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With Clouse … father and son... what you see is what you get



by Ann Bullard

 

Certainly they have agendas. There’s not a horseman – and rarely a man – who doesn’t. But according to those who know them, the Clark and Tommy Clouse you see never really change. Son and father are personable, talented, kind and superb at their chosen profession.

 

Richmond, Ky., about 25 miles south of Lexington, was a small city when Tommy Clouse was born there approximately 72 years ago. Eastern Kentucky University, in his hometown, offered a riding program. Tommy began lessons when he was 12-years-old.

 

“At times, they had a Saddlebred or two that someone had donated. I got to riding gaited horses and fell in love with them. My parents bought me a gaited pony,” Tommy said, admitting he couldn’t control that pony until he was about 16.

 

Tommy’s father died shortly after he finished college. “I farmed to pay for the farms I bought,” he recalled. “William Rogers trained my horses at my place for the use of my barn. We’d make the county fair circuits in the summertime.”

 

One-night shows and county fairs offered the young man plenty of opportunities to ride and show. When Rogers retired at age 72, Richard Carter of Massachusetts still had horses at the barn.

 

“He wondered what to do with them and asked me why I didn’t train them.” Tommy said. “That was what I was meant to do all my life. I sold the farms and continued to train horses.”

 

When Tommy and Connie Clouse married it was the second marriage for each of them. His first wife was allergic to horses; their two children had no interest in the animals.

 

“They’re real good kids. I couldn’t ask for any better,” Tommy said, explaining one is an engineer and the other a teacher.

 

“I’d always known Tommy,” Connie Clouse added. “We lived in the same town. I worked at the bank and knew everyone.”

 

Connie’s expertise was in the road bike

and harness buggy. She showed

The Doctor’s Discovery in 1984.

 

She also liked horses, a definite plus. Some of Connie’s favorite memories revolve around the times they showed against one another.  The couple had two sons.

 

“One is a very successful computer genius who lives in Las Vegas and San Diego,” Tommy said. “The other is a world’s championship trainer.”

 

With Clark, Tommy had his ‘shadow,’ someone to learn his dad’s way from the ground up. As a trainer’s son who liked horses, Clark had what many might consider a ‘dream situation.’ He had plenty of horses to ride, with a lot of work to go along with it. Tommy often bought a Saddlebred that had been donated to Morehead State University.

 

Clark wore maroon and black

silks in his leadline class.

 

“That’s what I would get to ride,” Clark said. “Some were broke, some were outlaws.

 

Clark concedes he started young, but playing on baseball and basketball All-Star teams in the summer had him “conflicted about shows until I was about 11 or 12. Then I started really liking it.”

 

Clark showed ‘Sparky’ in pleasure
classes
when still a youngster.

 

He admits the girls to young men ratio played a small part in that choice. “This is a sport where there aren’t many guys and are lots of girls. I’d always tell my friends that they should come because the numbers are good,” he said with a laugh.

 

“When I was about 16, I started going to work with Dad in the summertime. He would give me five or six head to work and kept an eye on me while I tried things. That was a hard thing for him to do, but trial and error was the best way for me to learn. If I messed up too badly, he took them away and fixed them,” Clark added. “I remember sitting in school and dreaming about showing, about some day being at Louisville.”

 

Clark was 16 when that dream came true. He made his debut on the five-gaited pony Jolly Boy. And from there he continued to learn his trade from Tommy.

 

Not only was Clouse farm convenient to Lexington, it is a little more than 50 miles from the town of London, Ky. Lanny and Elmo Greer became some of Tommy’s early customers.

 

“I started Lanny and Elmo in the horse business,” Tommy said. “Lanny was the only person I ever worked for.”

 

“I’ve known the family for 30-plus years,” Lanny Greer said. “Tommy is the same today as the day I met him. He is an absolutely good horseman – one of the best. He’s a guy that lots of time gets overlooked for his ability. I’ve always said Tommy can make a three-legged mule rack.

 

“Tommy had Clark riding when he was young. He’d throw him on one of those old ‘outlaw’ horses and away it would go. I never saw him fall,” Greer continued.

