rice farms are now.

3:00

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And , and so we moved a lot. I remember going to an awful lot of different schools. I remember where I started to school. It was where my grandmother lived in a community called Roe, Arkansas.

SMITH: How do you spell that?

CRABTREE: R-O-E.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And it uh, it was an unpainted wooden schoolhouse.

SMITH: A one room school?

CRABTREE: No, it wasn't one room. But, uh, there were several rooms. There were a lot, there were several classes in different rooms but it wasn't one room. I did go to a one room school later after my mother died. I was in a children's home and uh, we were in, (pause) I 4:00think it was Stone County, Arkansas. I can't remember the name of the community and there was a one room school there. We all went to school in the same room.

SMITH: Okay, so how old were you when your mother passed away?

CRABTREE: Nine.

SMITH: And at that point you went to uh,

CRABTREE: We, we first went to a Catholic orphanage

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: uh, my brothers and I and then my father remarried and that didn't work out for us living with them, and so we went to live in a children's home. There was a man, a very dynamic man in Arkansas at the time named James McGrail. And he uh, he started an orphanage. He also ran for governor. He, he invented paper washcloths and things 5:00like that, he was a good man.

SMITH: Hmm, so he started the orphanage you were in?

CRABTREE: Um hum. He was, he was a minister. He went around preaching.

SMITH: Did the children have any interaction with him or was he just the benefactor?

CRABTREE: Oh we went, a lot of times we went with him. Yeah, I remember going with him to different functions. He was a nice guy. His son who I hadn't seen since I left there in 1950, one or two? I hadn't seen him but he is in California and Bill Carrington, that's somebody else you probably ought to interview, Bill Carrington told me when he was announcing the show in, in California and James McGrail told him to tell 6:00me hello. And that was Jim McGrail. He had a set of Morgan horses.

SMITH: Oh, okay. Okay, um, what can you tell me about your experience of being in, the home? And, did you feel that it was a good place for you to land?

CRABTREE: Oh, hell yes. It was nice. The Catholic orphans' home was wonderful and, you know, food, every, everything you could want for. In fact, school was really good. Uh, all that part. The, the nuns were awfully nice.

SMITH: Um hum.

CRABTREE: Uncle Max home for boys, I guess thats, there were girls, that's not right. Uncle Max, that was a nice place. There were good people there and they were awfully nice to us.

7:00

SMITH: So, um, you were educated there and did, was, were you required to work? Did you have chores and things that they had you do?

CRABTREE: Uh, yeah. I cut grass when I was in the Catholic orphans' home. And there, and they had a, a farm. This was in, the orphanage itself was in North Little Rock and had a farm someplace some distance away from there. And uh, I was, I guess I was troubled because I, I wasn't getting along very well with other people and, uh.

SMITH: And you were about nine? Maybe ten?

CRABTREE: Yeah. Yeah. And so they finally because of trying, trying to figure out how to make me happy they asked me what I liked doing. 8:00I said let me go out to the farm. And so I did. And uh, and that was good.

SMITH: Um. So, was that your first experience with horses?

CRABTREE: No. There really, there weren't any horses there that I knew much about. My first experience with horses was at my mother's father's farm. He was a tenant farmer and they raised, uh, hay and, uh, sorghum molasses.

SMITH: Um hum.

CRABTREE: Sorghum. And the first horse I think I probably ever rode was a horse that was walked in a circle for the power for sorghum mill.

SMITH: Oh, okay and you rode the horse?

CRABTREE: Well, I finally got smart enough that instead of walking behind him (laughs) I climbed up on him, (laughs) after, after some time.

SMITH: So this was when you were a young child?

9:00

CRABTREE: Yeah.

SMITH: Okay. So what kind of work did you do on the farm when you started working there? When you were in the orphanage?

CRABTREE: (laughs) There was a guy there. His name was Mike and he was the first person I ever saw with a crew, crew cut. And he had just, he was a Marine and he, he was left on the doorstep of that orphanage. And he had come home from the war and uh, he was, uh, helping out there. And uh, so it was his duty to take me out to the farm. And he was a big handsome rugged kind of a guy.

SMITH: Uh huh.

CRABTREE: And I respected him quite a lot. And I got out of the car and it was a station wagon. First station wagon I ever saw. And at that time, station wagons were wooden if you remember.

SMITH: Yeah, yeah.

CRABTREE: At that time and I got out of the car and he grabbed me by the nap of the neck and took me over to this chicken yard and opened the gate and he said "Boy, you see those?" and there were mason fruit jars turned upside down for waterers. You ever seen waterers?

10:00

SMITH: Unh uh.

CRABTREE: Well there, that was the way of watering chickens at that time. They put a thing in and so water would come out as they drank the water out. And uh, he said "Your job is to keep those filled with water and if I ever catch, catch one of them empty, I'm going to kick your ass right up between your shoulder blades." And so I respected him enough, I'd chase chickens away from them (laughs) and keep them full.

SMITH: Um, so, was that your primary responsibility on the farm?

CRABTREE: That's all I remember doing uh, there that was my job. I'm sure I messed around with other stuff but that was my duty.

SMITH: Now, were your brothers with you?

CRABTREE: Not there. They were in the orphanage but they didn't go out to the farm.

SMITH: Now were they younger than you or?

CRABTREE: Uh huh. Both of them were younger, both of them.

SMITH: Okay, um, okay, so you were born in '35 and clearly your family 11:00had some, some struggles there and was that due to the Depression, do you think?

CRABTREE: Because of my mother dying?

SMITH: No, just the fact that --

CRABTREE: Well, uh, times, times were just hard. My father wasn't a farmer. He didn't, didn't like farming at all and he was a very uh, talented individual. He could do anything, any kind of machinery. I mean he just automatically knew how to do anything with his hands. He built boats, he built cars. He uh, he even at one time made a violin that people thought had perfect pitch, or great pitch. I'll tell you what, what he did to help the pitch; he put a rattlesnake rattle in it to make it sound better. I do know that.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: He took that damn thing apart a lot of times and put it back together. You know, I mean, he was a talented, he had talent.

12:00

SMITH: Did he play the violin?

CRABTREE: What?

SMITH: Did he play the violin?

CRABTREE: Oh, he'd play anything. He could play any kind of, if he heard a, heard, he didn't have any kind of education at all and, uh, couldn't read a note of music, I'm sure, but if he heard something, somebody play something, he could do it, a guitar. His family had a, had a band, a musical group.

SMITH: Huh, okay.

CRABTREE: And his two sisters and his brother and mother, they all had, they, they played in it for a while. I'm not sure exactly what happened because I don't know.

SMITH: Uh, huh.

CRABTREE: But they did and they traveled around and did that some.

SMITH: Hum.

CRABTREE: He got interested in heavy machinery and became a dragline operator and uh, then he started moving us all over.

SMITH: Now, what did your mother die of?

13:00

CRABTREE: My mother had epilepsy.

SMITH: Oh.

CRABTREE: And she drowned to death in the bathtub.

SMITH: Oh, that's tragic.

CRABTREE: Had an epileptic seizure.

SMITH: That must have been awfully hard.

CRABTREE: Yeah.

SMITH: Um, okay, so your, uh--

NANCY CRABTREE: -- -----------(??)

CRABTREE: (laughs) Yeah, we did. We lived in a one room houseboat. It was on logs.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And, uh, we all lived in that thing.

SMITH: He built the houseboat?

CRABTREE: Sure. No, my aunt says he didn't but he built everything else. I know he built a house trailer that we lived in. He'd pull it around to different parts of Arkansas where these jobs were in.

SMITH: He does sound a very talented person.

CRABTREE: He was.

SMITH: Um, so you said he remarried.

CRABTREE: Um hum.

14:00

SMITH: And, uh, you all ended up staying --

CRABTREE: It just didn't work out. She was awful young and, uh, we clashed. I had red hair and she did too. (laughs)

SMITH: Okay, that might explain it. Um, so how did you meet the Crabtrees?

CRABTREE: I was in Uncle Max home and, uh, I, uh, I went over and applied for a job at their stable which is my mother's stable which was almost next door. And I tell people I did that to keep from going to vacation bible school. (laughs)

SMITH: Is that true?

CRABTREE: Yes, I think so.

SMITH: Okay. So you started working for them.

CRABTREE: Yeah, I did. I worked there during the summertime, went to a few horse shows with them. My dad had gotten out of the horse industry. His father, his brother, uh, owned a generator business.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And they rebuilt generators and all that sort of thing. And 15:00he had a territory in Arkansas and they were from St. Louis at that time. And so dad went to work for his brother and, uh, delivering, picking up generators all over Arkansas for, he didn't do it but for maybe a year, I think. And, uh, mom moved too, from St. Louis, where they had a stable and moved to Little Rock to be closer to him, to, to his business.

SMITH: And so she was running the stable herself?

CRABTREE: Uh, huh, she was. Of course, he was there most of the time on the weekends anyway so when we went to horse shows, he was there.

SMITH: Okay, so this would have been in what years are we talking about, '51, '52?

CRABTREE: Well, '49, '50, '51.

SMITH: And you were about ten years old? Let's see, eleven years old?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: So, did you like working with the horses?

CRABTREE: Yeah, sure.

SMITH: Would, uh, of course this would, uh, other than riding the horse 16:00that was dealing with the sorghum, so this would be your first time you'd actually worked with horses?

CRABTREE: Yes, uh, huh.

SMITH: So can you describe some of those early experiences?

CRABTREE: Well, it was new and it was fascinating, you know. Uh, I, uh, it took me a while to learn to ride. That, that wasn't easy. I know I'd slip on horses when they were gone, you know. And, uh, this posting business was (laughs) something new for me, you know. I was used to being able to do most anything I wanted to do; athletically I, I could always do it. And I didn't, uh, riding didn't come easy for me or, you know, until my mother had given me a few lessons, (laughs) when she realized I wanted to ride.

SMITH: So you were doing it, uh, with them not actually knowing it at first?

CRABTREE: Right.

SMITH: Okay. Who else, do you remember some of the other people who were working on the farm at the time? Did she have much help at that point? At her stables?

17:00

CRABTREE: Uh, golly, yeah, there was a guy there. We had a guy named Junior Spitzer worked for us, for them. And there was a guy from up close to Missouri. What the hell was his name? They were nice guys. I know Junior Spitzer, mom and dad went away to Fort Worth to the horse show and he had parties at the house. I remember that became a problem. (laughs)

SMITH: Okay. So now you were only there though in the summer for, for --

CRABTREE: Well, they invited me to live, to come live with them at the end of that summer.

SMITH: Of the first summer --

CRABTREE: Um huh.

