Biography - Eli Whitney


Eli Whitney

Appaloosa #589336
Racking Horse #902860

Eli is 15 years old, 15.1 hands and weighs 970 lbs. He is a red roan with a lot of chestnut spots, about a dime to a quarter in size. He has an excellent set of withers. When he is saddled for a long time, the saddle is in the same place where I placed it hours earlier. If you have ever had a mutton withered horse, you know what I mean. His legs are straight with light muscling. He is extremely strong which is suprising given his conformation. He has a good head, not the best I’ve ever seen, but good enough. What’s more important to me is what’s in it. He has a flaxen mane and tail, which is quite thick for an Appaloosa. I’ve had more than one person say they think he has some Arabian in him, in part because of the peek and slope of his hind quarters. He is by no means a halter horse, at least by today’s standards. His feet are large when compared to the rest of his body (which makes for a good foundation) and are very strong. I jokingly tell people I shoe him January 1 and take them off December 31. Actually, I have him shod about every 8 to 10 weeks. We were on the road 61 days in 2002 doing the Chief Joseph Trail ride and going to Alaska on the same set of shoes.

One of the reasons I bought him is his smooth racking gait. He holds his neck and head up, breaking at the pole, moving smoothly down the trail about 5.5 to 6 miles an hour. I think the
longest we went at that speed, without a break (when he’s in shape), is 2 to 2.5 hours. He works on a tight rein. It helps him to stay bunched up. He’s right into the bit, which is the way I like him. Eli came with 2 vices. One time in Utah, high on a mountain just east of Salt Lake City, I had Eli tied to a tree. He broke the snap on the rope. I found out later we were 2000 ft higher than the trail riders in the area ride. I didn’t know it, but I was following an elk trail. It got so steep that Eli was scrambling to get up some parts of the trail. I got to thinking we may have to come back down the same trail. That’s why I stopped to rest him and think about it. Luckily, when he broke the snap, he didn’t go anywhere-he just started eating grass. Now based on his training, someone more than likely spoiled him, probably tied him with the reins or a light rope. He may have broken something by accident, and oh boy, he learned something-don’t they pick it up fast! Solution: get a bigger rope and a stronger snap and tie it around his neck. After a couple of attempts, he doesn’t try any more. The other vice was shying. I bought him in March 2000. In June, my grandson Derrick Whitaker rode him 230 miles across Michigan. Derrick was in the lead when
suddenly Eli did a quick 180 degree turn, and Derrick came off. Luckily, he wasn’t hurt bad, bless his heart; he got back on. He was 15 at the time. Like the old story goes, a lot of wet saddle
blankets and bonding solved the problem-except for our ride in Gettysburg, PA. For information on that ride, see the fact sheet (April 2002) in a letter I sent to Diane at the Appaloosa Journal, which is part of my biography. These vices are in no way a reflection on the man I bought Eli from. These are the kinds of things that happen when a horse is put into certain situations. We all know that what happens is not important, but what we do about it is.

One of the strengths of our breed, is the fact that we have a horse for all occasions. If you want a halter horse, we got ‘em, a race horse, a gaming horse, a cow horse for roping, cutting, team penning, a pleasure horse, whatever. Until I started writing this letter, it had not really occurred to me that we have a horse for all reasons. The major portion of our population is the baby boomers. That group is somewhere between 55 to about 62 years old, give or take a year or two. There are more people in that age group than any other age group. I’m meeting people that boughttheir first horse when they were in their fifties. I think that is a fairly recent phenomenon, and that’s why the registrations of gaited horses are growing so fast. We have breed associations we never heard of just a few years back. The trail boss for the Michigan Trail Riders and I were talking last year. He asked me what percent of the approximately 200 horses on the ride (230 miles from Oscoda on Lake Huron to Empire on Lake Michigan called the shore to shore ride. Eli has
completed 3 times) are gaited horses of some kind. I said about 80% or more; he agreed. He also said that 20 years ago there weren’t any. I’m sure at this point it sounds like I’m selling the
virtues of gaited horses. I guess to this extent I am because for a pleasure trail horse, they can’t be beat. It comes down to the fact that it all depends on the use you want to put the horse to.

Back in the ‘60’s, I had 2 appaloosas; both did the racking gait (in the appaloosa’s it is sometimes called the Indian Shuffle). I didn’t even know what they were doing; all I knew was that it was a real nice ride for a trail horse. When I decided to go on the Chief Joseph ride, (the ride is sponsored by the Appaloosa Horse Club and you must ride a registered appaloosa.) I was 63 years old. My knees were starting to bother me and after getting use to riding racking horses, I didn’t want to ride a horse that trotted. I talked to God about it, and while I was meditating one day, the thought came to me to run an ad in the walking horse magazine called the Voice. The lady on the phone tried her best to talk me out of it, but I wouldn’t let her. My reasoning was this: if a walking horse person knew of a gaited appaloosa in the neighborhood, they would tell that person and that’s just what happened. I got calls from all over the country. I stopped counting after 20. Mary Ellen, my wife of 47 years (I’m kinda proud of that), and I were all set to drive 700 miles to look at a horse in Missouri when a fellow called from 30 miles away and said he had one. Danny Latham is a racking horseman. He took Eli in trade from another horse trader that bought him from a family in Mississippi. He didn’t know if there ever were register papers on him. Some folks say a horse can’t read so why should he need papers :). Of course, if the horse they’re selling has papers, they brag about it. I had to register him hardship. I sure would like to know if he had full pedigree papers. As I said earlier, it was March and the farmers in the area around Arab, Alabama were planting cotton. Since Danny told me that he called him “Eli”, I registered him as Eli Whitney, after the man who invented the cotton gin. It’s a very commercial name-one people remember. Everyone loves Eli. He’s just that kind of horse-just real nice to be around.

When Mary Ellen and I were in New Brunswick, Canada, we stopped at a welcome center. A young lady came over to our rig to see Eli. Eli was looking out of his window. Of course, that’s like a magnet to people in general and horse people in particular. Diane and her husband and her sister and brother-in-law were on a short vacation. They live in New Hampshire. Mary Ellen mentioned that New Hampshire was one of the four states we had left to do and that we were planning on going there after we finished doing Canada. She said that’s too bad, you could have stayed at our place, but we won’t be back home for 3 or 4 days. We said we’re going to Newfoundland after doing the rest of the provinces in between. She said “Oh WOW”. A couple of weeks later, when we were back in the USA, we called her, and she was true to her word, bless her heart. She even arranged for a trail ride with her club. I got to meet some really nice folks. Now here’s the reason I told you all this. This young lady confessed that she got to thinking later after we left the welcome center. “What if when he gets to my place, he unloads a bag of bones?” After all, all she could see was Eli’s head. She knew we had been on the road off and on for 3 years. She thought “What will my friends think if this horse looks just awful?” Well, after all, by the time we got to her place, we had gone over 7000 miles on that trip alone. She told me later how pleasantly surprised she was when Ol’ Eli came
out of the trailer ready to rock. He had the look of eagles in his eyes. Lookin’ like he’s cookin’ on all cylinders. I take real good care of Eli, and he takes real good care of me. There are a lot of people in the USA and Canada that know a racking appaloosa is the only horse that took on North
America and won.