Local has ties to Secretariat
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
One of the most famous race horses in history also happens to have been an acquaintance, and a hero, at least in equestrian terms, of a local woman who once was a self-admitted “jockey wannabe.”
Secretariat, the 1973 winner of U.S. horse-racing’s most coveted prize, the Triple Crown, is now the subject of a new Disney movie that is playing in local theaters.
Lynn Bader, who with her husband, Dennis, runs the Flower Mart in Glenwood Springs, was herself in training at the Pimlico race track in Maryland in the early 1970s.
She was there at the same time that Secretariat was there, getting ready for the Kentucky Derby, which is the first race of the Triple Crown. The other two are the Preakness at Pimlico and the Belmont Stakes in New York.
Bader met the famous horse in the early 1970s while she was working at Pimlico for trainer John Tammaro, exercising and caring for horses.
Secretariat was housed “in the next barn over” from the one where she worked, she said, and one day, “I just decided to go over and meet him.” She said security probably would get in the way of such a visit these days.
The horse was in a stall, head sticking out over a webbed enclosure that covered the lower portion of the doorway.
“He was very nice,” Bader recalled. “I always thought he was very cordial.”
She said the horse was well-tempered, handled easily and would obey commands without any trouble, which is not true of all thoroughbreds.
“I never got to work with him, of course, but it’s neat being near elite horses,” Bader said, “because they act smarter, they really do.”
But she did get to see him run.
“I was right there, right at the rail,” she said, when Secretariat was “breezing” – running him to allow trainers to observe and measure his stride.
“He had the longest stride-length, I think, of any horse since Man O’ War,” another great racehorse from earlier in the 20th century. Secretariat’s running stride was 25 feet, while Man O’ War’s was 30 feet.
She never met Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, also known as Penny Tweedy, although she since has gotten to know other Glenwood Springs residents, such as John Buxman and Abby Lochhead, who were friends of Tweedy’s.
In the 1970s, Bader was enamored with horses in general and racing in particular. She began riding while in junior high school and “just started gravitating toward anything to do with horses” after that.
In 1970, right after she got out of college, she earned her Riding Master certificate in West Virginia. It was a two-year program which gave her training in everything from riding to stable management, horse care and other skills.
She worked with other trainers before Tammaro, she said, but “they didn’t have enough [horses] to keep me busy.
With Tammaro’s stable of some 40 animals, she felt she was getting the exposure that might lead to a career.
“That was about the time women jockeys were breaking in,” she recalled, putting her at the forefront of a movement that continues growing today, with its own website [www.femalejockeys.com] and its own special controversies.
Bader had hopes of being one of this new breed, but it never worked out, though she has not forgotten her love for the animals or the activities.
Her own horse died a few years ago, at the age of 26, after she’d owned him for 18 years.
“Dennis calls them a money pit,” she said with a smile.
She added that the horse she bought, well before moving to Glenwood Springs, was a colt once owned by local businessman Bill Bullock, who bred horses at his ranch up Canyon Creek.
After moving here in the early 1990s, she said, she met Bullock one day and told him the story.
The Baders saw the film, Secretariat, on opening night.
“I was all excited,” she said, explaining that the movie project has “been in the works for years.”
Mentioning another horse that captured the imagination of the nation, Seabiscuit, she said, “They both hit at opportune times to raise America’s spirits.”
Seabiscuit rocketed onto the national scene during the depths of the Great Depression, and Secretariat came at a time of national unease triggered by such events as the unraveling of the Watergate cover-up, the Arab oil embargo and the uncertainty leading up to the Paris Peace Accords, which ended American involvement in Vietnam.
As for the film, she said, “They got a few of their facts a little bit backward, but for the most part they captured his essence.”
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