SMITH: That you worked there. Okay. Okay. Um, did you, were you excited about that? Was that something that you wanted to do?

CRABTREE: Yeah, yeah. That, that sounded good to me.

SMITH: Now you said you were kind of trouble at the, uh, orphanage. Had 18:00you worked out some of those issues by the time you got to working with them or did, was working with them very helpful in that regard? (pause) Or maybe I misunderstood.

CRABTREE: I don't know. I hadn't thought about it like that. Um, I, uh, I know I was very self-conscious. I had red hair and I didn't take to people teasing me. And, uh, people do tend to tease red-haired, freckled faced people. And so I ended up fighting a lot.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And, uh, so that's, I know I, I very seriously injured one guy.

SMITH: Oh.

CRABTREE: Or two, actually. One guy, we were folding clothes one day in a, in a large laundry room and he and I, it was our duty to fold these, these clothes. And he was, he would always tease me and he would tell 19:00people that he was my brother. And that just ran all over me anyway and so he had a pair of shoes on that had, uh, heal clicks on them.

SMITH: Uh, huh.

CRABTREE: And, uh, I swung at him and when I did, he jumped back and this place, the floors were always so slick. It looked like water was laying on them, and concrete. And his, he slipped and his feet slipped out from under him. He hit his head on the floor and knocked him out.

SMITH: Oh.

CRABTREE: And I told everybody in that place I knocked him out --(Smith laughs)-- and he whipped me a number of times but I never told anybody the difference.

SMITH: Ah, I don't blame you. (laughs) may have cut down on some of the future fights that way so. (laughs) Um, so you started living with them and that was okay with the orphanage at that point?

CRABTREE: Yeah, they, they talked to my father first of all.

20:00

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: The Crabtrees talked to my father and that was good for him.

SMITH: Okay. And your brothers stayed at the, at the orphanage? At that point they were still there?

CRABTREE: Yeah, he, uh, dad, my father, uh, wanted to make a stipulation they he had to take all three of us but

SMITH: Hmm.

CRABTREE: But mom and dad wouldn't do that so they did stay there. They weren't there much longer though. They went back home.

SMITH: Okay. So they went back to your father's house?

CRABTREE: Uh, huh.

SMITH: Okay. Do you keep in touch with them?

CRABTREE: I see my brothers now. Uh, huh.

SMITH: Good. Um, so how long, now the Crabtrees, so you started living with them but were you still going to school at that point?

CRABTREE: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we, uh, I went to school there and the community where the school was Mabelvale, Arkansas, which is outside of Little Rock. And then we moved to Collierville, Tennessee. Uh, they went to work for Gregnon Farm, started a horse farm in Collierville, 21:00Tennessee. And they, uh, we moved there. And uh, I went there in the seventh grade.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And, uh, and stayed there until I would be a senior in high school, which was when we moved to Louisville.

SMITH: Okay, so you were with them in Little Rock, what about a year or two before they moved to Tennessee?

CRABTREE: A year maybe.

SMITH: Okay. Uh, were you excited about moving away from Arkansas? Did that sound like a good idea? Of course, you said you'd moved a lot with your dad.

CRABTREE: I don't' know that I was excited about it. I don't, I don't --

SMITH: Just didn't care. Okay. Okay. Um, so then when did you all move to Louisville from Tennessee?

CRABTREE: 1953, I think.

SMITH: Okay. And then you went to school somewhere --

CRABTREE: At Eastern High School my senior year.

SMITH: Okay.

22:00

CRABTREE: Uh, and my mother and dad operated Rock Creek Stable in Louisville until 1957 when we moved out here.

SMITH: Okay. Now, after you, well while you were still in Little Rock and then as you moved to Tennessee, what, how would you describe your involvement with the horses?

CRABTREE: Well, I became a lot more active then. I started, uh, riding an awful lot. And uh, working at that and I had duties at the barn. And in the summertime I did, I had a job.

SMITH: Okay. Um, were you showing horses?

CRABTREE: I did. Uh, this family had three daughters and that's why they had this horse farm, was their daughters. And so I was pretty limited about showing because competing with them. I know, uh, the, 23:00the people's name was Wrape. W R A P E

SMITH: Uh huh.

CRABTREE: And Mr. Wrape thought it would be a good idea if I showed at this horse show in Paragould, Arkansas.

SMITH: Um hum.

CRABTREE: The significance of that, that's also were Lee Shipman is from.

SMITH: Oh, okay.

CRABTREE: And, uh, there was a guy named Jack Johnson, no, Vic Johnson was judging the horse show, was a very, pretty good Saddle horse trainer and, uh, he didn't know anything about horsemanship or equitation or that sort of thing. And so I was showing against the daughters and I beat them. And that the last of that. (laughs) I never heard any more about "Let Redd show." (laughs) I did show at Lexington in the boys' class, uh, sometime after that.

SMITH: Do you remember your first show? The first time you ever showed?

24:00

CRABTREE: No, really I don't. I remember showing one night in the mud in a horse show. I remember showing, sort of remember showing in Paragould because the horse I showed was, had a big white face and four white legs up above her knees and hocks and a spot on her belly. I remember that, you know.

SMITH: Now, uh, who owned the horses you would have shown at that time?

CRABTREE: My mother and dad.

SMITH: Okay. Okay. So at that point, they were working in Tennessee, they also owned . . .

CRABTREE: Some of their own horses.

SMITH: Okay, and when they came, you all came to Louisville, did you bring horses with you?

CRABTREE: Actually they did. They had a couple of customers that sent horses there with them. We ended up with horses from people in Eugene, Oregon, and uh.

SMITH: Um, about that time --

CRABTREE: First place they were very successful, they always were. My mother and dad were very successful when they were in St. Louis.

SMITH: Uh, huh.

CRABTREE: And then uh, they were successful in Arkansas. And then when 25:00they, in Collierville they were tremendously successful. Uh, dad, they ended up having a stallion there that he'd bought the dam of carrying this horse that became one of the best in the industry. Uh, if you ask anybody about the significance of Denmark's Bourbon Genius, they'll tell you that he --

SMITH: I've heard that.

CRABTREE: He had a big impact in this industry.

SMITH: Okay. Um, let's talk a little bit about their, um, reputation at that point. Now, because I've said I read the book and I've heard number of people who, uh, were trained by your mother primarily, I think and uh, even some of the Mountain horse people were talking to me about attending a workshop that your mother did. Um, but at that time, when you were, you know, a teenager. Um, what was their reputation, were they fairly well rec-, recognized within the industry?

CRABTREE: Oh, yeah. My mother was always awfully talented. She started 26:00a program at the college, she'd, in Jacksonville, Illinois, when she was just, uh, very, very young. And it was successful. I mean she, she had a knack for teaching and, and all that and she was a good rider so people asked her to ride their horses. And, when she was very young, and she did that and so she, she got a, a known reputation for being talented. And uh,

SMITH: So, primarily as a teacher and a rider?

CRABTREE: Uh huh.

SMITH: So, not necessarily as a trainer?

CRABTREE: Well, uh, my mother, she did train horses but I, I don't, I don't want to--she didn't train colts.

SMITH: Oh, okay.

CRABTREE: And, uh, she was awfully good about taking horses that other people had trained to a point and redoing them and, uh, helping them.

27:00

SMITH: Um hum.

CRABTREE: She could see potential in horses that sometimes other people couldn't see. And that was, that was one of her gifts her whole life, was being able to take horses and redo them and make them better.

SMITH: Um, and what about your father? How would you describe his talent with horses?

CRABTREE: He was always very talented. He started off showing, uh, jumpers.

SMITH: Oh.

CRABTREE: And roadster horses, uh, just because he just ended up in that environment. Uh, he always wanted to train Saddle horses and, and when he and mom got married, then he went just exclusive to Saddle horses.

SMITH: Okay. Now I know your mother was from Illinois.

CRABTREE: Um, hum. Jacksonville, Illinois.

SMITH: And where was your father from?

CRABTREE: He was from Hart County, Kentucky.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And he moved to St. Louis when he was maybe ten years old or something like that so he lived his young life in St. Louis.

28:00

SMITH: How did they meet? I'm not sure I --

CRABTREE: Horse show.

SMITH: Okay. (laughs) In St. Louis or in that --

CRABTREE: I don't know. They went to an awful lot of those horse shows in that area of Illinois around St. Louis.

SMITH: Okay. Okay. Um, --

CRABTREE: It might have been Du Quoin, Illinois. Du Quoin had an awfully good horse show at that time. And, of course they, they showed there. They showed Chicago International which is a big time horse show. In fact, it was bigger than our world championship horse show, in prestige and numbers and all that stuff at that time.

SMITH: Okay. Um, now you know I've explained that I don't know a lot about the horse industry. I've done a few interviews and research I've done on Saddlebreds. I'm, I still have quite a bit to learn. Um, and one thing there where I'm trying to understand more is how people make a living with Saddlebreds. And, um, I know that some people are on the 29:00breeding end of it, some are on the training end of it, some teaching. How would you describe how your parents built a living?

CRABTREE: All of the above.

SMITH: All of the above. (laughs) Okay. What do you think they liked the most?

CRABTREE: I don't know that I could say what they liked the most because they certainly enjoyed the breeding end of the business. They enjoyed the, the showing end of the business and my, uh, they enjoyed the teaching part about it. Uh, my mother's a very definite people person.

SMITH: Um.

CRABTREE: And she had a way of selling people. Uh, I don't know if they liked any part of it better than the other. They just liked horses, the horse industry.

SMITH: Now that comes through in your, in your mother's book quite a 30:00bit. And of course she talks quite a bit about the people she, she taught. So many of those articles deal with that. Now, did your father, was he as involved in teaching as she was?

CRABTREE: No, he did teach. And an awful lot of the people that he taught liked for him to teach them better than they liked my mother because he wasn't as quite as demanding and he would be funny and that sort of thing, I think. Uh, and he just had a, he wasn't as strict and all that. And I know I've had any number of them so they really liked it when he would take them to a horse show and Momma didn't go, you know. (laughs)

SMITH: Did they do as well with your father?

CRABTREE: Sure. Yeah.

SMITH: Huh. And I'm sure throughout the interview we'll, we'll be talking about your parents periodically but, if you were to describe their influence on the industry, how would you describe that?

31:00

CRABTREE: Well, I've, I've heard it said that my mother helped dress this industry up. And, uh, I think what people mean is that she took really, really good horses and taught people to ride them instead of putting people on the lesser horses, which is what had happened until about the time she came along. She, she changed this industry pretty dramatically because, uh, she proved that these people could be taught to ride these really high-pow, high-powered horses, where here before they were pretty selective about doing that. And, uh, and it, and it kind of snowballed. You saw a lot of other people doing it, in short, short order.