 

Clark’s a good kid.  He and Josh [Greer’s son] are about the same age. Clark was small when we all started going to shows together,” Greer said, explaining in those days ‘we’ included his wife, Penny, son Josh, Doug Moore (who was working with Tommy,) Connie and Clark. “We’d take a string somewhere on Friday. If we got beat, we’d load up another bunch on Saturday night and try again.”

 

Tommy and Callaway’s Minuet won

their class at Morehead State in 1987.

 

Greer recalled taking a three-gaited mare named Coretta to the World’s Championships. “Tommy hadn’t been to Louisville since he was a kid. We were in one of the far-back barns. We’d been sixth or seventh earlier in the week and this was stake night. Tommy wanted to show back.

 

“When he was getting Coretta ready to show, he took off her blanket and a strap got caught in her flanks. She kicked Tommy out of the stall and kicked right out of her back shoes. Tommy wasn’t hurt. When I asked what he wanted to do, he replied, ‘Find us a blacksmith.’ Here I was, all dressed up for Saturday night and running to the makeup ring to find a blacksmith,” Greer said, explaining he had no golf cart.

 

There wasn’t time enough to put the shoes on and make the class. “Tommy stood there a minute and said, ‘The heck with it. She’s so good in the back end she doesn’t need any shoes. I’m not losing that entry fee for two shoes.’”

 

Greer talked Tommy into moving his training operation to the family’s Pinekrest Farm. He remained there for a little more than two years.

 

“I drove back and forth from Richmond to London. It got to be too much. I’d work all day, come home and catch myself nodding off while driving,” Tommy said.

 

Jerry Mayes, his wife Tina, and daughters Mackenzie and Alex, also of London, Ky., have been friends and customers of the Clouses for decades. Mayes still has some young horses in partnership with the senior trainer.

 

“When I first started with Tommy, they counted on making $50 here and there by taking riders who couldn’t ride to county fairs,” Mayes said, adding he includes himself in that rider category. “I don’t think the business ever was about the money for Tommy. He grew up showing horses when he was a boy. He just loves them.”

 

Mayes told of Tommy’s ‘career’ as an equitation instructor. “He helped buy Alex’s first walk and trot horse, Boy George. We went to some small show; Tommy really was upset that she didn’t win. He thought she did a really good job. After the show, he asked the judge, ‘What was wrong with my rider?’ The judge replied, ‘You’ve got a great rider, but she was on the wrong diagonal the whole time.’”

 

Tommy’s response: “‘What do you mean on the wrong diagonal,’” Mayes recalled with a laugh.

 

“Alex wore the prettiest peach-colored habit in the walk and trot class at Knoxville,” Mayes continued. “Lisa (Waller) came up to me and said, ‘You really have a beautiful rider; she’s really good. I don’t know who taught her. But she does need a little help with her clothes.’”

 

Clouse and Mayes recognized that Alex needed an instructor who specialized in equitation. She began her training with Waller while Mackenzie learned to ride a five-gaited horse with Tommy.

 

As Clark spent more and more time working alongside his dad, Tommy encouraged him to look at all his professional options.

 

“I saw Clark had an exceptional talent,” Tommy said, conceding he had taught his son well. “He came to me during his senior year in high school asking if he should go to college. I said, ‘Son, I don’t know.’ All the other kids were going. I told him if he knew what he wanted to do, to go ahead. Or he could lay out a year and come to work for me.”

 

Clark elected to work with his dad. About this time, Jerry Mayes’s Cabaret Girl came into Clark’s hands.

 

“We had her as a two and three-year-old. She was the nicest colt I’d broke up to that time. She was tough but had a lot of ability,” he said of the mare that would eventually be one of Walt and Jackie Stred’s star performers.

 

For a short period of time, Clouse Stables actually had two locations. Tommy continued the Richmond operation while Clark leased a farm in Verona, near Cincinnati, Ohio.

 

“Dad wanted me to kind of get out on my own,” he said. “I had a lot of job offers as well.”

