Monday, July 27, 2020
Sunday, July 26, 2020
Friday, July 24, 2020
Thursday, July 23, 2020
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Monday, July 13, 2020
By Garry Boulard/Photography by Harriet Blum
To call it a horseman's paradise may actually be missing the point. To talk of the many farms and even more horses that dot the map of St. Tammany might be an understatement. To point out the interesting state tax incentives available to the horsing industry could sink the argument into a trivial mass of numbers.
Instead, it might be more appropriate to say—simply—that St. Tammany parish is rapidly becoming one of the best areas in the entire country for the delicate art of horsebreeding.
The reasons for this dramatic evolution are as varied and numerous as the types of trees one might find in the same backroad trails regularly traveled upon by the many horses and their friends.
While various breeds trot and gallop in large, sometimes rolling fields across the parish, seemingly oblivious to the role they are playing in the region's economic well-being, state record keepers in Baton Rouge have been looking at some figures—and almost all of them agree that St. Tammany parish is the heart and soul of Louisiana's quietest and healthiest business: horse breeding.
Yet, to trace what has happened since would require a slide rule big enough to be called Herculean. Within the next decade, the state's breeding business exploded and St. Tammany was the busiest parish. By 1982, there were more than 2,350 foals-an all-time record--from 1,150 breeders.
Industry estimates point to yet another record for 1984—perhaps more than 2,500 foals statewide. Once again, St. Tammany breeders will probably lead the way.
In a meandering Iine that would start just north of Slidell can be found the proof of the parish horsing industry's vitality. Following this line down shady, gravel roads that seem to be a far cry from the inhabited thruways of Slidell's Cause Boulevard, one sees large, spacious farms filled with gallant stallions and sleek mares.
More than likely, the horses would be in clusters of two or three. Many of them would be found in the backyards of neighborhood houses.
"All kinds of people are getting into the horse business," said Peggy Authement, the manager of Authement Quarter Horses in Folsom. "While there have been a lot of bigger farms starting up in the last couple of years, I'd say most of the activity has been with the families who have moved up here and decided to get a horse or two."
"Someone was telling me not too long ago that about ten years ago we were one of only about two or three quarter horse ranches in the entire area," Mrs. Authement continued. "Now every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a quarter horse operation. In some ways it's been good for the business and in other ways it's been bad."
As St. Tammany's population exploded in the mid and late 1970s, the horse industry reacted in kind. Former New Orleanians who decided to take on the country life found that one of their first priorities became finding a nice home in a rural, unsettled area. Their second task was probably getting a horse.
breed this mare we've got. Why not breed it with a good stallion and see what we come up with?' Before you know it, they're in business."
The Authement farm, located on Bush-Folsom Road, started up in the comparatively docile days of the mid-1960s. Dr. E.G. Authement is the founder of the business.
A stickler for perfection in his horses, the doctor invested thousands of dollars into his animals in order to get the purest quarter horses in these parts. Almost twenty years later, Authement's colts go for anywhere from $3000 to $10,000. A top of the line colt might actually bring upwards of $20,000.
Customers who spend such big money, however, almost invariably realize an early profit on their investment.
"Within a year a real good halter quality baby can earn back everything you've bought it for," said Mrs. Authement. "They're going to run for four or five thousand each."
If such a lucrative financial incentive weren't enough for the many new horse breeders in St. Tammany, there's always the attraction of the tax structure. In the 1960s, the state legislature set up a variety of tax structures that made the horse business all but irresistible. "There are more shelters in it than even the real estate business," one Slidell breeder commented.
Another incentive for breeders required each racing track in the state to allow for two races a day just for the Louisiana-bred horses. In addition, money was taken from racetrack betting pools and cash awards given to the owners of state mares and stallions who produced successful Louisiana-bred racehorses.
According to the Times‑Picayune/States-Item, awards under this program amounted to almost $2 million in 1982 alone. In addition, the horse industry has gained some important friends in Baton Rouge—friends that come in handy in times of need.