SMITH: I would think that would help increase the popularity.

CRABTREE: It did. It did. It helped the industry tremendously and people, people acknowledged that.

SMITH: Okay. Because it brought more?

CRABTREE: Uh huh.

SMITH: Okay. That makes sense. Um, they won so many awards and, uh, --

32:00

CRABTREE: They earned them. (laughs)

SMITH: Yeah. It, it sounds like they worked pretty hard.

CRABTREE: They did. In fact, they worked, my mother worked too hard.

SMITH: Uh, huh.

CRABTREE: And it, and it ended up costing her eventually.

SMITH: In what way?

CRABTREE: Psychologically.

SMITH: Okay. I'm sure she had a hard time as she, as she had to give some of it up, over the years.

CRABTREE: Yeah, yeah. That wasn't easy for her. That wasn't.

SMITH: What --

CRABTREE: She had become a figure, you know. And, uh, when that was no longer relevant enough, that was hard.

SMITH: I hear that from a lot of people, although every situation is different. But, um, the, uh, and your father at the same time, how 33:00would you describe his influence?

CRABTREE: Well, an awful lot of time dad came along and cleaned up our mess. (laughs)

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: But his, his influence, I think he, he, first of all, well my dad's greatest gift probably was that he knew how to take care of horses. And he, uh, he was very close to being a veterinarian. Uh, he could tell when things were wrong with horses and, uh, and he, I know our friend, Dr. Cochran, who's on your list has always said he was the smartest man about horse he ever knew.

SMITH: Hmm, in terms of taking care of them.

CRABTREE: Uh huh. Telling what's wrong with them and what they needed.

SMITH: What do you think, um, drove them to be so involved with horses? 34:00What was it about horses that, um, kept them in the business? Were they just passionate about them or?

CRABTREE: What, what about them does anybody, keeps anybody? I don't know. I don't know if there's any, a word to describe it. I, I don't know that.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: We just kind of get in it and can't get out, I think. (laughs)

SMITH: That's probably a good way to describe it. Um, but it seems that they really cared about horses.

CRABTREE: Yeah, they did. They, they were admirer of really good horses. Uh, huh, and they, and they always had really good horses and you know.

SMITH: Was it always Saddlebred?

CRABTREE: Uh huh. Yeah. Now my dad started off with jumpers, riding jumpers and uh, and driving roadster horses but as soon as they hooked up, it was all Saddle horses.

SMITH: Okay. So that was what your mother was most familiar with?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: Okay. Let's get back to you and your early years with horses. 35:00Um, as you started riding them, you said your mother pretty much taught you how to ride?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: When did you begin to feel like this was something you wanted to work with?

CRABTREE: Well, I remember going to the first big time horse show I went to was St. Louis National Horse Show. And St. Louis National at that time was a big deal. And I saw Wing Commander and Replica show there --

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: Against each other. And, uh, from that time on, I think I was hooked.

SMITH: Really? About how old were you then?

CRABTREE: Um hum. About ten or eleven years old.

SMITH: Oh, very young. Okay. Okay. So what did you think of Wing Commander? I've heard a little bit about him.

CRABTREE: Oh, I thought he was tremendous. I mean I just, I never saw an athlete better than him. But I thought --

SMITH: Ever?

CRABTREE: No, but I, you know something? At that time I thought Replica was better because he was prettier.

SMITH: Oh.

CRABTREE: And, uh, he was a big flashy horse that had a lot of, I guess 36:00the word now is charisma. Wing Commander was a powerful horse that, uh, just was a machine. And later in my life I come to realize Wing Commander was the significant horse we ever had in this industry, when I started training horses. And, uh --

SMITH: Uh, explain what you mean by that?

CRABTREE: Well, first of all, Wing Commander is the only horse that we ever had in the history of this business that sired both show horses and breeding horses that were equal. Almost all horses we ever had before him could sire either breeding horses or performance horses but not both. He did both. He sired sires that were tremendous sires and he sired broodmares that were tremendous broodmares. He sired horses that were tremendous show horses in all the divisions. Uh, he, he's easily the most influential horse we ever had in this industry.

37:00

SMITH: Hmm, that's saying a lot.

CRABTREE: Well, that's my opinion.

SMITH: Now, he, um, when did he pass away? When did he die?

CRABTREE: Oh, Lord.

SMITH: Was that in the '60's?

CRABTREE: Yeah, it was early '60's. Uh, huh.

SMITH: Okay and he was owned by um --

CRABTREE: Dodge, Van Lennups. Dodge Stables, Earl Teater. Do you have, do you have Ed Teater on your list?

SMITH: Yes, I do.

CRABTREE: Yeah, uh, yeah.

SMITH: Okay. Okay, so, uh, after that, um, by the time you were in Louisville and going to high school, what were your plans?

CRABTREE: Well, when I was still in Collierville, I started, uh, talking about you know maybe I'd like to be a horse trainer. And uh, dad told me, said if you want to do that, what you should do is, you should go work for somebody else. And, uh, I had seen Lee Roby ride Replica and 38:00Lee Roby seemed to just have a way with a horse that was just different and so I chose Lee Roby to go to work for. And I went out there for a summer and a summer is not a long enough time to learn how to be a horse trainer, although he gave me a couple of colts to, or he gave me the two best horses in the barn to take care of. And, uh, --

SMITH: Now where was he then?

CRABTREE: Tulsa, Oklahoma.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And, uh, I, I didn't learn any of the answers. I just learned a lot of the questions.

SMITH: Oh, that's half the battle. (laughs) So then you came back to Louisville?

CRABTREE: Louisville, uh, huh.

SMITH: And what did you do after that?

CRABTREE: Well, I, uh, of course, I worked here all the summers and with mom and dad and weekends. And then I went tried Centre College for a year. And I worked at Grassland Farm down there on the weekends 39:00and after school. I had helped them show colts for a number of years, lead, leading colts for them. They had a wonderful man working for them named Houston Pryor and he was very good to me. And I had helped them right along and uh, so, at the end of my freshman year at Centre, my grades were such that I was going to have to go back. I was going to be on something, uh --

SMITH: Probation?

CRABTREE: No, it wasn't probation but it might have, that was a good word for it. Uh, and my mother had, as a child had had scarlet fever, and so she had a condition called angina. And uh, my dad, I think that summer, back went out. He was riding those jumpers and caused 40:00him problems and his back went out and he could not ride or work for a period of many months. And so I was the only healthy one and so I became the trainer. And I started doing all the training and, uh, it was the best thing that could have happened for me, you know, because I got to do it all. With them.

SMITH: Right.

CRABTREE: And their helping me.

SMITH: So when you were training, what were you training the horses in?

CRABTREE: What?

SMITH: What, and this is were I wish I understood the terminology better but, where you training in all the divisions?

CRABTREE: Yeah, uh, huh.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: We didn't have any fine harness horses at that time but we had three-gaited and five-gaited horses and three-gaited and five-gaited ponies and equitation horses and all that, all that.

SMITH: Now, at that time, um, was your mother having boarders in that she was training at that stage?

CRABTREE: No, that, that would have been at Rock Creek when we were at Louisville. Although, there were some people came there from Oklahoma, 41:00but that, we didn't have any facilities for them to live in or stay in or anything at that time.

SMITH: Okay. And that was, that was fairly common for how people got training.

CRABTREE: Yeah, uh, huh.

SMITH: I mean, going someplace to stay was not the common thing?

CRABTREE: No.

SMITH: Okay. Okay, um, so why did your parents leave Rock Creek?

CRABTREE: Well, they had promised them that they would upgrade the facilities down there. And uh, and they didn't and they kept upgrading the rent. (Smith laughs) And so they just decided it would be better off in there own facility. And we came out here and bought this farm, the other end of the farm, not this part we're on right now but the other end, the original end. And uh, to use as a, a broodmare facility which we had a few mares out there.

SMITH: That you owned? That they owned?

42:00

CRABTREE: Yeah. And uh, and so then, I don't know, you know how things like that happen. They raise the rent one time too many times and this and that, you know. We'd just rather move and so that's what they did. Because the barn down there at Rock Creek at that time was pretty ramshackle. And it wasn't conducive to running a really classy operation.

SMITH: So by the time they moved out here, did they have a number of clients that would be with them at that point?

CRABTREE: Almost everybody down there moved out here with us.

SMITH: Okay. Okay. So what was the plan? Um, I mean you --

CRABTREE: What do you mean plan? You don't make plans. (laughs)

SMITH: What do you do?

CRABTREE: You want to hear God laugh? Tell him your plans. (laughs)

SMITH: Okay. Well, what did they expect to happen when they moved out here and started Crabtree Farms?

CRABTREE: What did they expect?

SMITH: Um, huh.

CRABTREE: They hoped. They just hoped to run a business.

43:00

SMITH: Okay. Okay, well, how did they, um, now I've read where Crabtree Farms was the largest stable in the country.

CRABTREE: I, I will tell you this, and it wasn't easy, you know, because the horse industry has never been an easy place to make money. In any, I don't think in any facet. I'm not familiar with the Thoroughbred business but the people I know in it, I think I can say that it's not easy for them to make money in it. Uh, and so it wasn't easy when we moved out here. We had to build a barn, first of all. And uh, and run a business and a man wandered in there one day. I mean he looked like a, well he was a cross between Indian and an Eskimo and he was a saint. And he came in and he bought like twelve horses in a period of three 44:00or four days.

SMITH: Okay. That helped.

CRABTREE: That helped.

SMITH: Huh. Okay. Um, again I'm going to show my ignorance here. So he bought twelve horses, where those twelve horses that your parents owned?

CRABTREE: I don't think they owned a one of them.

SMITH: But they were selling them for --

CRABTREE: They bought them from Dodge Stables, they bought them from George Gwinn, they bought them from Frank Bradshaw.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: He was from Canada and he owned a ranch in Canada.

SMITH: Okay. Okay. So, did your parents, I apologize because I'm afraid I'm going to sound so stupid, but did he keep the horses here and they trained them?

CRABTREE: He did for almost two years and then he took, started taking them home. He, uh, they tried training them up there. Uh, huh.

SMITH: Okay. So, um, --

45:00

CRABTREE: He wanted me to go to work for him, Nancy and me to move up there, until he told me it was five miles from his front gate to the ranch house.

SMITH: Oh, a little different. So by the time you moved out here, had you already decided to, to continue working as a trainer?