 

Clark looked back on his early years. “Growing up as a horse trainer’s kid is hard. A lot of my friends got to show nice horses. I wasn’t able to; we couldn’t afford it. Occasionally I got to ride a customer horse. Wanting to show but having to wait my turn was the hardest part of it for me.

 

“My parents were great,” Clark continued. “Working for Dad was hard; I knew I could quit as often as I wanted to and still come back. Sometimes if your family is in [the horse business,] they expect a little too much. It would have been good to work for someone else, but I couldn’t as they needed me to stay home and help take care of the family business. It got to where I was my own boss at home with my father to help me. I got to show more often, to get more exposure.”

 

Clark says that working project horses and gaiting colts are what he enjoys best. “Dad will laugh at me, saying I’ll rack anything in the barn. He is as good as anyone I’ve ever seen. I probably learned more about how to rack a colt from him than anything else.”

 

Lanny Greer’s Glider’s Star and Clark

were a formidable team.

 

During this time, Tommy Clouse had horses for Karen Carver. A mare she’d been ‘playing with’ at home caught Tommy’s eye. He suggested Carver send her to Clark. The then five-gaited pleasure horse, Dream’s Desire, came into Clark’s hands in the late 1990s.

 

“She had been a broodmare in the field a little more than a year before,” Clark recalled, adding he was 21 at the time. “I won Lexington’s Five-Gaited Mare Stake and a reserve grand championship with her.”

 

Dream’s Desire and Clark

 

Jessica Nicholson, whose family owns Stick Horse Farm, stepped up on her less than a month later to win the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited 13 and Under World’s Championship and a reserve world’s champion of championship under Clouse’s direction.

 

Although his dream was for Clark to take over the family farm, Tommy had encouraged his son to step out on his own. When his dad got to the point that he wasn’t riding as much as he had been, Clark returned home. The popular young trainer was single at the time. That would not be the case for long.

 

While Clark was growing up and showing in Kentucky, Sheila Sanders’s equine passion focused on Hackney and Shetland ponies. A Chicago native, she showed such ponies as Mastercraft’s Namesake primarily on the Midwest circuit.

 

“I didn’t see Clark that much,” Sheila recalled. “I’d go to Indy and see him there and go to Louisville occasionally. I had met him five years before we actually talked or started dating. At the 2005 All American Horse Classic, we finally sat down and talked.

 

A seventh and eighth grade social studies and math teacher in a ‘way-north’ Chicago private school, Sheila found herself commuting to Kentucky on weekends. The weekend before The American Royal, she booked a flight and flew to Kentucky so she and Clark could go out to dinner on Saturday night. He left for Kansas City early the next morning; Sheila caught an early flight home.

 

“We wanted to spend all the time we could together. I was willing to fly down for 12 hours; he appreciated the gesture. Maybe it looked like some crazy lady was stalking him,” she said with a laugh.

 

The following February, Sheila, Clark and some of their closest friends, including Tom Lowry, Matt Shiflet and Mark Webster, took a cruise to the Grand Caymans. The couple married in what Sheila calls a ‘storybook setting’ on a pier overlooking the ocean.

 

 

Sheila and Clark had a storybook wedding

on a pier in the Grand Caymans.

 

Even though she was married, Sheila had a commitment to fulfill. “I had to finish my contract with the school. Clark had to be in Kentucky with customers on Saturdays. I continued to live in Chicago and teach, commuting to Kentucky every Friday night. I’d fly back on Monday’s six a.m. flight and drive an hour and a half to work.”

 

As Clark’s business continued to grow, he and Sheila began to look for opportunities to move into a more centralized location. In January 2007, they purchased the property that had been Melissa Moore’s Sunrise Stables. They moved into the 41-stall barn right after Lexington.

 

“Ideally, I can work 30 to 35 head. I have good help who know what to do and we have a system that works,” Clark said, pointing out he doesn’t mind working 12-hour days. He also is getting into the breeding side of the business.

 

His client list is impressive. His 2007 show string includes horses for Elmo Greer, Joan Adler, Ceil and Kenny Wheeler, Jackie Stred and Justin Cowley.

