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Heyday of Saddlebred breed recalled at Spindletop Hall

A carriage leaves Spindletop Farm during its heyday.

A carriage leaves Spindletop Farm during its heyday.

The Club at Spindletop Hall will celebrate the mansion’s historic connection to the American Saddlebred in July, harking back to the time when the historic farm was a national leader in breeding, training, and the showing of the breed.

Chief of Spindletop, with Cape Grant up.

Chief of Spindletop, with Cape Grant up.

The event is open to the public and takes place during the Lexington Junior League Horse Show on Friday, July 11, at a luncheon from 11.30am to 1.30pm in the Club’s famed Saddlehorse Lounge, which includes furniture and design elements original to the 1937 mansion, such as a “starlit courtyard” dance floor.

“Mimosas and Memories: Spindletop’s Saddlebred Moments” will feature light summer fare and mimosas and tours of historic Spindletop Hall, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Artifacts will be on display from Spindletop’s historic connection to the Saddlebred – America’s first indigenous breed that was developed in Kentucky – including trophies, photos, halters, and other items related to the period from 1937 to 1952. Elizabeth Shatner’s nationally recognized equine art will also be on display.

A short program is planned to demonstrate the unique history of Spindletop Hall as it relates to the Lexington equine industry and the Lexington Junior League Horse Show.

Pansy Yount, whose late husband Miles Frank made his fortune by discovering a deeper vein of oil in 1925 at Spindletop hill near Beaumont, Texas, bought 1066 acres at the corner of Iron Works Pike and Newtown Pike in 1933 to move her Spindletop Farm to Lexington.

Pansy Yount

Pansy Yount

That year, she built the 600,000 cubic-foot European-style mansion, with three kitchens, seven bedrooms, and two four-room suites, in addition to servants’ quarters. The grounds included formal gardens and a family pool. The latter remains today and is in need of extensive improvements. Plans are in the works to replicate a portion of the gardens as a tribute to Spindletop’s famous horses.

The farm featured 11 barns with 108 stalls, to which Pansy brought her champion broodmares and stallions, led by Roxie Highland and Chief of Spindletop, respectively, trained by William Capers “Cape” Grant, who would later wed Pansy.

Just three years later, on February 20, 1939, Roxie Highland colic and died. A heartbroken Pansy conducted a lavish funeral for the beloved mare, including a hearse and full casket. A sculpture was commissioned that stands today near the American Saddlebred Museum at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Spindletop Farm continued to produce top-rated show horses and Champions through the war years and into the early 1950s. Failing health and strains of managing the property led Pansy, at 65, to disperse her horses in July 1952 (during the Junior League Horse Show), and to ultimately return to Beaumont to be near her only child, Mildred.

During her childhood, Mildred was named as one of the wealthiest girls in the nation, and was the subject of kidnap threats.

In February 1959 the University of Kentucky purchased Spindletop Farm for the bargain basement price of just over $800 per acre – including the mansion, which was repurposed as the university’s alumni and faculty club.

“Mimosas and Memories: Spindletop’s Saddlebred Moments” is open to the public. The cost is $20, payable at the door. Reservations are advised; call the club at 859-255-2777.

More on Spindletop Hall

Spindletop Hall today.

Spindletop Hall today.

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