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Statesman: Secretariat’s Second Son

Guest article by Tobi Lopez Taylor

Like many Americans, I first glimpsed Secretariat on television. It was May 5, 1973, and he was one of 13 colts in the post parade for the Kentucky Derby. I was eight years old, a big fan of Marguerite Henry’s King of the Wind, and I’d already made a hunch bet – on Sham, who I assumed (wrongly) had been named for the Godolphin Arabian, the subject of Henry’s book. But when Secretariat appeared on the TV screen, I quickly switched my allegiance to him and never looked back. Instead of the requisite David Cassidy or Bobby Sherman pinups popular among girls my age, I hung up a large poster of Big Red’s Belmont victory. I also began to fill a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and magazine articles chronicling his racing and stud career.

Fast forward to 1997. By then, I was a new working student for a dressage trainer at a boarding stable in Scottsdale, Arizona. The barn was hosting an instructional clinic with a well-known dressage judge, but at last moment one of the riders had to drop out. To keep the clinic on schedule, I was tapped to take that rider’s lesson, and my boss told me to “go get Twinkie,” an older horse I hadn’t noticed before. As an afterthought, she added, “He’s a son of Secretariat."

I didn’t have time to delve into the details, but I wondered if my boss was kidding. This gelding was about 15.3 hands and, in his winter coat, looked more like a Thelwell pony than a son of Big Red. All he had in common with his so-called sire were his color and the same three white legs.


I got Twinkie tacked up in record time and climbed aboard. There was no opportunity to get to know him, longe him, or even walk him around. As we entered the dressage arena and rode down the center line, one of the Southwest’s famous “dust devils” moved inexorably toward us, threatening to intersect our path and carrying with it one of the scariest things in horsedom: a flapping white plastic bag! Just as we halted at X, we entered the “eye” of the dust devil, and the plastic bag fluttered underneath Twinkie’s belly and kept on flying out of the arena. Amazingly, he didn’t turn a hair, and we went on to have a most instructive lesson.

Afterward, I wanted to know everything about Twinkie, whose registered name, I learned, was Statesman. And he really was a son of Secretariat – his oldest living son at that time.

As most fans of Big Red know, he was syndicated into 32 shares for a record $6.1 million. After his retirement in November 1973, Secretariat was sent to Claiborne Farm, in Kentucky, where he was bred to three test mares to verify his fertility and give him some practice in the breeding shed. Two of the three mares were found to be in foal.

The first Secretariat offspring, out of an Appaloosa mare named Leola, was born in mid-November 1974. This chestnut colt, named First Secretary, greatly resembled his sire and sported a white blanket. Among his offspring were eight Appaloosa race winners and one stakes winner, and he was later inducted into the Appaloosa Hall of Fame.

Secretariat’s second foal was Statesman. His dam was of Percheron breeding, and her main job at Claiborne was to serve as a nurse mare. When the colt was about nine months old, he was purchased by Don Montgomery of Lima, Ohio.

Not long after his arrival at Montgomery’s Breesewood Farm, Statesman showed that he’d inherited his sire’s athleticism when he easily jumped a four-foot-high paddock fence of his own volition.

Statesman was initially schooled in dressage, a discipline that was starting to become popular in the U.S. The colt proved to be an apt pupil, and over the years he successfully competed up to Fourth Level. He was later used as a polo pony by Montgomery.


Designating Statesman its foundation sire, Montgomery attempted to establish a new Thoroughbred-based breed and an organization called the American Performance Horse Registry (APHR). Montgomery observed in 1980 that “we have no counterpart in America to the European Warmblood….I’ve felt for years that it’s a sin to send our Olympic team riders out on foreign-bred horses when you consider the millions of horses we raise in this country, and I want to change that.”

Montgomery bred Statesman to Thoroughbred mares, and the resulting get were larger, scopier, and often more talented than their sire. Statesman’s notable offspring included two Grand Prix dressage horses (Caveat and Cricket); Courier, a winning Fourth Level dressage horses; Something Stately, a Second Level dressage competitor; and State Trooper, USDF First Place in APHR Training Level.

Montgomery’s registry plans never really took off, and Statesman was gelded when he was 10 years old. In 1989, a number of Montgomery’s horses, including Statesman, were shipped to Scottsdale to be sold, and that is how he ended up in the dressage barn where I worked. After seeing how much I enjoyed riding him, in 1998 Statesman's owner offered him to me on a long-term lease. I leapt at the opportunity and took him home.


At my place, Statesman fell in love with an Arabian mare. She was a granddaughter of the nearly 16-hand stallion Orzel, a racing phenomenon imported from Poland who has been referred to as the “Arabian Secretariat.” One of my favorite memories from that era was when two dressage friends and I signed up for a cowboy poker ride on a designated trail through the desert. We were the only non-Western participants. As the ride progressed, some of the cowboys behind us tried to get our three horses to spook or otherwise act up. As usual, Statesman wasn’t having any of it, and completely ignored them. In addition, we three dressage riders ended up with the best poker hand, which won us $150!

People have asked what it was like to ride Statesman. While I didn’t have the opportunity to do so in his prime, I can say that even at an advanced age, he felt both powerful and light on his feet. He could be ridden in a snaffle or a double bridle and perform a lovely canter from the walk, easy flying changes, and even an occasional piaffe. Under saddle, I knew that he was “with” me all the time. He was extremely intelligent and had a very high opinion of himself.

In 2000, an article I’d written about Statesman appeared in The Blood-Horse magazine. The following year, Statesman’s farrier attended the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and returned with a gift – a print of Secretariat signed “To Toby [sic] and Statesman” by Big Red’s owner, Penny Chenery. It turned out that she knew who Statesman was from reading the article.

Statesman died in early 2003 at age 28. In his honor, I commissioned a noted equine artist, Amy Novelli, to do a painting of Statesman at half life-size scale. Now I see him every day, as he gallops across the wall of my office.

A couple of years after Statesman passed away, I decided that I wanted to breed my own Secretariat descendant. After doing some research, I traveled to Maryland to see Innkeeper, a winning son of Big Red who had also been approved for breeding by the International Sport Horse Registry. When I arrived, Innkeeper had just spent the last hour serving as a child’s lesson horse, which spoke well of his temperament. As I stood looking at this beautiful bay stallion, whose conformation was so similar to his sire’s, I got an eerie, familiar sensation – while I was evaluating him, HE was evaluating me. Like Statesman, Innkeeper had deeply intelligent eyes and an unruffled demeanor. How could I not breed a mare to him?

And so, in May of 2006, my Arabian mare gave birth to a big, strapping bay colt by Innkeeper. I named him Immaginn (his barn name is Jack). He grew up to be 16.2 hands of elegance, grace, athleticism, and whimsy (he loves to do tricks, including retrieving and shaking hands). He also has that certain special “something” I’d felt in Statesman and experienced with Innkeeper. Jack is at once a remarkable individual in his own right, as well as a living, breathing, link to Secretariat and his otherworldly achievements of five decades ago, a time when the notion of my having any kind of horse seemed to be a faraway dream.


About the Author

Tobi Lopez Taylor is an award-winning writer and editor, a former columnist for Arabian Finish Line, and the author of three books on the Arabian horses of Ed Tweed’s Brusally Ranch. She is currently at work on two forthcoming books: one, with Teresa Rogers, on W. K. Kellogg’s Arabian stallion Antez (grandsire of Mister Ed), and one about the Russian Arabian stallion Naborr, owned by Scottsdale, Arizona resident Anne McCormick. Tobi also writes about Arabians, Thoroughbreds, and pop culture on her blog, Musings from the Mare’s Nest


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