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Master Road Horseman Pres Oder Passes

by Bob Funkhouser

Born in 1922 amidst the noble American Saddlebred heritage of
Bourbon County, Ky., Preston K. “Pres” Oder died a legend among road horsemen on Sunday, Sept. 18. Already battling cancer he suffered a stroke Sept. 16 and never recovered and died in the McDonough District Hospital in his hometown of Macomb, Ill.


“Pres was a good horseman and one that was hard to beat,” said one of his peers, Rex Parkinson.

“He was fearless and tough,” added longtime friend and customer Glenn Werry, Jr. “He was the best. I’ve known him since I was a kid and he was the most honest, hard working guy I’ve ever been around. He was also an intense competitor. He hated to lose more than anyone I’ve ever known.”

Growing up in a family of nine children, Oder came to Illinois with his brother Gene after having been raised in Kentucky where he learned to become a Saddlebred trainer. Before he and his brother opened their own stable, Oder worked for the famed Lloyd Teater and it is there that he became enthralled with the speedsters.

“I didn’t get into road horses until I worked for Mr. Lloyd,” said Oder in an earlier Horse World magazine interview. “I showed different horses for him. Never got a chance to show Miss Dean Key, Bomb Sight or some of those horses, but I did show Venture Up at Lexington and places like that.”

When Oder and his brother opened their stable in Peoria, Ill., they enjoyed great success on the tough “Leaky Roof Circuit.” Gaited horses, walk-trot horses, equitation riders, it didn’t matter...the Oders had champions in all divisions. They also stood a stud and showed numerous babies in the Futurities at the Illinois State Fair.

Oder eventually moved to Macomb where he and his bride Shirley have resided for over 50 years. As the years went on his love for road horses took over and the list of champions grew and grew. Some of the champions which have won world and national titles include Hurricane Donna, Nibley Dean, Worthy Demon, V-Day, Footlights, Rusty Russ, Ruthless Reuben, Somethin’ Swell, Bar None, and his last great one, the 1998-99 Roadster To Wagon World’s Grand Champion Catch Me who tragically died at Louisville in 2001 just before the Roadster To Wagon World’s Grand Championship. He never got over losing that horse.

It was Oder’s intensity and competitive spirit that led to hundreds of crowd pleasing drives across the country, but nowhere like the coliseum in Springfield, Ill. The Illinois State Fairgrounds was like a second home to him. Whether it was Max Parkinson, Rex Parkinson or Raymond Shively he was up against, Oder drove like there was no tomorrow.

Oder not only perfected the skills necessary to select, train, and show world class road horses, he also passed that knowledge on. Phillip Bisch was one of the recipients of Oder’s generosity.

“He was one of the best. A legend. He was like a dad to me,” said Bisch. “My dad showed saddle horses with Pres and then in the late 70s had road horses with him. I grew up around the saddle horses and enjoyed them but it wasn’t until 1998 that I started driving with Pres and what an honor that has been. It has been like Earl Teater teaching you to rack a colt. Pres could turn a road horse as well as anyone ever has.

 “The knowledge he has passed on is priceless.”

Pres Oder died a gentleman. With a puff of his pipe he had a big smile and a pat on the back for everyone. He loved horses, people, and horse shows. He also loved winning.

Winning was something he knew throughout his life. The road horse great has been well documented. He was also just as slick with a saddle horse. Just a few years ago he came out with a three-year-old fine harness colt named Harlem’s C My Radiance. They won Midwest and Lexington and then earned a reserve world’s championship at Louisville and received a thunderous round of applause in doing so.

Fellow road horse legend Raymond Shively headed Oder’s harness colt each time. Shively also gave Oder his last taste of victory. Just a few months ago at the Midwest Charity, Shively put Oder at the whip of his 2004 USTA World’s Champion Big Red. With standing ovations in each class, Oder won both the Roadster To Bike Grand Championship and open class. He must have given Big Red two great drives as the chestnut champion went on to win the World’s Grand Championship just a few weeks ago with Shively.

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