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Turn Dreams Into Action: That’s The ‘Ruxer Way’

by Ann Bullard


The world is full of dreamers. Some remain in that world. Others simply move on, with dreams scattered on the wayside of a practical life. Still others achieve greatness with the childhood dream shaping their lives and minds. Such a man is Bob Ruxer.


Ruxer’s dream began as he hung over the Freedom Hall rail, watching his Saturday afternoon hero, Roy Rogers, ride into the spotlight on his golden palomino, Trigger. He was six years old.


“I watched Roy every Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock,” Ruxer said. “My sister and I went to see him at Freedom Hall. Roy rode in that silver saddle, wearing that hat and that fringed shirt and boots. I could only imagine what it would be like to take just one ride in that beautiful silver saddle. Just one trip around the ring in that saddle, wearing the glittering fringed shirt, trademark cowboy hat and Western boots, and this kid would happily call it the dream of a lifetime,” Bob wrote in his book The Silver Saddle.

Little did he imagine that, more than 50 years later on his birthday, his dream would come, if not full, nine-tenths circle. The site: not Freedom Hall but Kemper Arena, home of the American Royal. The horse wasn’t Trigger, but a rescue horse, appropriately of Ruxer breeding, named I’m W.O. Bentley. That Saturday night, Bob became a kid again. Dressed in a fringed shirt, cowboy hat and boots with a silver saddle on an American Saddlebred, he ended his riding career in true Hollywood style.

With his wife Laura and daughter Chelsea in center ring, and William Woods graduate Jamie Bender singing the national anthem, Bob presented our nation’s colors. Tears mingled with applause as the crowd saluted the man who carried on the Ruxer Farms tradition. Roy would have been proud.


Bob Ruxer logged many a mile in other-style boots between the day his dream began – and his final, silver saddle ride. Most of those were trudging the barn and fields of Ruxer Farm, working with, and then carrying on for, his “Uncle Alvin” Ruxer of Jasper, Ind.


Hilda and Alvin Ruxer were childless. Alvin recruited his nephew as his ‘running buddy,’ protégé and friend. Bob was about five-years-old.


“He wanted someone to drag around with him; he took me,” Ruxer said, recalling those early days. “I went to Florida with him; spending months away from my parents and two sisters. I was around grownups more than kids and was very lucky to be exposed to a lot of things.”


In the 1950s, polio was a major concern. “Alvin brought a portable air conditioner for my bedroom so I wouldn’t get polio. I sometimes wonder why my sisters speak to me since I experienced a lot of things they never got to. I kind of liked it.”


Alvin Ruxer was a self-made man. Born in southern Indiana with little behind him, his early love was baseball; he was a good pitcher. Although he chose business over a semi-pro career, he never lost his love for the game as well as for the ‘Indiana state sport, basketball.’


Alvin Ruxer built Alvin Ruxer Ford and Jasper Engine and Exchange into formidable businesses. In his later years, he founded a local bank. He was the youngest Ford dealer in the country when he bought it in 1921. Jasper Engine and Exchange still is a leader in remanufactured engine and transmission work.


The Engine Exchange history, found on its web site, describes Alvin Ruxer as “one who saw opportunity in everything. As a young businessman, Alvin was once quoted as saying, ‘I didn't have enough money to afford a bookkeeper so I married one!’ Hilda Ruxer was a real partner both in his business and personal life.”


He built his fortune through hard work. He believed in such hard work, innovation and each person developing his talents to the fullest. Such ideals enabled him to develop Ruxer Farms into one of the leading American Saddlebred operations in the country.


Initially, Ruxer Farms meant pigs, chickens, Shetland ponies, dairy and Hereford cattle. The horses were Hilda’s idea. Finally, in the late 1940s, Alvin Ruxer bought a horse.


“Hilda had horses years before,” Ruxer said. “When they went to a farm auction in southern Indiana, a Saddlebred mare was tied up to the manure spreader waiting to be auctioned. Alvin started the bidding and it went back and forth. Hilda was on the other side of the arena bidding against him.”


The Ruxers backed one car out of a double-car garage and bedded it with straw. Starlane Rose had come home.