CRABTREE: Well, I don't know that I ever actually decided to do it. I wanted to but I wanted to be successful in whatever I was doing. And uh, I, I wouldn't commit to saying that's all I was ever going to do until I could figure it out I could do it.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: You know this is a frustrating business and one of the things I learned when I went to, well, at home and when I went for work with Lee Roby is how frustrating it is. You know, it's greatly rewarding when everything works out right but it is the most frustrating thing in the world when things don't work out right. You know, horses sometimes don't, they just don't pan out. I know one time many years ago, I was 46:00in Indianapolis and I'd had a particularly trying Kentucky State Fair World's Champion Horse Show and so the next week and so we were up there and I was waiting to go out to the barn to work that night and I was reading Sports Illustrated. And I'd read everything else and I finally started reading about golf and in there Jack Nicholas made the statement that he thought that golf was the most,(pause) what was the word he used? Not demanding, maybe frustrating. Golf was the most frustrating game that man every played and I said "Mr. Nicholas, you never played horse trainer."

SMITH: So when you say it was frustrating, was it because it was difficult to train certain horses or it was difficult to make a living 47:00or all the above?

CRABTREE: All of it. It all goes together. It's so rewarding when it, when it all comes, is all right but one of the hard parts for me has always been dealing with the people. You know, I, I, I could get along fine with the horses, most of the time, but it's then throwing the people in the mix, you know, throwing me in the mix with people.

SMITH: What, now you have showed so many horses over the years, did you own any of these horses or where they always with other clients? For clients?

CRABTREE: Last few years we've owned quite a lot of them. Uh, huh. We've been very, very fortunate. We've raised some tremendous nice horses and sold them. And we've owned quite a few of them that we've, we ended up selling.

SMITH: Um, huh. But in the beginning, like when you started?

CRABTREE: Well, in the beginning, it was other people's horses.

48:00

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: Dad always had a feeling that people that owned these show horses ought to also put something back in the industry on a broodmare. And so he encouraged them to do that. It made it look better for the IRS people, uh, and it made them a little more involved in the horse industry if they owned broodmare or got in part, in some part of the breeding business. And to tell you the truth, every one of them that ever did that with him was successful.

SMITH: Really? Huh. How would you describe a typical client say in that time period when you first moved to Crabtree Farms? Where these people that owned just a few horses?

CRABTREE: A few horses. Uh, along about that time, uh, my mother went out to judge a horse show in Tulsa, Oklahoma and there were some people out there named Stuart. S-T-U-A-R-T. And she judged their daughter. 49:00Their daughter had a bad experience in the ring and they, uh, her father, Mr. Stuart, asked Mrs., (pause) Ms. Sharp who Lee Roby worked for, who that they should send their daughter, Rhondi, to and she said "that lady judging the horse show." And she did. Now my mother had already had some very, very high profile people.

SMITH: Um um.

CRABTREE: The people in St. Louis had really good horses and uh, the people in Memphis, or Collierville had, had really good horses. So it wasn't any, that wasn't any great uh, judgment to make.

SMITH: Um um.

CRABTREE: I mean it was, she was the best already and so, and so they 50:00came back here and then the first thing you know there was a whole phalanx of people from Oklahoma here.

SMITH: Really?

CRABTREE: Yeah. Whole bunch of them.

SMITH: Now about what time did you build the dormitories and start having people come and stay?

CRABTREE: About the time that Nancy and I got married and left we, left home.

SMITH: Ah.

CRABTREE: We got married in 1960 and left in 1961 and, uh, then they started building onto the, taking in more of the--

SMITH: --of the boarders in training?

CRABTREE: Live-in borders, uh, huh.

SMITH: What, uh, tell me how you met Nancy.

CRABTREE: I went to a high school basketball game. She was cheerleading.

SMITH: Okay. Okay. So you're a little older?

CRABTREE: Pardon?

SMITH: You're a little older than her then?

CRABTREE: Oh, I'm a lot older. (laughs)

SMITH: Okay, um. I'm going to be talking about you even though you're 51:00sitting in the room so I apologize, but was your wife involved with horses at all at that time?

CRABTREE: She wasn't then; she is now.

SMITH: Okay. Okay. Uh, so tell me a little bit about your courtship, how, when you got married. Can you tell me --

CRABTREE: Well.

SMITH: It's a little hard to ask you with her in the room but, you, you met her at the high school game --

CRABTREE: Yeah, yeah. And I pur-, I chased her until she caught me. I mean (Smith laughs) that's how it worked.

SMITH: So, and you got married in '61?

CRABTREE: Uh huh. No, we got married in '60.

SMITH: Okay, okay, and she's from this area?

CRABTREE: Uh huh. Finchville. Uh huh. And didn't have any horse background or anything and uh, and I've been told she thought I would get out of the horse business and do something worthwhile. (laughs)

SMITH: That didn't happen. So, okay, so you said you moved away after 52:00you got married. Where did you go?

CRABTREE: We went to Florida. It, it, it became a chore to work at home with mom and dad. There were three very strong-willed people and uh, it, it just looked like the thing to do is I should, I should get out of it for a while, which I did. And we were gone from 1961 until 1969.

SMITH: That's a long time. So what did you do in Florida?

CRABTREE: I operated a stable.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: Tampa Yacht Club.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And then we moved to Pennsylvania where I, uh, I fell into it with some really nice horses and people. Well, actually, excuse me, I can't, excuse me, I've left something very important out, Plainview Farm in Louisville.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: Was a old, old Saddle horse farm there and before I had gone 53:00to Florida, Mr. Tway, the owner of the farm, had asked me, he had told people early on that I was someday going to be his horse trainer. And so he asked me to go to work for him, and now he had had some really, really good horse trainers work for him. And, uh, he was a crusty old gentleman that uh, I thought he would run roughshod over me and so I wouldn't go to work for him. And so when he, after I had been gone a period of time, he called me up and asked me if I thought he would suit me now. (laughs) And so, I said "Well, I'd like to give it a try," because of the young horses. He had predominantly young horses. They raised horses and all that and so we did that. And I was there a couple of years and Earl Teater and Bob Brown in Indianapolis who was a good horse trainer at that time came to me about going to work for this man 54:00in Lancaster, Pennsylvania who had been buying all these really nice horses and they weren't panning out. And, uh, and I didn't want to go up there. I only went up there to talk to him as a favor to those two people so that they could say that they had sent somebody. And so uh, I did go up there and the people were just so nice and so good and just simply going to give me anything I asked for. And, uh, so that's --

SMITH: So you ended up going. And how long were you there?

CRABTREE: Four and a half years. They had some very serious, I'd still be there but they had some very serious financial difficulties. He was a, a road quarry owner, road contractor and ran into --

SMITH: And what was his name?

CRABTREE: Stoltfus. S-T-O-L-T-F-U-S

55:00

NANCY CRABTREE: Z

CRABTREE: What?

NANCY CRABTREE: S-T-O-L-Z-F-U-S.

SMITH: Okay, I'll get that.

CRABTREE: Yeah, Stolzfus. Uh, and they were just wonderful, wonderful nice people to Nancy and me.

SMITH: Okay, now what point did you start having kids?

CRABTREE: Well, we had kids nine months after we were married.

SMITH: Okay. (laughs) How many children do you have?

CRABTREE: Three. I have three adults.

SMITH: Okay. Okay, and, uh, they must be born in that nine year period that you were gone from the farm?

CRABTREE: No, they were born in a two-year period.

SMITH: Oh, okay.

CRABTREE: They were all premature. And, they were, we had three children in two and a half years I think.

SMITH: Oh, that's hard. Okay.

CRABTREE: She might have known it was hard. I didn't know it was hard. (laughs)

SMITH: Well, you were, you suddenly had a pretty big family in a short time to deal with.

56:00

CRABTREE: We did.

SMITH: So, how would you describe your career during that time period? Do you feel like you were building a reputation? Did you feel successful?

CRABTREE: Well, I don't know about that. Uh, it, uh, I was just trying awfully hard.

SMITH: You were making a living?

CRABTREE: Oh, yeah, good. Uh, just trying to do whatever it took.

SMITH: Um, huh. Were you still learning a lot during that time period?

CRABTREE: Oh, Lord, yeah, still learning today.

SMITH: Would, uh, who were some of the other people that might have influenced you, uh, as a trainer?

CRABTREE: Well, first of all, uh, I was influenced by an awful lot of people. And a lot, I got a lot of help from an awful lot of people. And that group of people back then, the Bradshaws and the Teaters, Lee Roby, those guys were in an era that was different than our era. Tom 57:00Moore and Ed Teater and Jim B. Robertson and that group of us, uh, we actually had to make a living in this business. Those guys worked most of the time for farms that if they, if they made money, it was fine, if they didn't it was also fine. And I think that was the dramatic difference.

SMITH: What caused the change?

CRABTREE: Economy.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: I'm mean, you know, it, and the government starting cutting down on what they could, uh, what they could spend without taxing them.

SMITH: Right, right. Okay. So the nature of the farms changed?

CRABTREE: Um, huh.

SMITH: Okay. So, was it that older group that, um --

58:00

CRABTREE: Yeah, every one of them were good to me. Uh, I, uh, they, I don't think there was ever a time that I asked any one of them that I didn't get an honest answer. And because I was always polite and nice to them, I think they were so willing to, to help me. And I think every one of them did. And they, they always were nice to me. Anytime I ever had a decent horse, they always complimented me, you know. And for a young person, that, that helps an awful lot, helps anybody, anytime, but it helped, and I wasn't as confident as, as uh, some people about being successful either. And so they helped that, they all.

SMITH: Did you go to them with questions or were they just sort of?

CRABTREE: Yeah, I asked a lot of question, uh huh.

59:00

SMITH: Okay, was there anyone in particular that you would turn to for advice?

CRABTREE: No.

SMITH: Just, okay. It's --

CRABTREE: I watched, watched. My dad said I learned to be a horse trainer by watching other horse trainers. And, uh, I did. I tried to go to school on people's mistakes more than anything else, not trying to make the same mistakes people made.

SMITH: Now, as you were um, building a career as a trainer, was there a particular division or event that you uh, specialized in or just all of it?

CRABTREE: No, just horse.

SMITH: Okay. So, you dealt with the equitation all the way to the five-gaited?

CRABTREE: Well, I did uh, teach at one time and I think that helped me an awful lot, too, when I was home and then when I was in Florida I taught quite a lot. And I, I know that helped my horse training, doing that. Uh, then after that I didn't really do much teaching. And after 60:00I came back here, I inherited so many of my mother's good riders that uh, that all I had to do was train the horses. I mean they, those people could ride, I mean, that was, I didn't have to do any teaching. You know you, you fit the horse to the rider anyway and so they, if the rider is good, that makes the job a lot easier.

