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The Ever-Evolving Kalarama Farm

by Bob Funkhouser


Harlem Globetrotter is the horse that changed

Joan Hamilton’s success as a breeder.



The oldest name in Saddlebred breeding today is Kalarama Farm. In volume three of the 1947 edition of Susanne’s Famous Saddle Horses she describes the dynasty of Kalarama Rex that was created through the wisdom if Judge I.H. Thurman, founder of Kalarama Farm, Springfield, Ky., and his son L. Ray Thurman.


In that edition she stated, “As the early breeders wrought a more perfect product with each generation down through the long years, so L. Ray Thurman has made it his purpose in life to see that the strain that now bears the name Kalarama will grow in uniform beauty and continue pure and unchallenged in the records of scientific breeding, and that those qualifications which made Kalarama Rex great will live on through the proper matings of his sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, which have been produced on historic Kalarama Farm.”


The vision of the Thurman family remains strong today, however, it wasn’t always at the level L. Ray Thurman had hoped for. The Thurman family had sold the farm to Johnny Piles; however, the government took the land adjacent to the historic farm to build a project on. Paul Hamilton was contracted to do some of the work on that project and he needed a lot of dirt to do his job. Hamilton approached Piles about buying dirt from him and Piles was so disgusted at what was going on he told Hamilton he wouldn’t sell him any dirt, but he would sell him the farm. So from that Paul Hamilton owned Kalarama Farm and had the dirt he needed to get the job done next door.


Meanwhile, Hamilton had a young horse crazy daughter who was involved in the Springfield 4-H program that actually involved breeding mares and taking the resulting foals to sell at Tattersalls as yearlings.


“We weren’t very serious. The farm was my dad’s investment,” explained Joan Hamilton. “In 1976, Dad and I started in business. We’d buy a horse at Tattersalls in the spring, show him that summer and sell it in the fall. I was also involved with the 4-H club.


“We didn’t live at the farm, but we thought it would be fun to take a horse or two up there to play with. That didn’t go over well with Mom because we spent all of our time there. Finally she said, ‘We might as well move there.’”


They did and the farm went through a few stages. Meanwhile Joan had been in the family’s coal business but that came to an end and left her wondering what to do next.


“I came home and didn’t have a job. Larry Hodge had leased the facility. I helped him for a while but that didn’t work so well,” she chuckled. “So, I started breeding horses and not too successfully I might add. There were lots of mistakes, but that wasn’t all bad because it gave me the opportunity to learn.”


During that time Kalarama stood some impressive stallions including Lord O’Shea, Spring Valley’s Deliverance, Valley Stonewall and Flame Of Greystone.


“They were all good stallions who contributed positively to the breed, however, because you have a good horse doesn’t mean you can make a business out of it.”


In 1981 Joan’s father came to her and said he was through pouring money into her breeding business. He said she could continue, but that she would do it on her own. Joan asked him to buy her one more horse to try and make it work. That horse was Harlem Globetrotter. Under the direction of Larry Hodge, the black son of New Yorker and Putting On Airs set the show ring on fire, winning the Three-Year-Old Triple Crown (World’s Champions, Sweepstakes Champion, UPHA Classics Grand Champion).


“It was a lucky turn of events with Globetrotter,” said Joan. “Globetrotter gained so much momentum to make this happen. New Yorker was the horse of the hour at the time. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a horse as hot. It seemed that every top horse that came out was by New Yorker.


“After I bought Globetrotter, New Yorker died and so his sons instantly became hot commodities. Many top mares were sent to him and right away he produced top horses such as Harlem’s Diamond Jim, Harlem’s Bluebell, Harlem Town, Elegant Stitches, I’ve A Jewel, Harlem’s Yankee Queen and The Groomsman. From there it just kept going.”


Offspring by Harlem Globetrotter succeeded in show ring after show ring and in many different divisions. Perhaps the most famous, Five-Gaited World’s Grand Champion Garland’s Dream. It naturally took several years to come to light, however, the daughters of Harlem Globetrotter also proved to be outstanding producers themselves. According to the ASHA’s ratings, Harlem Globetrotter is by far the number one broodmare sire.


“It was about 15 years ago that it came to light,” stated Joan. “I started collecting Globetrotter daughters and a lot of my top horses are out of those daughters. Because of Globetrotter I feel a responsibility to continue to breed. I enjoy it.


“However, I also really enjoy buying a nice young horse and bring it along. I love to watch a young horse blossom and mature. I like being in control of that. I’m very protective. [World’s Grand Champion Three-Gaited] Grande Gil is a perfect example. It’s a lot of fun being a part of a team and having that trust between owner and trainer.”


When you breed and buy young horses there has to be a marketing plan as strong as the breeding plan. As many have found out you can quickly find yourself overrun with horses. This year Joan introduced a new twist to the Kalarama sales program. The Kalarama Red Dot Sale is an idea she borrowed from a horse show years ago.


“Ten or 15 years ago we were at some show and the manager had the idea of placing red dots on the back numbers of horses that were for sale and that has stuck in my head forever. There is a certain mystique about buying horses and it shouldn’t be difficult. I don’t think it’s crooked or shadowy, trainers and traders just do things a certain way. I wanted to take some of that mystique away.


“I thought whether my horse is good or bad today, it’s for sale. I thought we’d put the red dots on the back numbers of our horses that were for sale and see what happens. Some of our success has been a double edge sword. The Elisabeth Goths and Misdee Wrigleys of the world are trying to sell horses just like Joan Hamilton is. I think sometimes people get intimidated to ask about a horse they see a big barn showing or think some of the top horses wouldn’t be for sale, but they are. Granted, I’ve got some expensive horses and won’t apologize for that. But, all of us also have horses in the moderate and lower price ranges.”


As a result of the attention from the Red Dot Sale campaign, Kalarama has sold five of the horses they have been showing and have more inquiries than they can ever remember.


“The Red Dot is a reminder to people that these horse are for sale.”

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