In 1983, when Jefferson Parish representative Eddie D'Geralamo introduced a bill that would have done away with all state-sponsored breeder and stallion awards, a legion of breeders and horsemen got in touch with their best friends in the capital-including the prominent Sen. B.B. "Sixty" Rayburn--and arrived en masse to a meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee to protest the action.
Rayburn, who has long represented the local breeders and is the president of the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders, strongly opposed the bill. But, for once, he didn't have to work out a tough compromise with his colleagues on the floor to get his point across.
When D'Geralamo rose to speak in favor of his bill he did so alone. No other senator was willing to stake out the Kenner legislator's position, and the bill died a quiet death in committee.
Such legislative support has only added to the attraction of the local horse business. Those who concern themselves primarily with breeding-rather than training race or show horses, can realize exceedingly handsome profits for all their efforts.
In the industry, stud operations are considered to be the luxury aspect of the business. The biggest bread-winner in this country's thoroughbred history was the well-publicized Spectacular Bid who earned an unprecedented $2.8 million.
Another sire, Conquistador Del Cielo, was purchased by a syndicate in late 1982 for $36 million. A syndicate commonly buys several shares of the horse. Each share entitles the owner to a free mating of a mare with the stallion. The mare is usually brought to the stallion's farm, bred to the stallion, and then leaves. In his lifetime, the stallion can mate 100 to 125 times during the February to July breeding season.
On a farm like Classic Farms in Covington, there may be as many as 20 different breedings in a season. With an average of about 30 horses a year, that means the horse population is one that is always increasing at Classic Farms.
"But that doesn't mean we're always doing that well," said David Hadley, the manager of Classic Farms. "While there's big money in this business, there is also the normal reaction to the general economy. Since the recession has winded down, our business has gone up some."
At Classic Farms a rare breed called the American Showhorse is the star of the show. A cross breed involving an American saddlebred and an Arabian line, the American Showhorse can bring in an average of $10,000. Some, however, go much higher. One such animal was rumored to have been sold recently,for as much as $150,000.
"As far as I know we're the only ones who have this kind of breed." said Hadley. "I think it gives us an edge on the competition."
Classic Farms, which is owned by Nancy Herpin, specilizes in showhorses only. Although the farm is spread out on 62 acres off of Blackwell Road, only 30 of those acres are presently used by the farm. "Right now we're more interested in getting the right sale. Eventually we'll be more involved in breeding and showing, but our concern now is the public auctions, where you put the right horses in and get the right kind of dollars out."
As the breeding business in St. Tammany has grown in recent years, a variety of farms have established solid reputations as reliable or specialty markets for breeding.
Among those considered to be the most popular in the region are Gambda Horse Farm and Saralin Morgan Horse Farm in Covington; Berryhill Farms, Middlebrook Farms, and Sun Creek Farms in Folsom; and Baldwin Lodge Farm and Ima Cactus Ben, Inc., in Slidell.
Perhaps the most recognized of the older farms is the Clear Creek Stud Farm spread over 365 acres south of Folsom on Bennett Bridge Road. Operated by Jack Lohman, the Clear Creek Stud Farm was begun in the late 1960s and today is considered to be probably the biggest commercial thoroughbred farm in the state.
More than 200 horses can usually be found in the farm's stables, while that number quickly rises to more than 300 during season. In 1982, Dixie magazine reported that Clear Creek's "line of 10 stallions at stud is likely the biggest in the state..."
To get an idea of how vast the breeding business can be on a larger scale, the Magazine went on to point out that Clear Creek had $20,000 worth of horse feed a month; $1,000 in utility bills; $2,000 a month for the fuel needed to run the farm's six trucks, five tractors, and eight lawn mowers; as well as veterinary costs totalling some $20,000 a year.
Although Lohman is recognized as one of the giants in the business, his high operations costs once prompted him to remark, "You've got to love horses to be in this business. You don't make a lot of money."