“They found out she could rack and took her to little shows,” Ruxer said, recounting the family history. “Alvin was pretty competitive in anything.”


Alvin Ruxer began going to nearby French Lick, Ind., and L.S. Dickey’s barn. Dickey was not only a talented horseman but also one of the industry’s most colorful professionals. His story is set forth in Sandra McIntosh’s book The Valley Horsemen, which highlights trainers who came from that area.


Here, Alvin Ruxer found such horses as Channel Light and the three-gaited horse Atomic Bomb. He started showing on the Indiana/Kentucky ‘leaky roof circuit’ and even won a county fair class at Louisville.


Jimmie Shane, who now lives in Lexington, Ky., was one of Alvin Ruxer’s early trainers. He recalled those days.


“When I went up there the first time, they had a little house and two to three-acre farm on the west side of town. They had built a little block barn with a feed room, tack room and maybe four stalls and a ring between their house and the neighbor’s,” Shane recalled, adding he had worked for the family several times over the years.


While they had a few acres near town, the Ruxers owned a larger property on Jasper’s east side. Shane was with them when they expanded it into a show horse operation. “We dug it down four to five feet to get the head space we needed. Stalls were around a 10’ hallway, with a channel all around them to handle manure,” he said.


By this time, the Ruxers had bought several mares, including the Maryland Farms-bred Judy O’Lee, a Leatherwood King daughter out of Ace’s Orchid by American Ace. She became the foundation of the Ruxer breeding program. Bred to Anacacho Denmark, she produced Melody O’Lee, dam of Supreme Sultan, and the Ensign Kirby daughter, Molly O’Lee, the dam of Mr. Magic Man and his full sister Jasper Lou, dam of Worthy Son.


In 1956, Alvin Ruxer and Dickey stood on the rail at the Kentucky State Fair, watching the late Tom Moore show the only three-gaited stallion to win a world’s grand championship. Alvin Ruxer had a dream, a dream of somehow building a little better ‘product,’ a different type of American Saddlebred.


“If I ever could get him …” he mused to Dickey. He sat on that dream for seven years before it came true.

“We bought Valley View Supreme in 1963,” Bob Ruxer said. “We had a horse with Frank Bradshaw and his owner had several there. Alvin told Frank he’d give ‘X’ dollars for the stallion. Frank told Uncle Alvin I think I can get that done, and he did. After that, things got pretty much in motion.”


Four years after moving to Ruxer Farms, Valley View Supreme died of a heart attack. He had sired 197 registered get, with 25 individuals winning ribbons at the Kentucky State Fair. As great as Arturo’s Cara Mia, Bellisima, Ernestine Supreme, Jasper Jewel and others may have been, the stallion’s greatest contribution came through the broodmares he sired and his son, Supreme Sultan.


Charlotte Barrett and Abe Altmeyer had purchased a yearling Valley View Supreme/ Melody O’Lee son, Supreme Sultan. Lee Shipman, now retired and living in Mesa, Ariz., was the Barretts’ trainer.


“We bought him and I showed him for Alvin at the Illinois State Fair. They tied him second; I thought he was better than the one they tied Alvin with,” Shipman said. “We took him back to Texas. Four months later, Valley View Supreme died.


“ [Alvin] Ruxer called, wanting to buy him back. We didn’t want to sell him but [Alvin] Ruxer said he’d give $20,000 for him. I told him, ‘That won’t buy him, I gave $12,500, but I’d be a fool not to take double my money.’”


When Shipman insisted that was the best he could do, Alvin agreed. The stallion was to be the focus of Barlite Farm’s New Year’s party; Alvin’s truck was there the next day.


The stallions and mares of Ruxer Farms would have been enough to make it one of the country’s more outstanding operations. But it was Alvin Ruxer, his determination and passion for the American Saddlebred, which he passed on to his nephew that ensured its place in history. There definitely was a Ruxer way. ‘Uncle Alvin’ was determined to pass that ‘way’ and work ethic on to his nephew.


