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Remembering The Talented and Humorous Ellis Waggoner


With his wife Nancy by his side, Waggoner was inducted into

the World’s Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame in 2001.


by Bob Funkhouser


The show horse industry has had its share of colorful personalities and ranking right up there among the best of them was Ellis Waggoner. The recent passing of this World’s Championship Horse Show Hall of Fame trainer is yet another loss for a generation of exceptionally talented trainers.


At the age of six, Waggoner went to live with the J.E. Wheeler family of Louisville, Ky., who owned Parkway Stables. Horses became a way of life for the young man with a big smile. He had stints with the racetrack, the circus and a livery stable. Waggoner learned the tools of the trade as a youngster and soon became an accomplished horseman and instructor. In fact, he taught equitation at the University of Louisville, one of two colleges he attended.


Right out of college he was called into military service and upon completion of his service immediately went back into the horse business. His first jobs included working for Letter V Stables, Walter Schott and Senator T.N. Wood.


It was 1950 when Waggoner joined forces with longtime friend Carl T. Fischer of Meadowlake Stables and the two established one of the top training and breeding operations in Kentucky, producing many great young horses as well as amateur and equitation riders.


Ellis Waggoner and Carl Fischer, Jr. produced many of the
breed’s great young horses from Fischer’s Meadowlake Stables

where Waggoner was the longtime manager/trainer.


In 1957, Fischer was called to join the armed forces and Waggoner had several other job offers so the two parted ways for a short period of time, although Fischer usually had a horse in training with him. Waggoner, along with his talented wife, Nancy, served as manager/trainer at such notable establishments as Man O’War Farm in Lexington, Ky., Brownview Farm in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Hartmeyer Stables in Muncie, Ind. During those early years he trained such stars as CH Sam McGee, CH Gallant Guy O’Goshen and CH Dictator’s Master. His prized riding students included Terry and Carl Fischer Jr., Elizabeth Culley, Matilda McCracken, Donald Dawson, Bobby Brown, Cornelia Serpell, Mary Baranhard, Sally Ray and Toria Thompson.


Following Fischer’s stint in the service and the selling of his family’s business he began to build a herd of select broodmares. It was time for his old friend to return to Meadowlake to prepare and market the offspring from these grand mares. What followed was a group of great young horses, one right after the other. Among those world’s champions were Family Jewels, CH Trink To Me Only, Le Corsaire, CH Naranda, CH Blarney Stone, CH Cynthia’s Party Punch, Just Elegant, Catfeesh, Reassessment, Hocus Pocus, Fat Cat, Kate Sherman, CH Trink’s Gold and CH Supreme Roman, among others.


“He was a wonderful horseman who loved doing things that a lot of other trainers didn’t want to fool with,” said Carl T. Fischer. “He loved to gait a colt. His passion was teaching young horses. He could also deal with difficult horses like no other horseman. We had a mare named Miss Rockette who was one tough cookie. Ellis could get along with her and we sold her to Michele Macfarlane. Ellis was on the phone with Michele nearly every day coaching her. I always said Ellis and Michele are the only two in the country who could have gotten along with that mare.


“Ellis was patient and thought like a horse. He was just a damned good horseman. As a person he could be a little difficult but he was good-hearted and very loving. Everywhere he worked he became like family. When he first worked for us in the ‘50s he had dinner with us every night. He became very involved with every aspect of the family.”


Waggoner was also the man responsible for developing the great World’s Grand Champion CH Onion. He debuted Onion as a two-year-old and then had him just right as a three-year-old gaited colt. Waggoner suffered a severe leg injury before Louisville that year and Jim Koller was the catch rider selected for Onion. That was one memorable performance as Koller and Onion were bringing down the house and Ellis Waggoner standing and waving his crutch in the air cheering them on like no other.


That same year Koller catch rode CH Trink To Me Only for Waggoner and won the Five-Gaited Gelding World’s Championship. They were a good bet to win the stake that year, but Trink developed a fever and all involved thought it best not to show back.


One of the most beautiful gaited geldings ever,
CH Trink To Me Only
was the
1983 World’s Champion Two-Year-Old Five-Gaited;
1984 World’s Champion Three-Year-Old Five-Gaited; and
 1985 World’s Champion Junior Five-Gaited Stallion/Gelding

 and World’s Grand Champion Junior Five-Gaited.


Because of his injuries, Waggoner was forced into premature retirement, but was always around barns and shows, spreading his charm and sharing his wisdom with the many who sought it. We’ll never forget his distinctive voice and gum chewing.


“Ellis was a great history buff and could tell tales like no other,” said Fischer. “He knew stuff about horses that no one alive today would know.”         

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