Such declarations aside, Clear Creek is the Cadillac of the business and many of the medium sized breeders in the parish look at the farm as an example of what they'd like to be.
"OK, there's a lot of work to it all," admitted one woman breeder in Covington. "But Clear Creek started out small once too. Now they're the giants. Who knows? At the rate it's going around here, in five or six years there may be a couple of other Clear Creeks."
If that sentiment seems a bit optimistic, then consider that in the last five years, the number of small breeders in St. Tammany has almost doubled. Typical of these new operations is the Weichart Farms, which specializes in mare and foal care, and started up in the spring of 1983.
Located off of Turnpike Road in Folsom, Weichart Farms is owned by Dr. Rudy Weichart, a New Orleans cardiovascular surgeon. With 50 acres and two ponds, Weichart Farms has turned out to be a respected business specializing in the caring of young horses.
According to Louisiana Horse, Dr. Weichart hopes to keep his business on the smaller side, while perhaps developing young breeds on the farm. Said the doctor: "I'm not at all interested in going out and purchasing a proven race horse and taking him to the track and gambling on him. What I want to do is develop young horses on the farm. I imagine if we were to breed and/or foal a winner on the farm my interest would really peak."
Weichart's visions are typical of the up and coming horse breeder in St. Tammany. The opportunities and the possibilities seem as limitless as the land that rolls across the parish.
"Sure there's been a lot of new people coming into this business," admits Laura Landry, the manager of the Oak Wind Farm in Folsom—which itself has only been in operation since 1981. "But many of these people come here just because they like the way it is around here and they want to do something."
Concerned mainly with commercial breeding, the Oak Wind Farm is owned and operated by Bob Landry and Phil Nettles and is considered to be one of the leading contenders for the new breeding business that has been on the rise almost constantly since 1980.
But, despite the financial opportunities and the chance to control your own business and the role you want to play in it, some of the newer breeders admit they came to St. Tammany for reasons other than the love of horses and a hope for financial success.
"I think the business is growing mainly because there are a lot of younger people with children coming here," said manager Hadley of Covington's Classic Farms. "It's a perfect way, when you think about it, to keep the kids away from the drug scene. You used to hear a lot about the 'Generation Gap' when I was in school.
"Now you don't hear as much about it. Today more families are staying involved with their kids and the horse business is a good way of doing that. With all of these newer horse farms coming up, I bet that's one of the biggest reasons why. It's just a good life.''
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
St. Tammany has a love of old wagons. Not only are there relics of old wagons parked in area museums, but there are plenty of old wagons still visible in the yards of rural folks across the countryside. Some of those wagons are still in use.
The American Bicentennial Celebration way back in 1976 spotlighted the horse-drawn wagon and the important part it had played in the history of the country, moving cargo, moving settlers westward, and just getting people from home to town and then back home again.
Here are two articles from the St. Tammany News Banner in 1976 that tells a little about those wagons.
CLICK ON THE IMAGES below to make them larger and more readable.
Monday, July 6, 2020
On June 23, 1976, the St. Tammany News Banner published this article about the large number of riders who took part in the multi-parish horse show put on by the Mandeville Saddle Club. Click on the image to make it larger and more readable.
Sunday, July 5, 2020
By Polly Morris
The quaint Quartier de Mandeville was a dream which came true for a man of vision. Then it faded away, as dreams will.
Bernard de Marigny, creator of Mandeville, has been portrayed by historians as somewhat of a madman, laughingly tossing a thousand silver pesos into the molten metal for the bell of Fontainebleau. He also laughed as he threw coins on the gambling tables, and he Iaughed as he delicately balanced his rapier for yet another bloody duel.
Bernard de Marigny: Was he only a laughing libertine who lived a useless life with nothing better to do than squander the family fortune? Can Mandeville be proud of the founding father who gave his family title to a town on Lake Pontchartrain?
Historians, however well-intentioned, have not been kind De Marigny. Perhaps they have been too fascinated by flamboyant exaggerations of those who envied the handsome influential aristocrat of great wealth.