“I was 10-years-old when I first ‘worked’ for Uncle Alvin. My job was to go to the auto dealership, pick up the mail and bring it to him. The only catch was I had to walk, rain, snow or shine. People would offer me a ride. They got upset when I told them no, if I did I would lose my job. He wanted to teach me how to work.”


As a youngster, Ruxer rode a grade pony on the farm. He also shared his uncle’s love for baseball and, according to his long-time friend Jimmy Robertson, “was a pretty good pitcher in high school.” It wasn’t until he was 11 or 12 that he took formal lessons.


“Bob probably was 11 when I first started knowing him,” Robertson said. “His uncle had a mare, Anna Rooney Stonewall, that he got from dad [the late Jim B. Robertson.] Alvin kept her here for Bob to learn to ride. She is the first nice horse I remember him showing. We may have taken them to a show or two before she went home.”


Like many young men, Bob wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. One thing was certain: he would get his college degree.


“I went to the University of Kentucky and took pre-med courses for a year and a half. Then I saw closed-circuit surgery of a little girl who had been run over by a car. By the time I got back to the dorm, I knew that was not what I wanted,” Ruxer said.


He transferred to Indiana University, thinking about going to law school. “My buddies, Jimmy [Robertson,] Johnny [Conatser] and Nick [the late Nick McGowin] all decided horses were what they were going to do.


“My uncle gave me a year. I started spec homes, sold cars and worked on-line at the engine factory. Yet I was always here at the barn,” Ruxer recalled. “He asked me ‘what are you going to do.’ I told him I’d go in the horse game if I could find the right guy to learn from. To me that meant Marty Mueller.


“Two months after I told my uncle my unattainable wish, the phone rang. It was Mr. Mueller himself. It seems Alvin had made him an offer to train his horses, with the added burden of training his wayward nephew, ME,” Bob wrote in The Silver Saddle.


Mueller of French Lick, Ind., already had made his mark on the Saddlebred world, passing his philosophy and methods on to those he called ‘Marty’s boys – and one girl.’ Bob Ruxer became one of them.


“I was fortunate to have him here for three-and-a-half years,” Bob said quietly, explaining Mueller was with them from about 1973 to 1976. “We had Sultan then and Mr. Magic Man.”


Ruxer trainers are legendary. Janet Barber, Don Bridges, Virgil Helm, the late Carol Greenwell and his son, Billy, Don Judd, Nicholas Villa, Ray Oliver, Donnie Pyburn, Bill Schoeman, Mark Utoft, Pat Wessel, Mike Wessel, Bob Wessel … the list goes on. Bill Caldwell managed the stallions for throughout his life.


“Dad worked for Alvin and I tagged along,” Billy Greenwell said, adding he graduated from Jasper High School while working for the Ruxers. While he has many memories of his days there, the one that stands out most was one of the most tragic.


“Bob had a hell of a string of horses in the spring of 1976,” Greenwell said. “We had six ready to go to Rock Creek. That was a special group of horses, a dream string that Bob had worked on really hard. We had worked hard all day and went home about 4 p.m. About 5 or 6 p.m., a group of us came out to go swimming in the lake. We drove down to the barn, looked down the hallway and everything looked good. We had just started jumping in when we looked back and saw smoke. We high-tailed it back to the truck; there was no getting in the bullpen or any chance to pull the pickup full of hay out of the barn. It was gone so quick.”


Ruxer lost 25 show horses and prospects in a matter of minutes. Putting together a string of horses of that caliber again took years to accomplish.


He looked back on that night and the days that followed. “Marty had just left, that was my first year by myself,” he said quietly. “Uncle Alvin had me spend the night at his house. He told me, ‘It’s time to rebuild. Draw out what kind of barn you want.’ The next morning, he came into my bedroom, saying, ‘Let’s go. It’s time to go to work. We headed out to the pasture to pick out a new group of yearlings.


“When I came up over the hill to see my barn, I thought it still might be there. I thought it might all have been a bad dream. It was a rough deal.”


Greenwell assessed his friend. “He’s a great guy, someone who’s just not like anyone else. He’s always been devoted to the horses and the betterment of the industry. I would describe Bob as a very complete person, someone devoted to his family. He’s carried on the Ruxer tradition, upheld the Ruxer name.”