SMITH: Now, when you came back, did you come back to Crabtree Farms or did you --

CRABTREE: Um huh.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: I came right up here.

SMITH: This house or this?

CRABTREE: Um huh.

SMITH: Okay. So, you were working with your parents at that point?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: We had, it was one farm, we had one business. They were on one end of it and I was on another. Actually, uh, I, uh, wanted to train colts, young horses and that's what this end of the farm was going to be. And I started off just with a barn full of young horses. 61:00And, uh, mom and dad started sending me their, I had already been successful enough. I had won some world championships.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: You know, so I liked the colts better than I liked the showing part of it. And so that was what I was going to do. And first thing you know, they started sending me problems.

SMITH: Um hum.

CRABTREE: And so it just kind of like first thing you know the, uh, older horses were pushing the colts out, you know. And the first thing you know I had thirty, a thirty stall barn and a twenty stall barn and every one of them had a horse in it, you know. So, that, that just got overwhelming.

SMITH: Was that because there was just a demand to train the older horses?

CRABTREE: Yeah.

SMITH: Now, you say they were problems. Is that something that you, um, 62:00took on as a challenge, to deal with problem horses? (Crabtree laughs)

CRABTREE: Not by design but, but I mean any horse I ever got, inherited or whatever, I just tried to do the best I could do and uh, and I had some ungodly success. (laughs)

SMITH: Some horses that were really bad, huh?

CRABTREE: Not really bad, no, not that. They just turned into special horses. Now, God's done that for me every place I've even been. Plainview Farm, I had one of the nicest horses there that I've ever had. She went on to be one of the winningest horses in, in our industry.

SMITH: What was her name?

CRABTREE: Her name was Shannon O'Shea. Her name was Mary T but it was changed to Shannon O'Shea. And, uh, when I was at Greystone, I 63:00inherited a group of horses and I bought a couple of colts and uh, and they all turned into world's championship horses. So you know, it --

SMITH: So you had a talent.

CRABTREE: I had work ethic, work ethic.

SMITH: Yeah.

CRABTREE: And I guess I've had an eye for watching what was successful and what uh.

SMITH: Tell me about your first world championship. Can you remember it, winning your first world?

CRABTREE: World's Grand Championship or World --

SMITH: Yeah.

CRABTREE: World's Championship?

SMITH: I'm not sure I know the difference. You'll have to explain that to me.

CRABTREE: Well, uh, I guess the most significant in the beginning was Chief of Greystone. I had Chief of Greystone when I was at Pennsylvania when he was a three year old. And, uh, he was pretty successful. He uh, I won with him about every place I took him until I 64:00got to Louisville. And Earl Teater had Flight Time which was supposed to have been Ed's horse, I think. And they had, they were doing an awful lot of promoting Flight Time to be the successor Wing Commander. And the judges down there beat Chief of Greystone with Flight Time when he was a three year old. So then that next year, uh, Chief of Greystone really became a good horse, his four year old year. And we showed him at Devon, Pennsylvania and beat Earl Teater. And, uh, and I took him to Lexington and I showed him. I can't remember if it was 65:00in the stallion class or in the junior class. (pause) And they tied Flight Time over him. And the crowd went nuts. Chief of Greystone was a big brown, dark brown horse with white face and white legs and a great tail, mane and tail, and very flashy and he just had an ungodly amount of talent. And, uh, anyway, uh, I could tell you something interesting about that. The, the crowd and the other horse trainers and all of them thought it was wrong. So, I, Frank Bradshaw at that time had My My and he had a horse that he'd won the stallion stake with at Louisville the year before called Wing Again. And, uh, he had a 66:00four year old mare named Valerie Emerald who, they were all tremendous good horses. And he was a good friend of mine and we were, one day he was telling me how good Chief of Greystone had been. And I said to him, I said "How do you think Earl Teater will show, " -I probably didn't say Earl Teater. I probably said Mr. Teater, because I always considered him Mister - "will show Flight Time at Louisville?" Because he was a four year old, Chief of Greystone was a four year old. And he said it doesn't make any difference. He said there isn't a four year old in America that can beat Wing Again.

SMITH: Hmm.

CRABTREE: And, he said " -- and you know he can't beat Valerie Emerald." She was a four year old. (laughs) So that left me in a dilemma. And, 67:00uh, and I didn't know what to do and the entries closed, at that time the Kentucky State Fair was in September so the entries closed after the Lexington Horse Show. And so I went home and I didn't know what to do so I just thought, hell, I'll just go ahead and enter in both of them and try to decide later on whether I'm going to show in the stallion class or in the four year old class. At that time they only had one four year old class; they didn't have a division. And uh, so, got all the way down to right close to the horse show and I still didn't know. And so, I said well, I just might as well start with the first one, that's the stallion class. And I did and we won. And so I showed him back in the four year old class and won that. And he was the last horse that won the division of the big stake as a four year old and won the four year old class too. And so that was the significance of Chief, Chief of Greystone.

SMITH: Oh, so he beat the other, the other horses that you mentioned?

68:00

CRABTREE: Beat all of them.

SMITH: Okay. What happened to him after that? He belonged to the --

CRABTREE: Well, I did show him some as a five year old and he, he got kind of ornery. He would make a show and not make a show and probably my inexperience. We won some with him but he wasn't, he wasn't the dominant horse. And, uh, and then the farm got in financial trouble, or the man got in financial trouble so.

SMITH: Okay, and then you came back here at that point?

CRABTREE: Um huh.

SMITH: Okay. What were some of the other horses during that time period that you, um, felt were special, perhaps won? I mean perhaps a special horse doesn't always win but, uh, what are some of the others?

CRABTREE: Well, when I came back here there were some people that had a gelding named Glory Kalarama, that had shown, had already won the gelding class in Louisville. And they asked me to take him and, uh, 69:00and I did. And we immediately he became successful; we won with him. And we had changed him around somewhat. I know Garland Bradshaw told me that he never would have believed that anybody could have set his head the way that that he did. Uh, and he was pretty successful. We did win the stallion, win the gelding class with him and we did get up to being second in the gaited stake with him.

SMITH: Now, I was watching a video that they have up at uh, the Saddlebred museum and so I know that you had won at least two of the five-gaited world championships. Three, okay. Okay, what was the first one?

CRABTREE: Will Shriver.

SMITH: Will Shriver. Okay.

CRABTREE: And of course that is a success story that is kind of mind-boggling, how its just kept on, kept on building, you know. Will 70:00Shriver was just an, I had seen him show at Lexington in a, in a class over there. In fact, I think he won it. They had what they called an open class. It wasn't part of the championship division. It was just an open class and I, and I, I think he won. Uh, it was not a good, big heavy quality class.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And I think he won. That winter, I think it was that winter, uh, Mr. Weldon, the husband of the lady that owned Callaway Hill, uh, called up and because I was judging the horse show in I think Indio, California, or maybe Phoenix, Arizona, or someplace, one of the winter shows and asked my mother if I would take Will Shriver. And she 71:00said she was sure I would because they were nice people and that, you know, and all that. And uh, and that's how I got hooked up with Will Shriver. He was uh

SMITH: How old was he when you got him then?

CRABTREE: Just turned six. Uh, he was not an easy horse to do and it took three years before he became a dominant horse.

SMITH: Did, now you showed him personally?

CRABTREE: Um huh.

SMITH: Okay, and --

CRABTREE: He was a stallion and I showed him. Uh, huh.

SMITH: Okay. Um, one of the things in the video and I'm not sure it was Will Shriver you were talking about but there's a lot of challenges with these horses, individual challenges based on each horse. Was he one of the more difficult ones?

CRABTREE: Yeah, he was. He was a super talented horse with his legs but he wasn't one of these craned necked horses and it wasn't easy for him to bend his neck and so that didn't make it easy for him to do the 72:00racking gait and keep doing it in a, in a stylish fashion and so it took a long time for him to get to where he could do things easily. And uh

SMITH: So, you showed him over a three-year period before you won the --

CRABTREE: Um huh.

SMITH: Okay. Okay, um, now so what happened with him?

CRABTREE: What happened to him?

SMITH: Um huh.

CRABTREE: Well, they took him home and, uh, to be their breeding horse and uh, he became the best horse, after Wing Commander, in our industry. He's, he and his offspring have been the most dominant uh horses in our industry.

SMITH: Um.

CRABTREE: They win classes every year at the Kentucky State Fair Horse Show today; I mean a number of classes. They've, last year they were 73:00selected as the breeder of the year because they had the most, their, their offspring won the most classes at that horse show.

SMITH: Now he, uh, that was '75 when you won --

CRABTREE: '76.

SMITH: Oh, okay. I'm wrong.

CRABTREE: I think he won the stallion stake three years in a row but '76 was the year he did win the world's grand championship.

SMITH: Okay. Now, that was your first?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: Okay. How did that feel?

CRABTREE: I don't know. I was drunk. (Smith laughs)

SMITH: Well, I imagine it was, to win the five-gaited, isn't that sort of the, the aim for a lot of trainers?

CRABTREE: I think it's the aim for all of them. And it's, it's pretty humbling really. When you stop and think about the people in our industry who never got that horse to prove how good they were, uh, and 74:00to, to win that thing. I know there's a, the list of people might be even more impressive that didn't win it than the people that have won it.

SMITH: Sort of an interesting way to look at it but I can see what you're saying. Um, and it was just a couple of years later that you won again.

CRABTREE: In 1978, uh huh. I had, there were some people in Georgia that had uh, some nice horses and they asked me to take their horses and one of them was a mare named Cora's Time. And uh, she'd had kind of a checkered past and they asked me about showing her and I said she doesn't look like she's a stake horse and I said why don't you show her and they said, well, they told me that if I tried to show her that she'd kill me. I said, I'd judged her and I said well she doesn't look like she's that tough, you know. And I said if she comes up here, 75:00let's try that and we did and she won the ladies stake for a couple of years before I showed her. Uh, huh.

SMITH: Was she hard to train?

CRABTREE: No. No, not hard to train. You did, she was very, very hyper and she was headstrong but she wasn't hard to train. She was very game, she was very talented. You know, those horses are not hard to train. The ones that are hard to train for me are those that don't have enough heart and don't have enough talent, you know.

SMITH: How do you recognize a great horse? What do you look for?

CRABTREE: You don't know until after you've had them.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: You can think all you want to but you don't know until after you've had your hands on them and you can see what, how deep they are and how talented they are and how they accept your training. We all do it a little. Well, we're trying to achieve the same thing but I think we all do it a little differently.

