There was only the new kid, a slender 18-year-old named Bobby
that Ginger had hired to help out while the show string was on the road.
Someone pitched Bobby
into the saddle, and the young showman set off at a crisp park trot, up and down the straightaway.Ears up, knees popping, Promises Promises had never looked that good in her
Last spring, Bob Battaglia
25th anniversary as an Arabian trainer, a significant achievement by anyone's standards, but one which pales in comparison to the story of his
life.It's what he
put into those 25 years, and the nearly two decades of riding which preceded them, that makes him not just one of the top trainers in the Arabian breed, but an honest-to-God horseman.A countless host of friends, clients and competitors will tell you that he
is an outstanding human being as well.
In honor of his
quarter of a century, his
associates spoke out about Bob
- who he
is, how he
reached the top of his
profession, and what he
means to the Arabian breed.
THE EARLY YEARSBob Battaglia
grew up in the charmed Chicago equestrian scene of the 1950s and '60s.Arabians had not yet made an appreciable impact in the United States; northern Illinois was the heartbeat of the American Saddlebred industry.
A middle-class kid with no particular financial backing, Bob
and hoards of other children sought the public stables of Lincoln Park, a narrow strip of real estate bordering Lake Michigan, to learn to ride.
"You'd sign up to ride and they'd give you a horse who might have shown up in the barn a day or two before," recalls Corrine Stith of Houston, Texas, a Lincoln Park alumna who now keeps horses with Bob
...Bob was a horse trainer even before he thought about being a horse trainer.
By his middle teens, Bob
had begun riding with Ginger and Sam Tadin.
"If it wasn't myself, it was Battaglia
who always led the charge.It was pitch black out all the time; we'd start off at 8 and wouldn't get in 'til 11.Only by the grace of God did we not get killed, riding at full gallop down these bridle paths, not knowing where the trees were.
" They also continued to compete in horse shows."Bobby
didn't come from that background where his parents could buy him real nice horses," Dick says.
" Riding with Ginger Tadin, Bob
crowned his teenage career by winning the equitation championship at the Chicago International Horse Show, one of the most prestigious titles of the year.
Today, Bob Battaglia
acknowledges that Sam Tadin, who put him on young horses and gave him a taste of actual training, was his first mentor.
When Ginger moved to Holdorf Stables in Morton Grove, Ill., Bob
went with her and helped out by giving riding instruction.
...BOB BATTAGLIA, THE APPRENTICE
Listening to the stories now, it is almost hard to imagine the stylish, unflappable Battaglia as a typical crazy kid - and his
friends allow that perhaps because he
was quiet and rather shy, he
appeared very mature at a young age.But he
always had a sense of humor, and when the hi-jinks were going on, Bob
was front and center.
or Dick, tending to some chore, would glance up unconcernedly and instead of helping her out, holler encouragingly, "Yoooo, Rinny!"
I'm sure Chat is part of Bobby
" From Chat Nichols, Bob
moved on to Lloyd Teater, still regarded by Saddle Horse aficionados as one of the best - if not the best - all-around horseman ever in the breed.
Finally, after 10 years as an assistant trainer, Bob Battaglia
was ready to go to the show."At the time, it was a really closed field in Saddlebreds, unless you were born into it or had tons of money," he
and Ginger Tadin formed a partnership to open Starcraft Training Center
in McHenry, Ill., in 1972.
Ginger's roadster, Heritage Demi-Cent, with Bob
in the bike, picked up a national championship, by all accounts the first contender ever to win three straight heats (the way the class was decided at that time).Their other two entries were top ten.
They did not immediately rocket to the big time.Early client Jack Pedigrew recalls that before a show, his daughter Mary Beth appealed to her parents for a table for Bob
Among them was Featurette, 1977 U.S. National Champion in English Pleasure with Bob
, then 1978 U.S. National Champion in Amateur English Pleasure with Karla Koch.
In a 1987 Show Horse article, Bob
recalled, "That to me is total accomplishment.To take a horse, make it a champion and then to take a rider who you've worked with and put them together and win the ultimate prize; It was sensational."As far as anyone remembers, it was also the first time that a national champion open horse had been converted to win an amateur national title.
It was a just reward.At that time in the Arabian business, most trainers worked only with open horses, while non-professionals trained their own horses at home.Ginger and Bob
had been among the first to take in amateurs.
As the 1970s drew to a close, the partners elected to look for new opportunities, and Bob
moved west to open at Baywood Park in San Luis Obispo, Calif.Randy Shockley handled the halter horses, while Bob
accounted for the performance candidates.
His first headliner came from an old Illinois connection; before going west, he'd purchased Bint Miss Fire for Shirley and Bill Koch, who when Battaglia
left, turned to Bob Phillips.
After winning the 1980 U.S. National Championship in Pleasure Driving with Phillips, Bint Miss Fire headed to Baywood, and in 1982 earned the title in English Pleasure with Battaglia
They were halcyon years in the show ring and successful times in the auction arena, but insiders say that even so, Battaglia
wasn't really satisfied.
" For most of the next decade, with the exception of a couple of years at Sandspur in Scottsdale, Ariz., Battaglia
own operation in California.
Nearly all have won national championships with Bob Battaglia
Ask them why they choose Bob
and you hear several reasons, many of them repeatedly.BOB BATTAGLIA, THE TRAINER
First in any description of Bob Battaglia
formidable ability with a horse.
One client cites an example of the talent they all admire."An owner brought Bob a horse who they'd been told would never get in the ring under saddle - the horse was finished," she
, however, recognized a potential for national honors.He
put together a 12-month plan to turn the horse around.
worked with it and took it to its first show," the observer continues."The first way of the ring, everything went just fine, but on the reverse, when Bob asked the horse to canter, it took a flying leap into the center of the ring.Bob
corrected it, got it back on the rail, and they cantered, but obviously didn't have a great class.
"There are so many things to horse training - not just getting on the horses and riding them," Battaglia
reflects."You have to learn how to think ahead of the horses - not like them, but ahead of them.You also learn how to take care of their feet and legs," he
adds significantly."Without those, you don't have anything."Horse training, you soon learn, is very much about horse care.
Chase Harvill, who started with Bob
as a youth rider and now works at the farm while he's
attending college, expands on the lessons he
has learned."The health of the horse is the main key to everything.Bob
does a lot of prevention to make sure that nothing goes wrong with a horse.
One technique Bob
relies on is driving - for every horse - not just those in the driving division.
..."I think Bob has brought things from other aspects of the horse industry more successfully than anyone else," says trainer Mary Trowbridge, who's watched Bob work for several years.
Not a problem for Bob Battaglia
, say those who know him.
The proof of Battaglia's
philosophy is in his
The stallion has been with Battaglia
entire show career, and nearly all his
Not surprisingly, Bob
has strong views about his
responsibility to the horses when they reach the end of their show careers."We've got one old mare out there who's 26," he
"Magalad fell in love with Bob
Christine adds, "Everybody should get in line to work with Bob Battaglia
The world of Bob Battaglia
is not populated with horses alone.
is such a professional that what you do with your horses is strictly your business and