The man who was Mandeville, whose only monument in St. Tammany is the crumbling ruins of an old sugar mill, what manner of man was he? Perhaps he was only a lonely man behind a mask of merriment.
Poor Little Rich Boy
Bernard de Marigny enters the pages of history as a pampered and wayward heir to seven million dollars. He was so rebellious that his guardian sent him to wards in Pensacola and London, but they too failed. Perhaps he was only a broken-hearted boy of 15 who fought tears as the body of his father was carried from his retreat in Mandeville to the home of the Almonaster family.
Then to the Cathedral where he was entombed by his father and his father's father. Miserable and bereft, the boy needed compassion instead of the iron wills that sought to reshape him into a conservative mold. So he sought companionship away from his austere custodians.
Bernard was shipped home like contaminated cargo returned to its sender, and immediately he became a reproach to his reproachers. It was 1803 and the eve of the difficult double transfer of loyalties and Louisiana.
The territory was under three flags in less than 30 days, and the Spaniards, the Frenchmen, and the Creoles were hostile to the rule of a raw republic of the young United States. English-speaking Bernard harbored no prejudice for the newcomers, so he diplomatically offered his services to the Americans. At 18, he was Alderman and aide to the staff of General Wilkinson.
A year later Bernard ended all escapades. He married the Creole-American daughter of the American counsul. He called her Pomponne, but her name was Mary Ann Jones. She presented him with two sons, and ecstatic happiness. For four years, Bernard was a truly happy man. Then Pomponne died and Bernard was desolate.
He buried her in the flower garden to keep her close to him, even in death. Friends took the two sons to their home, and he stayed alone in the great house on the Mississippi River, except for servants.
Bernard's anguish seemed to deepen as days passed, and concerned friends finally persuaded him to take a trip to Pensacola.
When he was there he met a beautiful young Spanish girl named Anna Mathilde Morales. Had he been less lonely, he would have taken time to learn of her disposition, and there would have been no rebound romance.
After a whirlwind courtship, the amiable Bernard realized his mistake. Anna Mathilde was arrogant, haughty, and given to violent temper tantrums. When she screamed and threw things, Bernard left the mansion and sought more pleasant companions.
Although there were five children born of this union, the marriage was unhappily as explosive as a Spanish musket.
Politics and Peccadillos
Bernard developed other interests, like politics, public activities... and peccadillos. In 1811 he was Alderman, Colonel, and a member of the Territorial Legislature. When Louisiana became a State, he was the youngest delegate to the first Constitutional Convention.
When the British threatened New Orleans, he had command of a post at Chalmette and was on the Legislative Committee for Defense. Later he would be several times State Representative and State Senator, in which latter position was President of that august body. These trusted positions would surely have not been given to an irresponsible man.
De Marigny ran for Governor twice, and although he was defeated, he made a good show, considering the powerful opposition.
Evan as a Lothario, Bernard can be defended, for he was not a libertine after his first marriage, and had he been happy with Anna Mathilda, he might not have ever strayed. But let it be said that he was neither a sly seducer nor was he a gay deceiver. He was handsome, rich, and gallant, a fatal combination that attracted women to him.
Not that he objected.
Moreover, he did not love them and leave them. He provided for his favorites in no miserly way, and at a time when keeping a mistress was no back street affair. Only a side street alliance that was discreetly ignored by everyone except Anna Mathilde.
Bernard never denied or defended his many amours. "When is it a crime to be a man?" he would ask with disarming guile.
Gambling was in Bernard's blood, which made him no worse than others of his time. Having an after-dinner game of chance was much like having an after-dinner drink. Instead of being a vice, gambling was a respectable way to support charitable institutions such as hospitals and orphanages.
The North Shore
It may well be that Mandeville and Fontainebleau owe their existence to the irritable Anna Mathilda. Bernard had always loved St. Tammany for he had frequented the north shore when his father had his modest place on the lakefront.