76:00

SMITH: Now that's what it sounded like on the video as you all were really going into, in depth about how you trained each of these winners.

CRABTREE: Yeah, I think everybody does it a little, somewhat differently.

SMITH: But it works and whatever works I guess.

CRABTREE: We're people, you know, so we've got to be different.

SMITH: Yeah. Are there some horses that people give up on and another trainer is able to work something out?

CRABTREE: Yes. That's happened. Uh huh.

SMITH: Okay, okay. Hmm. All right, so who was the third horse? I didn't have that one down.

CRABTREE: Well, when I was in Georgia, when Nancy and I left here again in 1995, '96 and in '97 I won the world's grand championship with Zovoobij Commander in Chief, a horse that I bought that came over here from South Africa,

SMITH: Oh, okay.

CRABTREE: and I bought him for the people in Georgia and showed him.

SMITH: Okay, so you bought him for them?

CRABTREE: Uh huh.

SMITH: But you showed him. Okay. So you left here in the 90's and, for a while?

CRABTREE: Um hum. We were gone for three years.

77:00

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: Two and a half, two and a half years rather.

SMITH: Um, I'm going to kind of shift gears again and take you back to when you, your family first came back here and got settled in to the farm and at that point it was Crabtree Farms, I guess when you came back in '69?

CRABTREE: Um huh. It's always been Crabtree Farms.

SMITH: Okay, it was becoming a pretty big success at that point. Is that right?

CRABTREE: Uh huh.

SMITH: Is that the time period?

CRABTREE: Yeah, we had, there was period in there that it got so that when we went to horse shows, they would take twenty-five to thirty and I would take twenty to something, one year I had thirty horses in Louisville myself.

SMITH: Isn't that a huge number?

CRABTREE: Yeah, it's too, too huge.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: Too, way out of line.

SMITH: Too much work?

CRABTREE: Well, it's just not right.

SMITH: Okay. What kind of help did you have on the farm in those days?

78:00

CRABTREE: Well, at that time I had really good help and then it, then it became a real problem. That's why I left and went to Georgia.

SMITH: Oh.

CRABTREE: Because you just could not get enough of the good people to work and that's, that's the problem in this industry today. It's so hard to get people that, thatt will work that's willing to do the work as it's hard work, day after day after day after day after day after day after day. It just never ends, you know, and some people can't do that.

SMITH: And what kind of people would you have needed on the farm? I assume you would need grooms.

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: Is that basically what you needed? People who would really care for the individual horses?

CRABTREE: I had a, at one point there, I had uh, almost all girls working for me.

SMITH: Really?

CRABTREE: Um hum. And I'm not so sure that that wasn't the happiest I ever was. (Smith laughs)

SMITH: About what time period was that?

CRABTREE: Oh, it was '76, '78, somewhere along? Not all of them were but 79:00I know one time I went to Tulsa. In 1978 a horse got a hold of my arm and I, and I went to Tulsa and I took seven people with me and all of them were girls. I had a couple of other people, men, that worked for me here at the farm but they were so dedicated. I mean they competed with each other. I had, a lot of, a lot of stables had girls working for them back at that time and I wouldn't do, I wouldn't do that, I didn't have the facilities for them to live in and I just, I wouldn't hire them. They kept asking me and kept asking me and I sent some to Minnesota to Ed Teater. I sent them to Tom Moore. I sent them to different people when they'd call me. But a lady who became a really good friend of mine called me up and she said "I want to go to work for you," and I said "You know, I just don't have any girls working for me," and she said well, she said "I'd really like to work for you." And it must have been Monday and I said "Well, you just come on up here 80:00then." And I put her to work and it wasn't long after that that I was hiring them right and left. You know, it was hard to keep those people that were that dedicated and those girls were. I mean they, I had I think seven college graduates. (laughs)

SMITH: Were they dedicated in terms that they wanted to work with the horses but they also wanted to show?

CRABTREE: Yeah. They wanted to make, no, they just wanted those horses to be, to be successful.

SMITH: Hum. So they weren't riders?

CRABTREE: Un uh. They could. That lady was a horse trainer. Uh, I'm sure almost all of them were or maybe not all of them but an awful lot of them could ride, did ride. One of them was an owner that I had a horse for.

SMITH: So now the farm paid all the workers, right?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: So how many did you need at a, say when the farm was maybe at its 81:00peak, whatever that might have been?

CRABTREE: Oh, I always had a dozen or fifteen people working for me.

SMITH: Working full-time?

CRABTREE: Uh huh.

SMITH: Okay. That's a lot.

CRABTREE: I've always believed that horses take a lot of care and uh, when, when people start trying to take care of too many horses then accidents start happening. And I always, I never made a lot of money out of training horses because I tried to take care of them too well. And I, I knew that was a failing but it was just the way I've always felt like it needed to be done. That's the way I learned and, uh,

SMITH: And you had a lot of horses here so --

CRABTREE: Oh, yeah. We had to have a lot of help. You just couldn't, there was no way you could do it. And if, if horses don't get out of their stall every day, then I think you're creating a crime, uh, committing a crime.

SMITH: Um hum. Yeah, I've heard that, that they need to be close to nature if you can do it.

CRABTREE: Well, uh, they need to be exercised and trained.

SMITH: Yeah. Okay. And so you said you were having difficulty 82:00finding help. Well, I'm going to back up a little bit because this is something that's come up in a lot of interviews. In the earlier years, say the 30's, 40's, maybe even into the 50's, you had a lot of African Americans helping on the farms.

CRABTREE: Um huh. We had some wonderful ones, wonderful. All of our help was that for a number of years. And just all of them, I mean, no I can't say all of them because we always would have some people that you had to get rid of eventually.

SMITH: Well, yeah. But that changed. Did you, when did you begin to notice that changing? That you weren't able to find African Americans to work on the farms?

CRABTREE: In the 70's, mid 70's.

SMITH: Okay. Um, well, now it seems that the help on the farms primarily Hispanic. Is that true here?

CRABTREE: Um huh. And most of them, for the, well, I left to go to 83:00Georgia because of the help situation because I just, I don't know. We went through something like forty in a year's time. And I, I wouldn't have three turnovers you know in three years and that, that was hard for me to reconcile, uh, having people that you didn't know if they were going to show up or if they did, you couldn't, you had to tell them constantly what they were doing and you know, they really weren't interested. They were here for a paycheck. And so that, and the, and the man I went to work for told me he didn't care what I paid and so I could do that, I could get good help.

SMITH: Right.

CRABTREE: And I did.

SMITH: Right. That makes a difference. Okay. And you said that you still think that's a concern today?

CRABTREE: I know it is.

SMITH: Okay. Where do you find most of the labor then?

CRABTREE: Well, they come to me. Uh, I've got three really good ones 84:00today.

SMITH: How many do you have on the farm?

CRABTREE: Three.

SMITH: Three? Okay, what size is --

CRABTREE: I've got fourteen stalls in my training barn. I cut it down from thirty.

SMITH: Okay. So you're still real active with training? Are you still full-time?

CRABTREE: Um huh.

SMITH: Just a smaller number? Okay. Okay, let me see what time we have here. We still have some more time on here. Do you want to keep going?

CRABTREE: It's up to you.

SMITH: Well, I don't want to tire you out but although I think, uh, some of the people I've talked to, we can go three hours and they never seem to get tired so (laughs) I'll leave that up to you, as long as we have recording material. Um, there was one thing that I had noticed in your mother's book and I've talked with some people about. There's an awful lot of stories I hear about the county fair circuit. Were you a part of that when you were younger?

CRABTREE: Sure, we all were. Uh, the, Kentucky was so unique at one 85:00time that you could go to a horse show, you could go to a lot of horse shows every week from uh, early April until end of September, maybe even October. And there were

SMITH: Just in Kentucky?

CRABTREE: Just in Kentucky. I mean every small town in Kentucky seemed to have a horse show, you know. And some of them were close by. You know, all, all over the state.

SMITH: Um hum. I know Shelbyville has a strong reputation but I know there used to be a lot more than maybe there are today.

CRABTREE: You know, there would be more towns in Kentucky that didn't have a, that had horse shows than didn't have horse shows.

SMITH: Okay. How important was that to the industry, to go to these small horse shows?

CRABTREE: Well, it gave people a place to go with any, any type horses.

SMITH: Okay. It was an opportunity to both training and showing and?

86:00

CRABTREE: Well, I mean it gave people a place to compete with their horses, you know, on the level they wanted to compete at. They wanted to go to that one day horse show, they could do that or they could step up to the three day horse show or they could step up to the five day horse show, all in the county fairs.

SMITH: Could you make much money at the county fair?

CRABTREE: Yeah, at that time Lawre-, back in the 50's, 60's, 70's, Lawrenceburg and Harrodsburg and Shelbyville paid more money than Lexington and Louisville.

SMITH: Really?

CRABTREE: Yeah, because they didn't charge you much either.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: I mean money you take home.

SMITH: So, um, how would you describe some of those experiences? Have any stories you can share from the county fair days? (Crabtree laughs) Too many?

CRABTREE: I don't know. There was a lot of them. I don't know. (laughs)

SMITH: It seems like they were a lot of fun and they were, uh, Joan Hamilton was telling me about going to them with her father. A lot of 87:00campfires and, and a lot of camaraderie at the county fairs. Is that how you --

CRABTREE: (laughs) Well, I'll tell you, we had a lot of things, interesting things happen and I don't know why it comes up to me but there's a friend of mine over in Mt. Sterling that they have horses today and he used to show road horses. He was also a very well known basketball coach at the state. And his name is Julian Cunningham, and he showed and at that time, the road horse classes were kind of dog eat dog in Kentucky. I'm talking the 50's.

SMITH: Um hum.

CRABTREE: Very early 60's. And, uh, Julian had nice, he'd have a nice horse and, uh, a friend of mine named Owen Haley, who had been at Plainview Farm and who developed Plainview's Julia

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: who was their world's grand champion, who Lee Shipman showed 88:00to the world's grand championship twice from that farm. He was judging Lawrenceburg. Lawrenceburg had a reputation for rowdyism. And, uh, Owen Haley, he didn't broach much uh, rowdyism.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And, so, the roadster horse class came on and Julian got beaten pretty good. I don't remember what he got but anyway, he comes busting out of the ring and down and he threw his hat down on the ground and stomped on it and jerked his silks off and he said "I'm gonna whip that common son of a bitch." And I said, "Julian, that's just what you should do." And I took him by the arm and I started walking him back toward the ring. And Owen Haley started walking out of that ring and Owen Haley was a handsome man but he had had a car accident and he had 89:00a scar on his face. And the closer that those two people got together, the more Julian was walking backwards (laughs) and he never said a word to Owen Haley. All he did was take a look at his face.