 

Lime Twisted Gin finally conquered his Lexington

phobia in 2007, winning both the Three-Gaited

Park qualifier and grand championship.

 

Clark rode Elmo Greer’s Radiante to the County Fair

Five-Gaited Championship at Louisville 2007.

 

“I’ve been with Clark for four or five years,” said Adler, who owns Tricolor Saddlebreds. “He is excellent about selecting nice young horses and selling them for you.

 

“Some of my best memories are when he would help me with Sultry Heiress,” Adler continued. “I couldn’t get in the buggy very easily. He actually picked me up and put me in it.

 

“I think Clark is one of the most outstanding young trainers in the country today. I wouldn’t have sent Gothic [Gothic Revival] over there with him otherwise. Clark is going to be handling his breeding program. His barn is full now and I’m asking him to take on a whole different aspect of the horse world: breeding. I’m excited about it – and I think he is, too,” Adler said.

 

Ceil and Kenny Wheeler moved Memories’ Paragon to Clark last spring. “He’s done a grand job with Paragon. Kenny and I couldn’t be any happier with the horse’s progress,” Ceil Wheeler said.

 

Ceil and Kenny Wheeler entrusted Memories’ Paragon

to Clark. They followed their reserve world championship

in the 2007 Five-Gaited Gelding Stake with grand champion-

ship rides at the All American Horse Classic and ASHAV.

 

“Clark and his family simply are fun to be around,” she added. “He thanks us again and again for sending that horse to him. Yes, he has had some success – but he has humility. His personality is very refreshing.”

 

“I have a number of horses I think a lot of, but don’t really get close to,” Clark said. “Memories’ Paragon and I just connected. He’s one of the most favorite horses I’ve ever had. It’s like I’m his best friend … he nickers for me. And I get to show him. We were second at Louisville and won at Indiana [The All American Horse Classic.] I feel like all our hard work has paid off. To have the Wheelers excited and happy for me, to appreciate all I’ve done means a lot.”

 

The father-son team hit another homerun when Tommy found Colonel Hoss at the Ohio State Fair. He told Clark he had to see this horse, to get on and ride it. Joan Adler purchased the gelding, who earned nice ribbons with Clouse in 2005 and early ’06.

 

Clark looked back on that purchase. “The guy who owned him looked like Willie Nelson. Hoss was nine years old and had shown five times. It took us about a year and a half to get it together.”

 

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Justin Cowley and his family moved to the Clouse barn. The teenager’s propulsion onto the national stage came through that connection and Colonel Hoss. His parents rarely discuss Justin’s chronic kidney disease, for which he eventually will need a transplant. Rather than over-protect their son, Leetta and Paul Beachum have chosen to let him enjoy the things he does best.

 

“Justin began riding with Clark in July of last year, after Patty Kent retired and moved to Ohio. We moved a five-gaited pleasure horse and a park horse to him. Justin began catch-riding,” his mother said.

 

Clark gave him every opportunity. Justin got good ribbons at the Boone County, Ky., Fair. And he dreamed of Louisville.

 

“The week before Louisville 2006, I told Clark my dream had been to show there, but I never had a nice enough horse to do it. He told me Elmo [Greer] wasn’t showing Son, Moon And Stars, to try his [Clark’s] suit on and if it fit me, I could show the horse. We were seventh out of eight.”

 

Justin had watched Colonel Hoss from the beginning of the season. “When we moved to Clark’s, Sheila suggested Clark let me ride him. He let me show him at ASHAV last year. We were fifth out of five, but we left the ring to a standing ovation. I wasn’t sure why. I completely screwed up the class but people said it was the most phenomenal combination they had ever seen.”

 

As the two prepared to head to the American Royal, Justin went through some bad rides. As he had done with Patty Kent, Justin watched his ASHAV video “50 times. I taught myself to ride him by watching that video.”

 

Learn he did – earning the qualifying blue and tricolor after riding the powerful gelding only five times. When the opportunity for the Beachums to buy Hoss came, Clark said he would do whatever he had to for Justin to have the gelding.