Gayle Lampe has been a long-time friend and client of both Alvin and Bob Ruxer. The head of the William Woods University Equestrian Science program says it seems she has known Bob “forever, but not long enough. I first got to know him when he was showing juvenile five-gaited and had Anna Rooney Stonewall at Rock Creek.”


Their friendship has continued to grow. Lampe has taken her William Woods students to the River Ridge Horse Show and Kentucky, spending the night at Ruxer Farms. Bob Ruxer and his uncle allowed some of her students to ride and have a great time.


Lampe said they always got more than they bargained for on these visits. They included trips to the engine exchange and the Ruxer-led bank, a sideline, which generally interrupted their horse watching.


The Ruxers’ generosity extended to the university and Lampe as well. In her first Ruxer ‘bargain,’ Lampe swapped Bob a couple of ducks for Fair Exchange, a full brother to Champagne Fizz. The following year, they gave her a yearling; they had planned to put him down. Before he could be gelded, Don Hulse offered $1,000 for the youngster. After receiving Ruxer’s permission, she sold Hulse Champagne Fizz.


Bob Ruxer was one of two Saddlebred members on the original National Show Horse Board. During the Arabian heyday, Alvin Ruxer became interested in what was happening with that breed. He made a trip to Lasma Arabians in Scottsdale, Ariz., to sell several mares. He came home with the Arabian stallion DW Bonfire, a son of the legendary Bask. Ruxer was on the founding board of the National Show Horse Registry.


“He told me to get five of our best mares to breed to him. Even if it didn’t work well, we still would have foals from the best mares and be ahead of the game,” Ruxer said, recounting the tale.


“Hilda Ruxer told her husband to get that horse off the place. Bob called and asked me to do him a favor. I said yes, having no idea what that would be. He wanted me to take that horse and get him out of sight,” Lampe said. She was able to show Bonfire and Ruxer could sneak him back on the farm for breeding season.


Magic was another ‘talent’ Ruxer learned from his uncle, who fancied himself a magician. Bob always could be counted upon to entertain the William Woods students (and others) with his tricks.


“He would have the students write something down on a sheet of paper, throw it in the fire place and burn it. There was no way he saw what was on there. The next day, he’d be in the middle of riding a horse, and then would stop and say what someone wrote down. It absolutely would blow their minds.”


Actually, the stallion Mr. Magic Man got his name from Ruxer’s abilities with sleight of hand. Lampe said she would see the same tricks 10 years in a row, and never figured them out.


Janet Barber of Ocala, Fla., worked for Ruxer during the 1980s; she recalled the Uncle Alvin days. “You’ve heard the expression ‘one of a kind?’ Uncle Alvin truly was. You never knew what would happen when the car drove up. I was riding a horse one day and a prospective customer said, ‘Oh, she rides just like an equitation rider.’ Uncle Alvin said I must stop it, ‘we can’t do things like that here.’ Even riding had to be done the Ruxer way, but Bob Ruxer assured him it was OK.”


She told of a memorable January day when Art Viles and Bob Vesel were flying in. “Everything was absolutely frozen. Bob told Uncle Alvin we’d better call and cancel, that we’d never be able to work horses.


“Uncle Alvin told him, ‘We’ll fix that! He brought in heavy-duty equipment and started tearing up the indoor arena. We had boulders of ice and dirt. Bob met them saying ‘You’ll not believe it when you get to the farm.’ Calling the visit off wasn’t going to suit Uncle Alvin.


“We got the horse out. It took three to four steps and Uncle Alvin said, ‘Maybe this isn’t going to work.’ They went to lunch. We had to wait for the ice to melt before we could put the arena back together.


“The word ‘no’ wouldn’t work for this gentleman, no matter what. Then it was up to everyone else to clean up the mess. There were so many amazing things. I’d say, ‘Bob, he’s making us do this. He’d say, ‘Yes, I know.’ I’d respond, ‘Bob, do we have to do this. ‘Yes, I know,’ was his answer. Bob was the ultimate peacemaker, the mediator who got it all to work,” Barber said.