SMITH: Okay, a lot of talk there then, huh?

CRABTREE: Owen Haley judged, uh, when Nancy and I were in Florida, he judged Gainesville, Florida. And I was showing a mare called Sweet Amber in a gaited championship down there. And in the three-gaited class, he had beaten a, a mare and this guy's wife had got on the radio and started screaming and hollering at him. Owen Haley had worked for Ms. Nola Minton at Minton Hickory Farm in Barbourville, Kentucky, which was one of the big classy farms early on. And, uh, he'd in fact, he'd had a horse called Mountain Echo that was the world's champion and so he, he greatly respected Ms. Nola Minton and that group. And 90:00this lady finally said, "Wait till I tell Ms. Nola what you did." And Owen Haley liked to come out of that ring. And we were lined up in the class and he was walking down the ring and I'm, I said "Owen, let's just wait until we get this class over." He came to my horse and she said that and he started over the fence and I said "Let's just wait till we get this class over with." You know, I never saw him more angry, hurt, angry human being than Owen Haley was.

SMITH: Uh huh.

CRABTREE: He was a good guy, a really good guy. There was no call for that, you know. But that was kind of a rowdyism time.

SMITH: Yeah. And it's changed over the years, I gather.

CRABTREE: Pretty much so.

SMITH: Why is, somebody was telling me that they thought the rules were a little more enforced now than they used to be. (Crabtree laughs)

CRABTREE: I gave the judges the finger over at Lexington and that cost me $3000.00? $3500.00. (laughs)

SMITH: When was that?

CRABTREE: About 1995, I think, '96, somewhere along there.

91:00

SMITH: Oh, okay. Now you're a judge as well, right?

CRABTREE: Uh huh. Some of the most rewarding experiences I ever had was judging. I loved judging, it, it, it was, it was fun. I didn't get to judge, you know, like Lexington or Louisville. I had a standing invitation to judge them but I was too involved at the time and I couldn't give up showing there, the business, we couldn't, we couldn't afford to, to judge those horse shows. I judged in California, I judged Madison Square Gardens, you know, stuff like that.

SMITH: Um hum. Now, is that, I don't want to say the term lucrative, but do you make much money judging or is it --

CRABTREE: No, no. In fact, they don't pay you nearly enough, you know, to give up your time with your business. We've even had a hard time convincing the Kentucky State Fair Horse show to get the good, the people they need in the middle of the ring, to pay them enough that 92:00they can give up that week of their business to judge.

SMITH: Um hum. So why do you do it?

CRABTREE: Well, some people do it for the prestige.

SMITH: I remember David Mountjoy telling me that he never was interested in judging because um, he was always, he was selling horses so that wasn't always a good thing.

CRABTREE: No, it's not.

SMITH: To be. So you've been on both sides of that issue then, to be perhaps sometimes --

CRABTREE: One time I had a guy tell, telling me that he thought the most significant thing he ever did in the horse industry was judge the Kentucky State Fair Horse Show and I said you better take a look at the number of people who haven't judged that horse show if you want to see a significant list.

SMITH: Hmm.

CRABTREE: Because the most significant ones never did judge it.

SMITH: Really?

CRABTREE: No. They were too involved in it.

SMITH: Okay. Okay. Now, um, the Louisville show, I know that it, it is 93:00the most prominent show now.

CRABTREE: Yeah, and it's became too weighted in that, that fashion too. I think that our whole, I think it's the tail wagging the dog now. And uh, and it's just got too much emphasis is on that one horse show and too much emphasis on Kentucky, too much of the business is in Kentucky, you know. I mean it's, it's thriving in some areas, different areas of the country but it's hurting in too many other areas because there's not enough horse trainers in those areas. And the horse trainers always create the interest, the horse interest.

SMITH: Sure, sure. So Kentucky is the leader in the Saddlebred, whether that's a, always a good or bad?

CRABTREE: Yeah, good or bad, it is.

SMITH: Um, let's go back to your family life here. Uh, you have, you're back here and when did your wife begin getting interested in horses? 94:00Did she ever develop an interest in them?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: Okay. And what was that, to ride, to be --

CRABTREE: Survival. (laughs)

SMITH: I talked to a man whose wife now trains Mountain Horses and she was terrified of horses when they got married and she finally got interested in them because all the kids were riding and she wasn't going to be left behind.

CRABTREE: I, I uh, I think Nancy really got involved when the kids got to an age that she could start going to horse shows with me. She couldn't go to horse shows with me for a long time because she raised the family.

SMITH: Right.

CRABTREE: And, uh, I think that's when she finally got involved.

SMITH: Now, were your kids interested in the horses?

CRABTREE: Yeah, they were. My son's a horse trainer.

SMITH: What are your children's names?

CRABTREE: Ann, Susan and Casey.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And Ann was a good rider. In fact, she was a really good 95:00rider. We had a, a little pony that my mother bought from Billy Mountjoy

SMITH: Oh okay.

CRABTREE: that I gaited and she could just ride the hair off that thing and she was just a little bitty skinny. And I got too many horses. I needed to take somebody else's horse and I sent her down to my mother and dad's and it didn't work out, you know. And she's been riding her up here and I, I never, you know, it just didn't work. I tell you an interesting story about it. My mother named her Sunday Britches.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And, uh, when I was at Plainview Farms, I had had Billy Mountjoy come up and cut tails for me. And when he would do that, he would come to the house and Nancy would fix dinner and we'd have dinner and we would talk. And, uh, one time, uh, Ann was just a baby, and she went in to the kitchen and asked her mother, "What's that man always 96:00talking about his Sunday britches?" (laughs)

NANCY CRABTREE: ----------(??)

CRABTREE: And so, sons of bitches. (laughs) You know, it's strange, I, I did a eulogy for Billy Mountjoy when he died and, uh, he, Bill Mountjoy was a fantastic person. He loved this industry maybe as much or more than anybody I ever knew, but he cussed. But I never knew him to offend anybody and when I cuss, I offend people.

SMITH: Oh.

CRABTREE: And he didn't. He could, it just didn't offend anybody when he cussed. And I, I tried to explain that at his funeral, you know, that he didn't mean anything by it. It's just emphasis.

97:00

SMITH: He was just colorful.

CRABTREE: He just cussed.

SMITH: Yeah. Now, uh, I'm trying to remember from my interview with his son now. Was he a trainer? I thought he was --

CRABTREE: Billy Mountjoy?

SMITH: Yeah.

CRABTREE: Yeah, he trained horses.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: They didn't show very much. Now they showed a lot of colts in hand.

SMITH: Right.

CRABTREE: They made a fortune doing that. Uh, and he trained horses. He could gait horses and do all that but they sold their horses. I mean they didn't show them. They sold them before they got to that age of showing them, other then showing them at hand.

SMITH: In Kentucky, let's say around the 60's, and into the 70's, what was a typical Saddlebred farm like or was, was there such a thing? I mean did they, similar to the Mountjoys with breeding and selling or was it training or is it always just a combination?

CRABTREE: Well, theirs was breeding and, and selling. Uh, I think 98:00that's the same thing that Tom Biederman was doing at uh, Highpoint Farm in Springfield.

SMITH: Uh huh.

CRABTREE: And, uh, it, there were a few others that were just, George Quinn, that's what he did although he did deal, he dealt in a lot of horses. He bought and sold a lot of horses but primarily, I know that one time a man that worked for him told him he needed to buy two more mares and he said why and he said "So we'd have a hundred." You know, mares, broodmares.

SMITH: Right.

CRABTREE: So that's a breeding operation when you do that.

SMITH: Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely.

CRABTREE: Dodge Stables, of course, they always bred and raised and sold, trained, showed horses. Frank Bradshaw did the same thing. Garland Bradshaw did the same thing.

SMITH: Okay, okay. Um, I'm jumping around here but , you said about in 99:00the 60's when you all came out here, when the Crabtrees came here and more people started moving to this area, and several people were coming in from outside of --

CRABTREE: Several other trainers, you mean?

SMITH: Yeah, well, and, and farms were being developed in this area.

CRABTREE: The Hayfield Farm moved from Louisville out here, moved right across the street here and then Don Harris moved here. He was up there at Wendy Wagoner's and then he built this barn here where Rob and Sarah Byers are.

SMITH: How did that, and maybe we've already talked about this just a little earlier, but how did that impact the industry to have, and this community to have all of these people being drawn here?

CRABTREE: Well, it's always been good, uh, because people can, it's good and bad. I know Jack Nevitt said it's bad because people get so confused. They see too many horses.

SMITH: Um, huh.

CRABTREE: But they could come to Kentucky to look at horses, you know. They could see a lot of horses that come here. Wisconsin or 100:00California or New Jersey or wherever it was that they come from and they could see a concentration of horses.

SMITH: Okay. Well, and I know it's meant a lot to the community to have, uh, the Saddlebred world here.

NANCY CRABTREE: ----------(??)

CRABTREE: Yeah, they did.

SMITH: The customers bought farms?

CRABTREE: Yeah, that farm right up there was, they were customers, came in from Springfield, Illinois, a customer of my mother and dad. The Lewis's bought, from California, bought a farm back here and Burning Tree Farm owned a farm down at the other end of this farm.

SMITH: Now, they would buy the farms just to be here and have the horses but they weren't really a breeding or a selling or a training operation?

CRABTREE: Well, they thought they were.

SMITH: Okay. (laughs) They thought they were or were they? Both?

NANCY CRABTREE: They turned into that.

SMITH: Okay. Huh. The, um, and this is just an observation again as I'm getting into this, it seems like at one point, and I think you 101:00may have alluded to this, there were a lot of people in the Saddlebred industry that Saddlebreds were their hobby versus a source of income and, and now that has shifted.

CRABTREE: Well, I, I think everybody now has a, at least a hope of trying to break even or make a little out of it, you know. Not everybody does. Not everybody is realistic about it, uh, mainly because the, the horses have gotten so damedable expensive and they don't sell the horses when they have the opportunity to. But it's, uh, I think everybody has a hope that they can make it a paying proposition.

SMITH: Is there a market for the Saddlebreds out there?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: Or is it based --

CRABTREE: Yeah, if it's a good one. Oh yeah. It's unlimited.

SMITH: Okay. And I also know that, at least in the Thoroughbred world, I've heard a lot about the 80's where suddenly there were these big prices and then everything dropped.

CRABTREE: Well, that's because the Japanese moved in.

