Shelby  County  Indiana

Fred  Johnson

The  Shelbyville  Republican
    Monday November 24, 1947
Page 4 column 4
            A lot of horse flesh trots past the memory eye of  Fred Johnson  as he reminisces on the days since he trained and raced his first horse back in 1908-when he was 17 years old.
            Born and reared on a farm in Rush county he grew up "horse minded" since his neighboring county was widely known as a racing center around the turn of the century.  There were 26 tracks in the county during that era and "more horses than in the state of Kentucky."  Besides that, he had a natural love for man’s "next-to-best" friend (it would be hard to convince him that horses don’t rate above dogs in that title) and it was after an army stint in World War I that he came to Shelbyville in 1919 to begin training and racing horses as his choice occupation.
            That first horse he trained was named "Annie N" and was owned by  Ethan Inlow,  father of  Drs. W.D. Fred and  Herbert  of the Clinic.  He raced her at the Rush county fair and he came in for second place.  About this time in our talk, which was held in the office at his stables at the fairgrounds, I asked him "how come" some of the fancy names given racing horses.  That he said is done by various and sundry methods.  He knew one family who chose names from a dictionary; a banker named one of his steeds from a word he heard over the radio; a Calumet family always prefaced their names with letters of the alphabet and so on.
            Two of the better horses that came to his mind from his early days are Fet National, who was owned by the late  Jim Graeber,  of Arlington, and Billy J.K., who was owned by his uncle  Brack Johnson.  The first named was in the $26,000 winning bracket in 1924 with a trotting record of 2:01 ¾  . Later horses of which he was pretty proud were Eddie D, who was sired by the famed Frisco Dale and held a record of two minutes flat, and Betty Grattan, who held a 2:04 record. Eddie D, formerly owned by  L.V. Hauk,  now is in Canada and Mr. Hauk still owns Betty Grattan.
            In all his years on the track, Fred has been thrown but four times and only once suffered serious injuries.  That was at Lawrenceburg three years ago when his shoulder was broken.  He’s raced in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio and his biggest racing purse was in the rich Hoosier Futurity at Indianapolis last year.
            Mr. Johnson is training five of the 50 horses quartered at the local track now.  Taken on a tour of the stables, where in snug stalls the horses were contentedly munching on hay in knee deep straw, he brought out his special pride and joy, Bess Abbey Dale, a 20-month-old shiny black filly owned by  John Hinchman, of Greenfield. Bess Abbey, who will race here next season, responded to gentle patting on the head with dampish muzzling, but not so her next-stable neighbor, Pay Mac.  His answer to amateur "horse talk" was a bared mouthful of teeth and laid flat ears.
            Mr. Johnson says he has broken colts as early as the age of seven months but the average age is around 18 to 20 months.  His usual procedure is to leave them in their stalls with harness on for a day or so; then lead them until they’re accustomed to the feel of harness on the track; then drive them without the training cart for an approximate two-week period, and next, the final step of starting them through their paces with the cart attached.  These carts weigh in the range of 35 to 40 pounds but the average racing sulky weighs 27 pounds.  Fred’s racing technique is mostly with lines.  He isn’t much for using a whip. If one tap of a whip doesn’t bring an extra surge of speed, then he’s pretty sure the horse is giving its best.  And he says that instead of keeping the "eye on the ball," racing is mostly watching the other fellow and his horse.
            A race horse’s died consists of oats and hay, as the main and preferred "dishes," and bran and corn.  They’re fed three times daily ordinarily but an extra meal is added during racing season.  In especially hot weather they’re frequently treated to ice packs on the head and loins between heats and the after-race treatment is mighty important.  They’re walked until they’re "cooled out," rubbed down, have their legs bound and given longed for drinks of water slowly at 20 minute intervals before being stabled.
            Getting back to the trainer and driver, Mr. Johnson married  Mae Ogdon  11 years ago and is fortunate in having a wife who also is a horse enthusiast.  They reside at 805 Fair avenue, just a short trot from the race track.  Where else would you find a man like Fred Johnson living?
Contributed by Phyllis Miller Fleming

Biography Index       Main Page