Yet what she remembers most about ‘Uncle Alvin’ are “his kindness, thoughtfulness and fairness. He always was open to new ideas.”


It’s been 21 years since Bob Ruxer gave Barber what she calls “a kick in the butt” to get going on her own. “I never wanted to leave; that was a good job,” she said. “Was Bob right? Yes. Did I know it? No. He encouraged me to go to Florida; I took a one-year contract and have been living here ever since.”


Around the same time period Barber moved to Florida, in 1983, Ruxer met a young lady at the 1983 St. Louis Horse Show.


“I saw Laura sitting in the stands. She disappeared after the show and then came back the next night. I decided somehow or other I was going to meet her,” Ruxer said.


“I had a little gaited horse that R.S. Palmer took to St. Louis for me. I was sitting in the stands one night and vaguely remember walking back to the exhibit area. A guy said ‘hi’ to me and I said ‘hi’ right back. Afterwards, I thought someone followed me back to the barn,” Laura Ruxer said with a smile in her voice.


Ruxer and Jimmy Robertson had been friends for years. The next day, he borrowed Robertson’s Dalmatian pup, carrying it around to ‘get next to’ Laura, as Robertson said. “I don’t know who the guy might have married if not for me,” he quipped.


Whether or not the dog had anything to do with it, Ruxer made quite an impression on the young newspaper reporter. The admiration was mutual. He asked her to the horse show and to dinner.


“We went to the show; nothing but Denny’s was open afterwards,” Laura said. “When we were in the parking lot, he was scribbling down my phone number. I thought ‘that didn’t go very well.’ The next morning, I drove home and received a big bouquet of flowers with a note that read, ‘Looking forward to a future visit. Supreme Sultan.’


“I knew his horses, but didn’t know him at all,” she continued. “A couple of weeks later, I flew into Evansville. We went to the Royal together. I was working at the time and would pack up on Friday night and fly over here for the weekend. It was kind of crazy.”


They married in November, 1985. Jimmy Robertson was the best man, John Biggins and Don Bridges were members of the wedding party.


Robertson recalled Ruxer’s nervousness. “He lost the ability to talk all of a sudden; it was that profound for him. He maintains to this day he wasn’t trying to back out.”


‘Life with Alvin’ was an interesting time for the bride. “He told me when I first came to the farm that people said he’s a difficult person, not easy to get along with. ‘If I do something to make you mad, come and tell me,’ he told her. Every night about the time I fixed dinner the door would open. Sometimes Alvin would just walk in. I’d ask if he wanted a plate of food; he’d say he wasn’t hungry. He was a most curious individual.”


Bob Ruxer’s life changed in many ways after the birth of his and Laura’s daughter, Chelsea. He became a family man. In many ways, Alvin Ruxer changed too, doting on the third generation of his family to live on the horse farm.


Chelsea was sitting on horses here before she was walking,” Laura Ruxer said, explaining that most of Chelsea’s riding was on a grade horse they had for her at the farm. “She took some lessons at Jimmy’s [Robertson] and showed in tournaments when she was little. We had some instructors here from William Woods. I told Bob I thought she needed a horse; he said to wait a few years. He was more concerned about her safety than ribbons.”


Chelsea began riding equitation with John and Renee Biggins. The first time she went into the ring at Lexington, Ruxer was very concerned.


“He wanted her to be safe, do well and have fun, in that order,” Laura said. “She was sixth in a large 10 and under equitation class and Bob was beaming. He has tried to stay aware and not interfere.”


Chelsea has spent summers with Rob and Sarah Byers and with the Shivelys. “We are grateful to have people like that,” Laura said. “Riding at home is too difficult; Bob didn’t teach amateurs or equitation. He’s adamant about not spoiling her and made her work for what she has achieved.”


Most recently, Chelsea has been paired with the Sultan’s Royalty daughter, the junior-exhibitor three-gaited horse, Send Her Roses. Heading into the ring aboard a pleasure horse at Harrodsburg last season, another horse kicked Chelsea, breaking her leg. That ended her season.


