Chuck Grant and "The Horse Capades"

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, Michigan.

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 country.

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 horses.

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 "Shine-A-Bit Two".

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 early America.

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