The following is an excerpt from the memoir of “Dickie” Jenkins. Jenkins served as the primary exercise rider for the legendary racehorse Kelso and was a longtime assistant for trainer Carl Hanford. Click here to read more from his memoir…
Then one day, Mrs, du Pont stopped me on the road and asked if I thought Kelso would walk in the woods over to the great house, I said that I didn’t think he would mind that at all. But I thought we better ask Carl [Hanford] before we do it. Mrs, du Pont told me that we were going to train him tomorrow because Carl had taken a week off. Well then, let’s do it.
We rode out into one of the empty fields, walking and jogging, It was so nice riding Kelso in that big pasture, and I knew what he must have been thinking, “Yes, I wish I could be loose and running all over the place, stopping and grazing whenever I wanted. How nice that would be,”
The next day, Carl came in the barn, and it surprised me and Mrs, du Pont to see him. He said he was on his way, but stopped to see how Kelso was doing, Mrs, du Pont said, “Carl, Dickie and I have taken over the training while you are gone.”
Carl replied, “I know he is in good hands, but let me say one thing before I go. Don’t let him gallop fast at all even if you want. Why don’t you and Dickie hack him on the horse road in the woods.”
Mrs. du Pont thought that was a very good idea and told me after that Carl must have been reading our minds. I sure thought he did, and suggested we try that spillway over at the great house where Tippy and Carol, his wife, lived. Mrs. du Pont took off in her car to the hunt barn to get Spray, a great, big horse.
[His grrom] Bill came out with Kelso, and I go on him while I waited for Mrs. du Pont. She soon came galloping down the horse road. Before we left, I had a talk with Kelso. I told him he might see things in those woods that he hadn’t seen before, and not to wheel around and dump me. Mrs. du Pont came into the barn, and she was ready to go. I told Kelso not to forget what I said.
Mrs. du Pont asked if I was talking to her but I told her I just had a talk with him. She laughed and said Carl had told her about my talking to Kelso, but she thought it was just grand to know that. That was why she told Carl she wanted me to stay with him.
We get to the woods, and I got myself tied on real good because there was no telling what would come jumping out in front of him. He was walking, and every now and then he would touch his nose on Mrs. du Pont’s knee, and she really loved that.
She said, “Dickie, he is so smart, and he is enjoying this so much. He has not done one thing wrong, although there were birds and rabbits all jumping out of the brush at him, but he just kept walking.”
We were coming up to the spillway, and Mrs. du Pont asked me what I thought. I told her we should just keep walking head and head. That water was over his knees, almost to his belly, and so far, he hadn’t even looked at it. We kept walking right in it, and he never put his head down to look at it. The spillway was about forty-five or fifty feet across, and the water was running real fast. It had turned to white water in the middle, but still, Kelso kept walking, and we went by the white water just fine. Mrs. du Pont kept looking at me, but didn’t say a word.
We got to the other side, and kept walking for another hundred feet on the other side before either one of us would say anything.
“Dickie,” she said, “most of the hunters that have to go over this, you have to beat the hell out of them to cross it. Kelso never looked at it. What a horse, Dickie, you should be proud of him.”
I told Mrs. du Pont that Kelso will always be my buddy, and now I had to thank him for being a real good sport about it all.
We came back the same way, and he was all right again. Mrs. du Pont said that when Carl got back, she thought we would get ready to go to Aiken [South Carolina] again. I was ready for that, and I knew Kelso was also. Carl came back, and we told him about the spillway. It didn’t surprise him at all that he went over the spillway.
Carl said, “This horse will walk over hot ashes, if you want him to.”
Carl was right, and I was glad to hear him say that. Mrs. du Pont was too. Soon all the vans in the farm would be coming to get all our horses to go to Aiken. I was at my house, getting my things into the car. My wife and my little boy, both of whom I dearly loved, were with me. I was trying my best to make everything just right for them. We left, and got to Aiken where I had rented an apartment. The apartment turned out to be better than I thought. My wife really liked it which made me feel good.
We waited that night, and the next morning, the vans arrived. I jumped into the one where Fitz [Lawrence Fitzpatrick], the new groom, and Kelso were.
Bill Hall had left, and I hated to see him go. I felt it was partly my fault because Xmas had come, and this was the time everybody would get a check or something from Carl and Mrs. du Pont. We were all in the tack room, and Mrs. du Pont came in and gave Bill and me a check. Carl gave us an envelope through which you could see the head on the bill. Bill and I looked at one another, and Bill said, “I don’t believe this.”
Well, I had laid my envelop which Carl had given me on the window. Carl asked what was wrong with me, and I told him nothing, but I didn’t think it was fair for Bill and me to get $20 for all the work we did for you. Carl was about to lose it, so I shut up and went outside with Bill. Bill was upset about it all. He had the check that Mrs. du Pont gave him in his hand, and he showed it to me.
He felt it wasn’t right, if that was all he was worth to them, they didn’t need him. Then he asked me what I got, and why I showed him. I’ll never know. He looked at it, turned, walked to his car, and I didn’t see him again until two years later.
It was a real shame to let Bill go that way, for he took real good care of Kelso. I’m not saying anything bad about Fitz, but Bill was a way better groom.
Read the next chapter Winter in Aiken, South Carolina