SMITH: Right, right. And the Arabs started buying, these things but --

102:00

CRABTREE: Well, the Arabs started in the 90's I think but --

SMITH: Okay. Um, was there an economic swing in that time period with Saddlebreds as well or was it pretty stable?

CRABTREE: No, I think the Saddle horse industry has been more stable than any of the other industries.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: As far as I can tell. I know that there have been times when, I can remember when we had energy scare before and you know all that stuff but it really didn't affect the horse, the Saddle horse industry. You'd think it would but I don't think it has. By and large, the people who have these horses, have money that they can spend. A lot of people don't have money they can spend. Of course, there are a lot of people in this business that they operate on other people's money anyway,

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: so, but, uh, by and large, I think that the people that have these horses have money they can spend.

SMITH: Okay, okay. I want to get back, I moved away from discussing 103:00your children's involvement with horses. Now, you said your son was a trainer?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: As well. Now where is he?

CRABTREE: He's in Harrodsburg.

SMITH: Okay. So, now how old would he be now? How long has he been training?

CRABTREE: He was born in 1962.

SMITH: Okay. So did he work with you for a while? He did, uh huh.

CRABTREE: Yeah.

SMITH: And do your daughters, are they involved in showing horses or anything anymore?

CRABTREE: No, neither one of them.

SMITH: Okay, now you have grandchildren as well.

CRABTREE: I have four grandchildren.

SMITH: Okay, they're still pretty young, huh?

CRABTREE: Pardon?

SMITH: Are they still real young at this point?

CRABTREE: Well, one of them will be a

NANCY CRABTREE: ----------(??)

CRABTREE: freshman and one of them will be a sophomore and one of them will be a junior and the other one should be a senior in college.

104:00

SMITH: Okay. Now have they been interested in the horses?

CRABTREE: Well, the oldest one did show. She was Jean McLean Davis's granddaughter.

SMITH: Oh, okay.

CRABTREE: So she did show as a small child. And, uh, she quit showing. She got, I think just the pressure, or whatever, she just didn't enjoy it so she just quit.

SMITH: Okay. Um, one of the things that Jimmy Robertson and I were talking about is that a lot of, um, involvement with Saddlebreds has been through families.

CRABTREE: It's amazing how many sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of horse trainers are horse trainers today.

SMITH: Do you see that changing?

CRABTREE: Do I see it?

SMITH: Uh huh.

CRABTREE: It's becoming more prevalent.

SMITH: Oh, really? Okay, well that's good. That's good. Leaves family 105:00dynasties with the Saddlebreds. You know unless you're associated with them, I'm not sure how people do get that involved with horses, unless there's some family connection.

CRABTREE: Well, a lot of people didn't have any family connection. You know they just, they just like saw them or went to work for them, taking care of them or whatever and worked their way up.

SMITH: I've heard that uh, it's the young girls wanting to get involved with horses that helps keep the industry going at times.

CRABTREE: Well, the young girls have always been a big part of it because, you know, the young girls have always had a love affair with horses, and throughout history, you know, that there's just something romantic about horses for girls.

SMITH: Yeah. Well, I wish I had been around them more now that I'm, that I'm how that I'm seeing them more. I grew up in West Virginia in the coal mine area --

CRABTREE: A lot of saddle horses in West Virginia.

SMITH: Not where I was from. I was in the Ohio River Valley and um, --

106:00

CRABTREE: Huntington?

SMITH: Well, actually I went to school in Huntington and lived there but I grew up, up around Wheeling in Pittsburgh, in that area, and that's steel mills and coal mines and, and we didn't see many horses, at least I didn't, so uh, coming to Kentucky was very different, very different. Um, we've talked a little bit about some of your major champion horses and um, how you train each one a little different but do you have a training philosophy? A basic philosophy for dealing with horses?

CRABTREE: Yeah, but I, I think it changes with horses. You have to go with the flow. Uh, and what works on one does not necessarily work on another and we try it that way. I mean, I have my way I like to do things but if it doesn't, if it's not working then. It took me a long time to, to figure that out, to realize that I had to change what I was 107:00doing because they, they're not, just not alike. So few of them are even similar.

SMITH: What have been some of the most difficult challenges you've had with training a horse? Is there a particular horse that you just couldn't get trained who might have had potential or a particular

CRABTREE: Yeah, but I never had one leave here that ever became a good horse.

SMITH: Okay, okay.

CRABTREE: Uh, I never did, I never have given up on a horse that became a good horse, let's put it that way.

SMITH: Was there, can you think of an instance that was particularly unique that you had to come up with some, something really different than the ordinary in order to train a horse?

CRABTREE: I, I think it's always just been pretty basic, you know. Uh 108:00huh. No, I'm not far out, maybe I should be but I'm not. I, I tell people, people come around here and I say you know you don't see very much sophistication here. It's just plain, plain horse training.

SMITH: Okay, okay. I'm sure if I could, could name a particular horse you might be able to tell me a particular training method but I'm afraid I don't know your horses that well. But, um, some other people have told about how important it is with the Saddlebred world when you're dealing with shoeing a horse.

CRABTREE: Yeah, that's very important.

SMITH: Now, do you have good blacksmiths that you've worked with over the years?

CRABTREE: I do. I have a really good one. I've always had a good blacksmith. Uh, I learned an awful lot about shoeing horses the summer I was at, at Lee Roby's, working for him.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: Uh, his horses always looked like they were shod right. Uh, 109:00and uh, and I think common sense has a lot to do with shoeing horses. Uh, there are some basic things you have to do to shoe a horse right, keep it's feet good and healthy. We had a guy at Gregnon Farms that was a little guy that just had a knack for shoeing horses. I had a good guy when I was in Florida. The Ernst brothers were in Louisville, were great blacksmiths. Uh, I had a guy in Pennsylvania that was a young guy that, he and I learned a lot together. He was a good blacksmith. There was an older guy that shod for us at the farm for a number of years. The guy shoeing for me today shoes for three or four of the most high profile stables in the industry. And uh, --

SMITH: Do a lot of them specialize in Saddlebred?

CRABTREE: I've never had a horse blacksmith that did anything but 110:00Saddlebred.

SMITH: Okay, okay. Um, can a good, good horseshoer correct a problem with a horse?

CRABTREE: Yes, if they know what to do.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: If the horse trainer knows what to do. (laughs)

SMITH: A lot of it's just experience, I think is what you are telling me here?

CRABTREE: It is. It is.

SMITH: Huh, I know the Ernsts are on my lists but if you can think of anybody else, um, particular grooms or blacksmiths that, that we ought to interview, I'd appreciate passing those names on. Do you think that you can think of any of the older grooms that might still be around?

CRABTREE: Yeah, there's one in, I don't think he's in good health now, L.T. Armstrong.

SMITH: I haven't heard of him.

CRABTREE: Was about as good an any that ever walked. He lives in Shelbyville and uh, --

SMITH: And he was a groom? For your parents or for you?

111:00

CRABTREE: Yeah, both. He came here when he was like fifteen years old.

SMITH: Okay. And worked most of his life here?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: Okay. Um, now you came back in '69. You stayed here until the early, early to mid 90's and left for a while.

CRABTREE: Two years, two and a half years.

SMITH: Okay, now at that point, uh, were your parents still operating a --

CRABTREE: No.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: They had built a barn down here but they had retired, you know. And, uh, they, uh, no.

SMITH: So when you came back, you pretty much took over managing what was Crabtree Farms, at that point?

CRABTREE: When I came back from, what a minute, 1969?

SMITH: Yeah.

CRABTREE: Oh, yeah, of course they were in business, in big business. 112:00That's when we really got big. That's when we both, '69.

SMITH: Oh, okay.

CRABTREE: That's when --

SMITH: I mean in '96.

CRABTREE: No, they were out of business by then.

NANCY CRABTREE: '98 we came back.

CRABTREE: '98. '96, '98.

SMITH: Okay. So were you managing the farm before you left?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: And but the farm just --

CRABTREE: It was my business then. We split the farm up

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: and so it was mine.

SMITH: Okay. And so what happened to it when you left. Did it --

CRABTREE: Well, Casey ran a barn, ran a stable here while I was gone.

SMITH: Okay, okay. And then when you came back?

CRABTREE: He wanted to go back over to Harrodsburg anyway.

SMITH: Okay, okay. So when you came back here, about what, how would you describe your business at that time? Was it, how many did you have and --

CRABTREE: Well, I guess if I ever had any ambition, it was that I would 113:00just train my own horses.

SMITH: Okay.

CRABTREE: And, uh, and that's what I basically do. I do, I have other horses for other people but, uh, it's predominantly our own horses.

SMITH: Okay, now do you breed your own horses now?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: Okay, so how many horses do you have, did you say you had in stalls?

CRABTREE: I've got seven broodmares and uh, --

NANCY CRABTREE: Tell her the Frosty story. (Crabtree laughs)

CRABTREE: When we decided to go to Georgia, I dispersed our horses. And I had one mare that, uh, when she was a baby colt, she had an ear frozen off when she was foaled and uh, so I chose not to sell her because it, I, it didn't look right to me. And, uh, I bred her and when I came back home, her, her offspring was was here. It was a yearling and the next year we won the two year old stake with her at Louisville.

SMITH: Ah, that's great. That's a nice story.

114:00

CRABTREE: God --

SMITH: Do you still have her?

CRABTREE: Yeah, I still have her. And that horse is the most successful horse in this industry from that day till today.

SMITH: Really?

CRABTREE: Yes, he's won more world's championships. He's been the, he's been the best one.

SMITH: What's his name?

CRABTREE: Swish.

SMITH: Okay. Will you be showing this year?

CRABTREE: Will I?

SMITH: Um, huh.

CRABTREE: Uh, huh.

SMITH: At the World's. Now do you still ride?

CRABTREE: Uh, huh.

SMITH: Do you still show? Okay.

NANCY CRABTREE: He doesn't have Swish though. Swish was sold.

SMITH: Oh, okay.

CRABTREE: I sold him to William Shatner.

SMITH: Oh, really?

CRABTREE: Um hum.

SMITH: That's right. I had heard that he was in Saddlebreds here. Now does he own a farm around here?

CRABTREE: No, he owned one over in Versailles but I don't think he owns it now.

SMITH: Oh, okay. Okay. Um, I've got a few other questions here but I'm wondering, if it's okay with you, would you mind if we would stop now 115:00and then I could come back a little later.

CRABTREE: Yeah, fine.

SMITH: What I want to do is I want to think about some of, listen to the tape and think about some of the things and then we can talk some more.

[End of interview.]

Search This Transcript
SearchClear