In Memorium of Rollen Clarkson
By Dyan Westvang

On November 15, 2000 another of the Missouri Fox Trotter’s founding breeders passed to his final reward. Born December 2, 1926 , Rollen Clarkson left this world after a long bout of illness.

Rollen Clarkson became acquainted with fox trotting horses as a child as he rode to school behind his teacher on a good bay mare called Crazy Snake. At the young age of 9, Rollen knew he some day wanted a horse just like her and he kept that in mind as he grew up.

As a young man, Rollen Clarkson was taken off to war and served duty in Europe through some pretty dark days in history. Upon his return from war in 1946 his father presented him with a filly, the daughter of Crazy Snake as a welcome home gift. The filly named Roxy was sired by the Roy Wright Stud.

From this mare Rollen began a long relationship with the Missouri Fox Trotters and his was one of the very first breeding herds to be registered with the Missouri Fox Trotter Horse Breeders Association when it reorganized in 1948. From that day forth he bred a lot of horses on his ranch in Protem, Missouri. Horses that not only fox trotted naturally, but who had the athletic ability and stamina to work cows in the rugged hills of the Ozarks.

From Roxy he produced the good mare Flaxy C. who was sired by the Everett Tidwell horse. Flaxy was a good cow horse and from her he got Fancy Pants by Blankenship Diamond. A picture of Rollen chasing cows on Fancy Pants has graced many Celebration books over the years as well as a newspaper article done on him years ago.

A cattleman all his life, Rollen could tell a million stories of the old days before the White River was dammed up to make Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfork. His property bordered the White and there were no bridges. In order to get cattle back and forth from Arkansas to Missouri they had to be driven across the river. The horses used for this monumental task were Fox Trotters. The river was so deep it meant the cattle and horses had to swim. Rollen knew many of the old horses and in fact had ridden a good lot of them.

The good old horse Ramblin Red who was owned by Lawrence Barnes for many years was bred by Rollen Clarkson. Lawrence and Rollin were good friends and it was Lawrence who inspected Rollen’s herd for registration .

As a man, I found Rollen to be fair and honest though he would never turn down an opportunity. He was also a man who could laugh at himself and took life as it was. He was tough as old boots and had weathered drought, hard times and good. Through it all he loved his horses.

Though he did not concentrate on what he termed the “play pretty” horses bred for the show ring, he did breed true fox trotting horses and accomplished a certain standardization in his stock that is hard to match today. His horses simply did not pace but would fox trot off naturally when put to saddle. When asked how he had accomplished this he said he just culled out anything that paced or racked because they didn’t make good cow horses and he bred horses to work on the ranch. He said the horses that paced lacked the balance to stay under a man in rough terrain and seemed to get their feet tangled when asked to canter. So any horses who paced were sold as “down the road, saddle horses” and not used for breeding. The result is after so many years, he rarely if ever produced a pacer. Yet his horses cover ground with amazing ease, have confidence and willing natures and like to work.

My husband and I were privileged to have known Rollen Clarkson and considered him a friend. He shall be missed as a friend, business associate, and breeder of fine horses. This breed has lost a landmark. May he rest in peace.

© Copyright Dyan Westvang ~ All Rights Reserved~ No portion of this article may be reprinted or distributed electronically or by other means without the written consent of the author. Foxvangen Farm




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