Skip to content

Saint Louis National Charity Horse Show Names Gaited Stake

This year the St. Louis National Charity Horse Show inaugurates the “R S Palmer Memorial Five-Gaited Stake” on Saturday night.  This is the first time in its history that the Show has named a class in honor of anyone, and R S is the perfect first-time selection.


R S Palmer passed away on August 5, 2007, just four days short of his 88th birthday.  His life spanned most of the major events of the 20th century, as he was born August 9, 1919, just months after the end of World War I.


During those nearly 88 years, he devoted his life to saddle horses:  American Saddlebreds, for the most part but Morgans and Arabians as well.  He always said he never worked a day in his life.  “I love what I’m doing too much to call it work,” R S said many times.  “If I retired and could do whatever I wanted when I woke up in the morning, I would go out to the barn and work with the horses.”  He was a horse trainer for more than 65 years, and an exhibitor for more than 70.


This would have been the 30th consecutive year that R S entered our show, and under the continuing direction of his beloved Ruth and his daughter Rhonda Dickerson, Palmer Stables is here again to continue the unbroken record of exhibiting at every St. Louis National Charity Horse Show.


R S was born in Columbia, MO, and started hanging out at the Stephens College barn so much that they put him to work.  Still a teenager, he teamed with Stephens riding instructor and trainer Annie Lawson (Cowgill) to win the three-gaited pairs class at the American Royal four years in succession in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  That record stands unbroken.


After graduating from Hickman High School and doing his stint with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II, R S started training in St. Louis, working at the old Missouri Stables adjacent to Forest Park.  Just down the street at the Riding and Hunt Club was young Ruth Kaufman working as Helen Crabtree’s assistant.  When Helen and Charlie Crabtree moved on, R S and Ruth took over at the Riding and Hunt Club, beginning a personal and professional partnership that lasted for nearly 59 years.  They were married in October 1948.  Ruth and R S would often put 18 to 20 horses into a single equitation class at the old St. Louis show in the Arena.


They later started Palmer Stables on Bridle Lane in Frontenac, right down the street from Otis and Bee Brown’s stable, forging a friendship that lasted a lifetime.  In the 1960s, they moved to St. Charles County, which then was “way out in the country.”  R S built his own 60-stall barn there on 75 acres.   The steady four-beat gait of a true rack could be heard many times up and down the 300-foot aisle.  Palmer clients formed the I Ride at Palmers Club and produced one of the most popular weekend shows in the St. Louis area every year.  R S never missed a chance to promote American Saddlebreds.


When subdivisions started mushrooming in Weldon Spring, R S and Ruth moved home to Columbia, building a new 28-stall barn on Andrews Lane where Palmer Stables operates today.


Among the hundreds of horse R S trained here in St. Louis were The Happy Hour, Idle Affair, Pearl Of Stonewall, All My Love, Wing Swept Stonewall, Mark Of Success, Heart Of Stonewall Sunflower Denmark and many more.  He also faithfully bred the Stonewall King line producing many classic Missouri champions.


R S has a pedigree that goes back to Tom Bass, although indirectly.  Bill Downey’s book “Tom Bass, Black Horseman” describes a rocking horse canter that could have been applied to Wing Swept Stonewall, a Palmer favorite.   It was noted that R S could be a descendant of the great Missouri legend Tom Bass because of that similarity.  When told this, R S grinned and replied, “Well, I guess maybe I am.  I learned to put a mouth on a horse from a man who learned from Tom Bass.”


The tack room at Palmer Stables contains more than 200 bits that R S collected over his career. And he said he used every one of them, trying to find the right feel for every individual horse’s mouth.  R S trained each horse by patiently waiting for the horse to tell him what it wanted to do, and then using natural means to make it so.  Respect for the horse has always been paramount at Palmer Stables.


At the American Royal in 1991, the Concert of Champions featured eight “Missouri Legends”. R S Palmer was there, joined by Art Simmons in his last ride in the show ring, Charlie Judd, Bill and Sonny Sutton, Sug Utz, Jimmy Hite and Ron Hulse representing his father, Don.  It was a thrilling sight.  Bill Carrington announced that while this might be just an exhibition, for these trainers, every time in the ring was a Horse Show—they all wanted to show you Who Had the Best Horse!  Their respect for each other was as strong as their rivalries.


When Missouri Horse Shows Association introduced its “Horseperson of the Year” award, R S Palmer was the first recipient. 


When the American Royal inaugurated its “Royal Exhibitor Award” last year, R S and Ruth Palmer were the unanimous choice for the committee for their many, many years of participation in that show: R S for nearly 70 years, Ruth for more than 50.


But one of the most outstanding facets of R S Palmer’s life has been his 59-year partnership with Ruth.  Theirs is indeed a love story, and you only had to watch R S “take care of his lady” at a horse show to see how they felt about each other.  Their love combined with their mutual professional respect has been an inspiration to many.


Always ready with a friendly greeting, R S was assigned stalls in the first row of Barn 1 when the St. Louis National Charity Horse Show moved to Lake Saint Louis because “He’s the best darn ambassador this show can have.”  His natural friendliness was often supplemented with a wise crack; every child who talked to him at a show was asked “What’s your name, George?”  A favorite parting line of R S’s was always “Aren’t you glad you got to see me?”  We truly are. 


R S Palmer lived a life in the horse industry that our horse show is proud to have shared.  We honor him for that by presenting the first “R S Palmer Memorial Five-Gaited Stake.”


Dates for the 2007 Saint Louis National Charity Horse Show are as follows:

   Hunter/Jumper is September 12-16, 2007 with the Grand Prix on September 16.

   Saddlebred week is September 26-29, 2007, and will again be the American Saddlebred Horse Association Regional Championship Show for Region 5. Regional Championships will be awarded in designated classes to the highest placed horse that is stabled in and owned by a resident of Missouri, Illinois or Kansas.  

More Stories