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Veteran Trainer J.D. Gardner Joins Janet Green Stables

Big Red and J.D. Gardner

by Ann Bullard

Veteran Saddlebred and road horse trainer J.D. Gardner has joined the staff at Janet Green Stables in Liberty, Mo. For more than 40 years,
Gardner has shown in every division of the Saddle Horse industry.

has trained such performance champions as world’s champion CH Zeberdee, CH Star Waltz, Will’s Edition and Big Red. He is at least equally well-known for the training of and his high-stepping style when he exhibits futurity colts.

“J.D. joined us as co-trainer after the All American Horse Classic in September. Fortunately, he was available when I needed someone,” Green said, explaining their 46-stall barn is just outside Kansas City. “One reason I’m tickled [that he’s here] is that I’ve known his reputation with a young horse. I felt we could work well together.”

“We are trying to develop a world-class public boarding and training stable here,” Gardner added. “Janet teaches private lessons as well those for two colleges in the area.”

A native of Evansville, Ind., Gardner began working with Saddle Horses when he was nine years old. He cut his teeth working young horses as a member of the Vanderburgh County, Ind., Four-H Saddle Horse Breeders’ Club.

“There were three Four-H Breeders’ Clubs in the area, one in Vanderburgh and one in Warrick County, Ind., and one in Washington County, Ky.,” he explained. “Breeders donated broodmares, stallion owners donated stud fees for $50 and the foals belonged to the Four-H Club members. We raised them, then often showed them before selling them as yearlings at the July Tattersalls’ sale. I was nine when I took my first horse to Tattersalls.”

That might have been prophetic. As successful as Gardner has been with performance horses, his ability in showing weanlings and yearlings has kept him in demand at Louisville, the All American Horse Classic and other shows which offer competitive in-hand classes.

While he was still in high school, Gardner spent a summer working for the legendary Garland Bradshaw. His first professional job was rubbing horses and working one for Don Harris when Harris was in Indiana. Gardner was 14.

Gardner continued to hone his skills under some of the best trainers of the day. After working with the late Lou Teater when Teater handled all the breeding for Castleton Farms, he joined Sam Brannon. Raymond Shively brought Gardner back to Indiana where he worked for their Black Magicland while DeLovely was under construction.

In 1976, Gardner opened his own barn in Evansville. Two years later, he married Bib Jones and together they ran a successful training operation. When the Weldon’s Callaway Hills Stables moved back to Missouri, Mrs. Weldon brought the Gardners to the famed farm.

“Mrs. Weldon sent us 30 head of yearlings,” the trainer said. “Will Power was in that first bunch and so was Fourth Estate. Tony Weldon had just come home and we started her riding Will’s Edition. She won an adult five-gaited pleasure world’s championship with him.”

After the Gardners divorced, he joined Lonnie Lavery’s Richlon Farm as assistant trainer, working such horses as CH Flash Gordon and several others for Ed and Karen Frickey.

“I took a little sabbatical from Saddlebreds and went to work for Lonnie’s uncle in Florida. We had a number of two-year-old thoroughbreds in training and I galloped them for two winters. It was different,” Gardner said.

Still, Saddlebreds called. Gardner responded, spending four years working with Gaynor and Jim Shane’s Windemere Farm before the late Gary Jones brought him to Alabama.

It was at Jones Valley Farms that Gardner was teamed with Judy Harrison’s Busby Berkley, a horse he describes as “fun, but a challenge to ride.” He stayed with Jones until shortly before the owner’s death. The opportunity to work with Madge and Dewey Bass at Camelot Farms kept him in Alabama. Here he worked such stars as CH Mr. Gary Cooper, Cherry’s Dream Motion and CH Trapp Mountain.

T. Lynn “Buck” Davis brought
Gardner to his Quail Hollow Farm in the late 1990s. Davis already was known for his road horses and ponies; Gardner helped bring them world’s championships.

“When I went to work for Buck, I said I could train his ponies and Saddle Horses, but I didn’t know about road horses. Other than jogging and listening at Raymond’s, I’d never worked one. I soon found out I had learned more there than I thought I had.”

Dragster was the first of the Davis/Gardner horses to wear Louisville blue. Buck Davis drove the multi-titled gelding to win one section of the amateur roadster class, coming back to win a reserve world’s champion of champions in 2002.

The year 2004 was especially exciting. On Thursday night, Gardner and Big Red sped off with the United States Trotting Association’s Novice Roadster to Bike championship. The following morning, Deidre Davis drove Romeo Windswept to win one section of the Youth Roadster to Bike world’s title.

took a quick look at his situation. “Right now, we’re working 22 head here. I was real blessed to have Big Red. Now I’m looking for that next special horse. That’s what you have to do to stay fresh in this thing.”

With a strong riding program introducing newcomers to Saddlebreds and nice young horses to work, Gardner feels he is in the right place. And rest assured, both Green and Gardner will know that next special horse when it comes along.

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