Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Bachelor Prince & the Battle of Kings

For the previous excerpt, visit here.

That was not to be. The stone stopped rolling in the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond. "The barn still was suffering the effects of Peggy's dying," Randy said. "That first nine months was pretty rough. We had CH The Bachelor Prince and Reedann’s Phancy Phootwork and didn't get a blue ribbon anywhere. Later people came around and started to buy horses."

Results were better later in 2003. Christy Bennett rode CH The Bachelor Prince to a world's championship in the 14-17 Three-Gaited Show Pleasure qualifier and a reserve in the championship. Hayden Heisey tied reserve in the 10 & Under Walk & Trot class.

During these years, the Peggy Richard-son Trust owned and operated the barn where she had grown up riding with the late Harold Adams. Trustee Karen Bush Cooley decided she didn't want to run the farm any longer.

"She talked about leasing it but I figured I could buy someplace as cheaply as leasing their place. I bought the structures and half of the land," Randy said. "I was able to do this, start on renovation of the barn and old house thanks to my mom."

He laughed as he spoke about the farm maintenance program. "Our favorite joke is 'deferred maintenance.' The barn was built in 1963 and maintenance had been deferred ever since." 

Randall Cates
Randy, age 18, and Pat McConnell relaxed in front of  stalls at the Mercer County Fair.
Randy was at Lexington with Oklahoma riders when, as she put it, he and Elizabeth "ran into each other again." She still had to finish her law degree at the University of Kentucky. She graduated in May 2005; they 
married Nov. 25 of the same year.

"People here ask me what brought me to Oklahoma. I'll answer, Love. I left Kentucky for love. Randy is well worth the move, worth giving up home, Mama and Daddy and all that good stuff. But I can't tell him
too often because I have to live with him," Elizabeth said fondly.

Elizabeth laughs when she speaks of Randy's change from bachelorhood into being a husband. "It's amazing how untrained he became when we got married. He could do laundry, wash dishes and keep a house in relative order. Somehow, when I came on the scene, he forgot how to do a lot. One Thanksgiving a few years ago, I drove to Kentucky to see my family. I was taking a day or so to recover and called him. He told me, ‘There's one problem. I think the washing machine is broken.' It was brand new so I asked how that could be. He said, 'I piled the clothes up in front of it and it didn't work.

Elizabeth says she likes Randy being that way. "I don't want him hand, but [more important] I have a tremendous amount of respect for the fact that he's always working. If he's not working physically on some project here or at the barn, he's thinking about how to make the barn or house more livable."

Elizabeth pursued a full time law career until last fall when she left her job. It has given her more time to help at the 'farm: On Saturdays, she goes over and hangs out with customers. And she helps Randy with paperwork at home, as she says "filling in the gaps." 

When Randy came to Oklahoma, he came to a barn with a storied his story, one that might be called an 'Oklahoma Institution.' The late
Harold Adams established it as the place for area riders to be. Top equitation riders included Lu Anthony (Dinnell) and Julee Lampkin. Mary Gaylord McClean started there, as did Peggy Richardson herself. Peggy took over after Adams's death, keeping the tradition of top riders and horses alive. Not only did the farm boast decades of winning riders, it was more than a home-away-from-home for many young people.

Randy Cates Horse Trainer
Randy showed the three-gaited Cloud Nine at the Shelbyville Horse Show. He worked for Merrill Murray at the time.
Randy had a big challenge ahead of him. Marion Story remembers the end of the Adams's era, and beginning of Richardson’s. “Randy likes to joke that I came with the barn. I was there when Peggy bought it way back when. Once Peggy passed away, Dana [DeVoss, who was assistant trainer to Peggy's foster-daughter, Liz Cortwright] wanted to move back. Randy had been hired as another assistant and to run the lesson program. After Lizzie moved to Dallas, he took over as senior trainer. 

"Since he's bought the farm, he's gradually made a lot of improvements and modernized things. He worked on the old house Harold lived in. I think Peggy would be happy." Story admits she wasn't too sure about Randy when he first came to Oklahoma. "He had all these ideas. Old stick-in-the-mud that I am, I thought why change the way of doing things."

In December 2008, Randy selected the seasoned Tantara's Battle Of Kings for the Storys to show in Country Pleasure Driving. Assistant trainer Hannah Teutsch spent hours driving around with Hannah Story, showing her what to do. The younger Story earned a nice ribbon in her Louisville debut last month.

"Randy was great about helping her along with that," Story said. "He didn't give her too much information, so she wouldn't wig out."

As did many riders, the Bennett sisters began their riding careers with Richardson. "We started because Aunt Mary [Gaylord McClean] got me and Mollie interested in it when we were six or seven. We rode with Peggy and have been there ever since. I have never wanted to leave the barn and love spending all day out there. It's all like one family."

When Randy came "he changed a lot of things," Christy said. "He allowed more horses and riders to come in. Things kept getting better and better.”

The 2003 season was especially memorable for Christy, her family and for Randy. Richardson personally had selected the big, bay gelding, The Bachelor Prince for the Bennetts in 2000, Mollie first showed the horse; Christy ‘inherited' him when Mollie aged out of the junior exhibitor division, they began their career together in the spring of '03. 

My favorite memory," Christy said. "It definitely with The Bachelor Prince. I was '15 we went to Louisville and won, It was my first world’s championship win and Randy's first as a trainer. Unforgettable!" 

Stay tuned for the next episode.