four older brothers and we can't afford her,' she said.
Well, he reduced the price to $50, but again my mother said no.
His final offer was $40. 'Will he take it in two payments?'
asked my mother.
"So I became the proud owner of Band Lady, my first horse. I
rode her along the beach, through the woods, everywhere. We
were inseparable. Years later, my father was transferred to
New Orleans, and he had to sell my mare for $75. It broke my
But Band Lady was only the beginning.
After moving to Texas in 1967, Mary Ellen purchased her next
Tennessee Walking Horse in Tulsa --a white mare with a black colt
at her side. At her well-known barn, Walkers West, (first
located in Terrell, now in Kaufman) she has raised and sold horses
of that elegant gaited breed for nearly 30 years. Buyers
come from almost every state, as well as Canada, Brazil, Germany,
Holland and Scotland. Wout van Tillingen of Wimberley
(formerly from Holland) assists with the exports.
Her barn holds 46 horses, and there's a waiting list for stalls.
Customers bring their Tennessee Walkers for training, breeding or
sale on consignment.
Her trainer is Morton
"Moe" Lawell, who hails from Shelbyville, Tenn., the heart of
Tennessee Walking Horse country. Moe has spent his entire
life working with the breed, notably with well-known trainer Ronal
Originally a Thoroughbred operation, Walkers West has a 7/8 mile
racetrack, now covered with grass -- excellent for conditioning
the 15 to 20 trail and pleasure horses that Moe works with daily.
Walkers West doesn't train for show, although at times in the
past, Mary Ellen has exhibited colts at halter to promote her
"Breeding is the part of this business that fascinates me," she
says. "I feel it is my responsibility to have top quality
stallions. It is a serious commitment. It takes a long time
to develop a stallion's reputation."
She has owned all four of hers for many years.
The oldest is Bum's Warrior, 26, one of the last
living sons of World Grand Champion Delight Bumin' Around.
The mahogany bay, who has sired many blue-ribbon winners in Texas,
still has great presence. He is also the teasing stud.
"He's got lots of personality. He all but talks," she says.
18, is a dark sorrel with flaxen mane and tail. He is a son
of Prides Generator, the premier sire of the breed. "He also
has a playful streak," says Mary Ellen. "When he's in the
outside pen by the road, he chases cars."
Gold color and old blood have made
The Gold Rush Is On,
a 23-year-old palomino, the most popular stallion. His
grandsires, Midnight Sun and Merry Go Boy, were two of the
legendary World Grand Champions of a generation ago. "Gold
Rush has six Foundation horses on his papers--a real rarity," she
says. "That goes back to 1935, when the breed was first
She likes to breed him to liver-chestnut mares to
produce foals of a deep golden hue. One of these, standing
over 16 hands with a frothy white mane and tail, recently sold for
$15,000 as a two-year-old to a buyer from California.
The youngest and tallest stallion (13 years and 16
hands) is Paint's Cotton, a striking black-and-white tobiano.
His portraits, by English photographer, Bob Langrish, adorn the
official breed calendar.
Such loud color, which used to be discriminated against, is
increasingly popular, especially with pleasure riders, she notes.