Bob and Laura Ruxer have helped their daughter get a well-rounded education. She was in the high school marching band. She attends a small college in Evansville, Ind., little more than an hour from home. Music and creative writing as well as horses are her primary interests.


Laura assessed their marriage and relationship. “I’m very independent and do my own thing; he is as well. It’s hard to pigeonhole Bob. Days aren’t always the same, although they are more so now. He’s one of those creative types and thinks differently than a lot of other people. I always tease him saying he has a bad case of ADD since he jumps around from one topic to the next. He’s very open-minded; that’s a plus, but can be a minus in a business that’s traditional and has a certain way of looking at things. That’s also his strength.”


That strength helped the family survive the many ups and downs inherent in the Saddlebred or any other business.

The 1980s were wonderful days at Ruxer Farm. The Sultan was in his prime; Mr. Magic Man was the second stallion.


“We did not realize what Sultan was to begin with. He was just part of the operation here,” Bob said candidly. “He just was a stud we picked as a yearling to come back. We started breeding him at two. We weren’t smarter than anyone else; we were fortunate we had Wing Commander mares and Valley View Supreme mares that just nicked with Sultan and Magic Man. If Magic Man had lived, we probably would have had the number one and two studs in the country.”


Supreme Sultan died at age 17 and a statue of his likeness marks the entrance of the American Saddlebred Museum at the Kentucky Horse Park. He sired 787 foals, with 186 individuals winning 672 ribbons at Louisville. Much more impressive than the numbers are the names of some of his champions: CH Imperator, Sultan’s Starina, Sultan’s Santana, Sultan’s Supremacy, Supreme Attraction, The Irish Flame, Sultan’s Matchmaker, Roz, Sultan’s Leather and Lace … the list goes on and on. And his legacy has lived on through such stallion sons as Albelarm Supremacy, Radiant Sultan, CH Shoobop Shoobop, Starlike Sultan, Sultan’s Contract, Sultan’s Great Day, Sultan’s Royalty, Sultan’s Santana, Sultan’s Instant Replay, Sultan’s Spartan, Supreme Heir and Worthy Son. Champion mares and broodmares he sired include Sultan’s Dianna, one of the foundation mares for Roy and Judy Werner’s Redwing Farm.


After Sultan’s death, the term “by Talent Town” became a mantra for those shopping at Ruxer Farms. The Yorktown son out of Chantilly Rose by Genius Bourbon King crossed well with both Ruxer bloodlines. Youngsters such as Candle Dan, CH Ramses, Yorktown Pudding, Polo Town, Mr. Snufflepagus, Stage Talent, With Authority got their start in the pastures and barns of Ruxer Farms.


Things began to change in the early 1990s. Alvin Ruxer died in 1991. That same year, Ruxer was diagnosed with an inclusion-body myositis, a progressive atrophy disease.


“They told me to get my bags packed, I had three years,” he said quietly. In true Ruxer style, he has beaten those odds, but life has changed dramatically. His contributions to the industry continue, albeit often in a different fashion.


He helped ‘sell’ the concept of the present, Majority Opinion Judging System to his fellow trainers. Here his love and knowledge of sports came in handy.


“Some trainers felt that a horse had to have a first-place vote,” Biggins remembered. “I remember him saying ‘I like baseball. Can a team win a baseball game without hitting a home run? Can a football team win a game without making a touchdown? Well, you’re telling me you have to hit a home run to win a class here when you don’t in any other sport. He brought what we were trying to do into perspective.”


Ruxer also is a sought-after judge. As one trainer put it, “The guy who was maddest when showing in front of him would go back the next week. You always know he is trying to be fair.”


He has served the American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) and UPHA in many ways: as a board member, serving on committees and financially. When the ASHA was shooting A Visit with Fritz Jordan, it was done at Ruxer Farms.


Although Jordan had never trained at Ruxer Farm, he visited and “helped me a lot,” Ruxer said. “Magic Supreme was my first project in college. Fritz came up and helped me a whole lot. I used Fritz’s methods and danged if the horse didn’t end up winning at Louisville.