And Bernard was desperately in need of peace and quiet. His New Orleans home was being crowded by his Faubourg Marigny, a suburb he created for the Creoles who were in need of reasonably priced property outside the Vieux Carre.
Bernard began to buy tracts of land in Tammany. At first it was only for a retreat, but it was not entirely extravagance. There was a sugar mill, brickworks, and a profitable plantation. There were also winding roads, alleys of fine trees, and gardens that made it a showplace.
He invited guests to share in his sylvan Paradise, and his hospitality almost crowded him out of the plantation home called Fontainebleau... after his friend-king's country estate in France.
Bernard then began to dream of a town where everyone could live like a kingling without great wealth. Bernard, aristocrat-millionaire, had compassion for the working man, and determined that they, too, should have a chance to pursue happiness.
So he planned a model town called Mandeville and offered its lots at reasonable prices, for he was not interested in profit. Only people.
Bernard had a reputation as being a daring and skillful dualist who had been the victor in at least 18 duels, all quite bloody, it was rumored. The truth was that he never killed a man in a duel. An expert with the rapier, he tried only to nick his opponent. A slight show of blood was sufficient to end a duel, and Bernard was an exceptionally mild-mannered man in this respect.
Duels to the death and a false honor seemed foolish. Later Bernard was the President of an anti-dueling society.
Bernard was a sensitive and emotional man, but no doubt his laughter often came close to tears. Few historians have written about the tragic death of young Mary Ann or the death of Prosper, her son, who also died young to Bernard's dismay.
There was Bernard's son-in-law who died before a firing squad. But the greatest sorrow of all came on October 26, 1830. Friends brought home the blood-soaked second son by Mary Ann. There was an ugly gaping wound in his chest. Gustave Adolph had lost a duel, and Bernard had to helplessly watch him die. He was the son so much like Bernard himself, and he was only 23 years of age.
What of the vast family fortune he frittered away? Of the seven million dollars that he inherited in about 1804, and the 40 plus years it took to throw it away, during which there were two wives, seven children and two major depressions?
His acknowledged extravagances were only a part of the story.
Bernard never tried to make a great profit on either his Faubourg Marigny or his town of Mandeville. The only time he tried to profit from the former ended in humiliation.
The Americans offered him a handsome price for his property in New Orleans which might have become the beautiful Garden District. Bernard accepted the offer and set up an appointment for the signing of the necessary documents. It fact, he set up three different appointments.
Each time everyone but Anna Mathilde was present. To the Americans, it was a deliberate insult, and they bitterly blamed Bernard. But Anna Mathilde was his wife and he had to silently endure the burning shame of it all.
Bernard had made wise investments in plantations, sugar mills, brickworks, and stocks. He helped start a bank and a railroad. He weathered the depression of 1820. He weathered the panic of 1837 although 14 banks closed and 136 sugar plantations went broke.
No one was buying land, sugar prices had dropped, and bricks were not worth the making. Yet Bernard borrowed and schemed and planted. Somehow he kept going until 1830.
A flood that year broke the levee, and his crops were swept away. He replanted the next year and the same thing happened. He was fighting with his back to the wall.
Little by little, he sold his New Orleans property until only the mansion on the river was left. When that too was sold, he moved the furnishing to a house on Frenchman Street. Only Mary Ann was left sleeping at the old family estate mercifully unaware of misfortune.
One by one, Bernard was forced to sell the things from the old home Anna Mathilda, nearing 70 and bed-ridden, sued him for her part of what was left. They had been separated for years, and she won the suit and died shortly thereafter.
Bernard was reduced to living in two rooms of the three story house on Frenchman Street. He lived alone, except for a servant. He had outlived all his old friends, and his children seldom saw him, except for his daily walk and at a distance.
Contrary to his wishes, he was not buried next to Mary Ann. He was 83 years old.
He often said that he had all the vices of a gentleman.He never mentioned that he had many virtues, too.
Mandeville can have pride in her founding father because his life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that she may stand up and say to all the world, "This was a man."