 

Clark met up with Justin Cowley and

Colonel Hoss after their championship

win at the 2006 American Royal.

 

Justin gives Sheila a lot of credit for reaching the place he is at today. “I don’t know if people realize Sheila knows as much as she does. Whenever I show, Clark tells me Hoss looks good. I’ll turn to Sheila and ask how he looked. She’s always honest and doesn’t sugarcoat things. She has a lot to do with the way the horses are turned out. I think she is good for his business. She’s made him more business-like and deserves a lot of credit. If not for Sheila, I would never have been on Hoss. I owe her a ton.

 

This past summer, Justin got a taste of a horse trainer’s life when he lived with Sheila and Clark for three months. He showed almost every weekend at a county fair before heading for Freedom Hall.

 

“Justin had to give up basketball, baseball and track. The Colonel Hoss thing has kept him going,” Leetta Beachum said. Clark and Sheila took him under their wing. It couldn’t have come along at a better time. Justin got sick as a freshman. “We try to treat his symptoms as they come along, but don’t know what will happen from one day to the next. He’s never been anywhere that he’s been this happy,” said Leetta.

 

“Having Justin around is like having a little brother. He and Hoss probably are my proudest and happiest accomplishments in the horse business,” Clark said.

 

The trainer’s nurturing side shows up in another way: with his and Sheila’s son, Carter. Adler talked about Clark, the father.

 

“He and Sheila are wonderful parents. Clark is really into this baby business,” she said. “It’s a different role for him. When I asked about classes at one show, he had the baby on his knee and was trying to go through the list with his other hand. If I go to see my horses, he often is there in the middle of the aisle way with the baby.”

 

When Clark moved from Richmond to Versailles, Ky., Tommy and Connie began a new life.

 

“I didn’t want to be a Wal-Mart greeter,” Tommy said. “My wife wanted to cook. We found a place at home to open a restaurant. It’s very, very successful.”

 

“The best thing I do is homemade desserts,” Connie said. “People come in now and order dessert first.”

 

Tommy helps at the restaurant, going to the bank, handling the shopping, taking orders, handling the cash register and helping cook when needed. Connie says he can do it all. Her challenge: to keep him out of the desserts.

 

“Tommy likes all of them,” she said with a laugh. “I’ll say, Tommy, don’t cut that. He always wants to try something when I fix it. I want to wait and see if it sells. Our employees laugh when they hear me say, ‘Tommy, you can’t have that.’ He thinks he can get away with it – and usually does.”

 

Operating the restaurant keeps the senior Clouses close to home. Tommy still gets away for some shows. He and Connie usually drive to Versailles on Saturday to watch Clark work his horses.

 

“I get to go to shows and watch him ride there, too. That’s a real pleasure. I went to Indy and saw him win the stake with Paragon. My heart got to beating so fast, I was about to fall over,” Tommy said in his inimitable way. “I had mine all raised and grown up. Now here comes that little one and we are starting all over again.”

 

Sheila and Clark are fortunate to have parents living near enough to help with Carter during many of the shows. They drive him to Sheila’s family in Illinois for events such as Louisville and ASHAV. Connie and Tommy often baby-sit for shorter periods.

 

Life has changed for the Clouses – senior and junior. “Dad enjoyed the country fairs rather than going to the big shows and putting up with what you had to,” Clark said. “When we bought Melissa’s farm, he told me it was a sad and happy day for him. He said, ‘I know you won’t be back here, but to see you have a nice place like that and be successful …’”

 

Clark and Sheila do have a life away from horses. “I absolutely am a huge Kentucky basketball fan – or fanatic. I love sports but I enjoy that most. I like spending time with my son and with my wife. We like to go to a nice dinner and a movie on weekends – to do anything to relax.”

 

As for his relationship with Tommy … “He calls me more now that he’s not in horses any more. He’ll tell me, ‘You should try this – or that.’ I think he trains more now than when he actually did train them.”

 

Many people have their opinions of Clark Clouse. Perhaps Kris Knight said it best.

 

Clark is like a stake horse: game, willing, fearless, talented.” Enough said.




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