“A month or two before he died, Fritz told me he would like me to be his stand-in. About two weeks before his death, he told me he needed to get back to Wisconsin. I was sitting on his favorite colt. He walked in the barn; the sun was shining just like a movie. I stopped. He walked up, put his hand on my right thigh and said, ‘This is goodbye. Just do what I told you and you’ll be fine.’


“He walked out into the sunlight and got into the car. I got off my colt; I couldn’t do any more that day.”


For years, he took the now 94-year-old Mueller with him to horse shows; he regularly visits his mentor and friend.


Ruxer also promotes the idea of the Saddlebred’s abilities in other disciplines than the show ring. He sent a Supreme Reward colt to a top quarter horse trainer to be trained for cutting competition.


“I asked Dick Morgan, who was with the ASHA at the time, to find me a western trainer; we took him to Princeton, Ill., and entered him in a reining futurity. He later gave the horse to William Shatner, who showed him as T.J. [for Shatner’s television show, T.J. Hooker,] Ruxer said.


The younger Ruxers recently have sent Commander In Charge, a young stallion by Zoovorbij Commander In Chief and out of Mrs. Snuffleupagus, to California to be trained by Eitan Beth-Halachny in cowboy dressage. They hope he will be a Saddlebred ambassador.


Sultan’s Royalty, the last of the Ruxers’ Sultan stallion sons, now is 26 and living at Leatherwood Farm in Kentucky. They have one broodmare.


“It’s very different today. There are just a few horses in the main barn, a few in field,” Laura said. “When it was going strong, there were cars and people all over. There always was someone visiting, horses being shown, a lot of activity. It’s very quiet; I think that’s the way it needs to be now.”


Her main regret today is that “Chelsea, who absolutely loves everything about the horse business, wasn’t around when we had those wonderful, nice horses. When I first came to the farm, Bob had 20 horses she could have shown.”


Still, Ruxer is at the barn at 6:30 almost every morning. “I like to go through and hay my horses; today I feed them all alfalfa cubes. I have one person here with me now to take care of cleaning and all that stuff. The Ruxer ‘herd’ is down to 19, with few of them on the farm. They have “three coming two-year-olds, a couple that are three and one four-year old.” Bob said.


“Right now, I’m taking a year off to see if I can make myself a little healthier,” he added in his optimistic way. While his original prognosis wasn’t good, his health is declining more slowly than many with this disease. He will enter Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., in February for more tests and new treatments. He falls more now as one leg continues to weaken; yet his spirit remains strong.


He still looks ahead. “You have to have an entrance strategy, one to stay in business and also an exit strategy,” he said. “In mine, I’m shifting gears a little differently than in the past. There still is another chapter. Hopefully I will be able to find someone to come in and lease this place.”


Merrill Murray, who worked with Mueller before moving into his own training operation, assessed the Ruxers, their relationships and contributions to the industry.


Alvin was ahead of his time in a lot of things. Bobby was fortunate; the reason Alvin hired Marty was to teach Bobby to be a horse trainer. As good as that was for Bobby, it also had its downside. He always was in Alvin’s shadow. To spend your whole life trying to live up to that shadow … I have never heard or seen a resentful word or anything else, but that has to be exceptionally difficult. Alvin started without anything and built an empire. He was larger than life; for all intents and purposes he ran Jasper, Ind.


The success of The Silver Saddle shows that Laura and Chelsea aren’t the only writers in the family. Bob has a wealth of memories, of stories about people in the horse business that are excellent sources for a new book. Perhaps that may come.


“Who knows what will happen. Chelsea really thinks she might come back and fool with horses,” her mother said. “I wish Marty were here …”


Perhaps Chelsea’s dream is one reason Ruxer Farm remains. Bob has built a nearby golf course, Sultan’s Run, where he pursues his favorite pastime with his friends. He has allowed a cousin to build a home on the farm. But developers' hands are kept off the property – at least for the foreseeable future.


Bob Ruxer’s final ride on that silver saddle wasn’t off into the sunset, with the girl by his side as his cowboy hero often did. Rather, it heralded the beginning of something new for his family and all who have been part of their lives.


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