October 1976, Midwest Horseman
By Roger Graves
On almost any summer weekend, you will find
Chuck Grant and his "Horse Capades" entertaining folks
at a county fair, horse, show or other gathering of horse lover,
horse watchers, or just people who love good entertainment.
Grant has been a horse trainer and riding
instructor most of his adult life. Two years ago he coupled his
knowledge and expertise and formed a troupe of seven expert
horsemen who have packed in crowds ever since.
But the beginning wasn't so easy. It took hours
and hours of training and practice to get the routine presentable
to the public. Even now the members travel a total of 800 miles
each week, just to train at Grant's Shine-A-Bit Farm in Brighton,
The troupe consists of five female riders and
three males, including Grant. They all own and train their own
horses under the direction of Grant, who also has trained the
riders themselves. Besides being showmen, the riders could be and
some are top competitors in dressage events throughout the
The show director, Clarence Hastings, has been
around horse shows and circus acts for 45 years. His enthusiasm
has helped motivate the show to what it is now; a group of
enthusiastic show people who love to entertain with their prized
Another important member of the troupe that
people don't see much of, is the announcer, Dan Droucher of Mt.
Clemens, Michigan. Dan explains to the crowd the horses'
movements, as they go through the complex patterns of Classical
Dressage. These movements are sometimes done to music, which adds
rhythm and beauty to the art.
The members themselves come from all walks of
life, from engineers to house wives, to professional horse
trainers: Jake Donahue from Gregory, Michigan rides
"Scotch-A-Girl," a Quarter Horse mare; Judy Thocker
rides "Mercedi," an Arab stallion; Shirley Moody, a
horsegal from Grand Ledge, Michigan rides a Saddlebred Mare,
"Oxie Ann." Shirley's daughter, Pam Moody, rides an
Arabian Gelding, "Salla. " Joane Clark, an East Lansing
horseman rides her Quarter Horse Gelding. Dutch Miller, an
automotive engineer from Detroit, rides his Arabian stallion
"Tigger." Dutch is the clown of the show, with a skit
of falling off his horse, a broken cinch, and other comic stunts
that keep the crowds laughing. Ellen Hull from Hillsdale,
Michigan puts her Hackney "Honey" through it's paces,
along with Chuck Grant, who rides his Thoroughbred gelding
The troupe themselves dress for their parts,
wearing formal attire. The ladies wear long, flowing green gowns
with white blouses that match the ribbons in the horses' manes.
The men wear green military style uniforms, that have been
tailor-made to Grant's specifications. Dressage has been a part
of the mounted Military throughout the history of Europe and even
The classical movements of dressage are a
delight to watch, but Grant has spiced up the act with finely
executed tricks called "high school" movements. These
tricks are crowd-pleasing examples of what Grant's horses are
taught to do. It's a thrill to see a 1200 pound horse bow to the
audience, rear straight up in the air, kneel on one leg, and even
lie down and roll over. In addition to these stunts, the horses
are taught the "Spanish Walk" which is a high stepping
gait that looks more like a show-off strut. And if you have ever
taught your canine pal to sit, try it sometime with a horse. The
"Horse Capades" do it with ease, as the big animals
plop down on their rear ends to the delight of the audience.
"These are all basic high school
movements, " Grant says, "that almost any hors can
learn to do, with time and patience."
The "Horse Capades" have a limited
booking of only 20 shows per year. This allows the members to
participate in regular horse competition, along with putting on
their routines. When Chuck Grant isn't on the road with the Horse
Capades, he is busy at his Shine-A-Bit Farm, training horses for
all levels of dressage. Chuck's farm is a marketplace for
dressage-trained horses, which he sell for $10,000 up to $70,000
for a Grand Prix level dressage mount. Chuck has trained seven
horses to this level that have competed in the Olympics, this is
six more than any other trainer in the United States.
Chuck feels an ideal dressage or high school
caliber horse should be between 15 and 15.3 hands, reasonably
sound, and under nine years old. (An older horse could be
trained, but you would get less out of your investment due to old
age.) Chuck prefers Thoroughbred-type horses and the flashier the
better. A flashy mount stands out in a crowd. Grant says he can
take a green horse and have him ready for the dressage circuit or
ready to perform in high school exhibitions with just two years
of training. Quite a feat when it would take any other trainer
four years to reach this same level.
Chuck's career as a horse trainer has spanned
four decades, with his biggest achievement being, of course, his
Grand Prix horses. But running a close second is the fabulous
Horse Capades which he and his troupe can be proud to be part of.
Copyright ©1996 by Shine-A-Bit Farm; Brighton, Michigan - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of text and/or photos for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited