Monday, September 20, 2010

A Famous Horsewoman

On Saturday, Mom and Aunt LaDene went on a tour where they learned some stuff about a man who was famous in Kansas City history.  This man's name was R.A. Long, and he got very rich in the lumber business back in the late 1800s.  In fact, Mr. Long's company, which was called Long-Bell Lumber, was one of the companies that cut down all the nice pine forests in the Southeast, where the ivory-billed woodpeckers used to live.  But I am not going to talk about that today because Mr. Long also did many good things.  Also he had two daughters, named Sally and Loula, and Loula became very famous in the horse-show world.  Besides which, she liked dogs and all sorts of other animals.

The Long daughters were born in Columbus, Kansas, but they grew up in Kansas City.  Their father was very rich because of the lumber business, and he really liked horses, so he owned some very good-quality ones.  Loula loved horses starting from age 2 or maybe even before that.  So her dad bought her a pony and taught her to ride at a very young age.  My mom would have also liked to have a pony, but she did not have a rich father, so she didn't get a pony, even though she wished for one every time she blew out her birthday candles or saw the first star in the sky at night.

Miss Loula started competing in horse shows when she was very young, and she was a good rider, so she almost always won.  At the age of 15, she told her father that her schoolwork gave her headaches, so he let her quit school and just train horses.  She was not lazy or anything like that, in spite of being rich, and she worked very hard to get her horses ready to be in horse shows.

Back in those days, women didn't usually show horses because people thought it was a sport for men, and also it was dangerous.  But Miss Loula wasn't worried about getting hurt.  Her favorite kind of event to do was driving hackney ponies, which was where smaller horses pulled carriages around the ring, and sometimes they went really fast.  This was more dangerous than just riding a horse, because if the carriage tipped over, the driver and the horse could both get hurt.  

In 1898,  when Miss Loula was only 17 years old, she was competing in the American Royal, which is a big famous horse that happens right here in Kansas City every fall.  And anyway, somebody clapped in the ear of her horse on purpose, just to spook it, and the carriage fell over.  Miss Loula broke her arm in 8 places.  But of course that did not keep her from getting back into the ring as soon as she could.

After a while, the Long family had more horses than they could fit into their stable, so they decided to build a new stable and also a really big new house.  Which is how Corinthian Hall got built.  It is such a really huge house that you would have to call it a mansion.  It has three floors with about 75 rooms plus an attic.  The Long daughters were pretty much grown up by the time they moved in there in 1910, but they lived in the house for a few years before getting married.  

Miss Loula was 36 when she got married, on June 30, 1917.  The wedding was held in the entrance hall of the mansion, which was big enough to be a room all by itself.  She married Pryor Combs, who was the son of the minister at the church the family went to.  So after that, her name was Loula Long Combs.

In 1915, Mr. Long had built a farm out in the south part of the Kansas City area, and this farm was called Longview Farm.  That's where Mr. and Mrs. Combs went to live because there were lots of stables, a racetrack, and places to train horses.  Also there was plenty of space for all kinds of animals like cows and pigs, and also for crops.  Mrs. Combs lived there for 57 years, until she died in 1971.

One thing Mrs. Combs really liked was hats.  She especially liked huge hats with lots of feathers.  She always wore them in the show ring, which the audience enjoyed seeing.  She said, "A good big hat helps add to the general movement of the rig."

Mrs. Combs bred and showed lots of champion horses.  She gave them all names that ended in "ion" because "champion" ends in those letters, and she wanted all her horses to be champions.  One of her most famous horses was named Revelation, but there were other champions with names like Captivation, Recollection, Consideration, and Constellation.

I found a few pictures of Mrs. Combs with some of her dogs, but most of the pictures only show her with horses.  There were some times in her life when she had 18 dogs all at once, and the kind of dog she liked best was the Boston terrier.  Other pets she had were a pig named Mary, a monkey named Jocko, and two skunks named Gardenia and Magnolia.  She cared a lot about how animals were treated, so I think you could say she was an early animal rights activist.

In 1961, Mrs. Combs officially retired from showing horses, and she got a standing ovation at the American Royal.  Then in 1967, when she was 86, she was chosen to be in the horse-show Hall of Fame in Madison Square Garden.  She was the first woman to ever get this kind of honor.

After Mrs. Combs' mother died, her father gave Corinthian Hall to the city to use as a museum.  Then he went to live at Longview Farm until his death in 1934.  Mrs. Combs' sister, Mrs. Sally Ellis, also lived at Longview Farm after her husband died.  The two sisters donated 167 acres of land that was used to build Longview Community College.

I wish I could have found out more about Mrs. Loula Long Combs's dogs, but I think I would have to do lots more in-depth research in order to learn about them.  Since she was famous for being a horsewoman, that is mostly all I could find out about her.  Anyway, I think if she had met me, she would have liked me because I'm cute and I'm black-and-white, even if I'm not a Boston terrier!


  1. Loula Long Combs was an animal lover. Early in its history (founded in 1943)Wayside Waifs received the benefit of Loula Long Combs love of animals. She put on a charity horse show to raise funds for the new animal shelter. A large number of Kansas City's notables were in attendance, including H Roe Bartel. Just thought you'd like to know.
    Aunt Lynn

  2. Thank you for this information, Aunt Lynn. I did not know that Loula Long Combs raised so much money for Wayside Waifs, but it was a very generous thing for her to do. I wish she were still around and could donate a couple of million dollars to the Humane Society, too!
    Your friend, Piper