by Dan Crawford

Dan Crawford is the only genuine horse trader I know—blind or sighted. Since most of you probably don't know any horse traders either, I thought you might like to hear his story. Here is how he tells it:

I was born in Garden Prairie, Illinois, in a farming community and raised on a dairy farm that my parents operated. I lost my left eye at the age of five and only had ten percent vision in my right eye. I attended the Illinois Braille and Sight Saving School in Jacksonville through my sophomore year. And I guess everybody at Jacksonville could have predicted my future. I used to slip away to the local stable and eventually got caught and got in trouble. So from then on my future was definitely predictable.

At the end of my sophomore year I transferred to Belvedere High School. And it was during my junior and senior year of high school that I really started working horses. I was very fortunate in that my father was an excellent horseman and able to teach me a lot. I also associated with qualified horse people, as well as excellent veterinarians and farriers.

I never will forget the first horse that I trained for money. I was offered $35 a month to ride this horse, and back in those days $35 was a lot of money, so I jumped at the chance. Believe me, I needed every dollar.

From then on, horses started coming in for training on a regular basis. And between training horses, helping to milk cows, and going to school I kept quite busy. After graduation I still continued to train horses. By then I'd upped my rate to $50 a month.

Then the horses still continued to come in for training. I attended college for a while and worked horses on the side. Eventually I upped my rate to $100 a month. And people still continued to send me horses.

About this time I incorporated a new aspect of the horse business. I started buying untrained horses and training them for resale. I found that I could make far more money than I could training them for their owners. And so I continued this practice. Then, I took a factory job working for the Green Giant Canneries, but I still worked horses on the side. And it was about this time that some of my friends and I decided that we'd like to rodeo a little bit. We started roping and tying a little bit with Mom and Dad's dairy cows. Needless to say this did not make my mother too happy.

And about the same time one of my friends got hold of a real outstanding bareback bronco. One of the times I had my pride hurt the most was when this bronk bucked me off, kicked me in the head, and knocked me out for eight hours. Unfortunately, all of this was completely documented on color film.

Well, enough about my rodeo days. I still continued to train horses. About this time I realized that there was more money to be made in strictly buying and selling horses because there was far less chance of getting my bones broken. So I continued buying and selling horses.

But this didn't put enough bread on the table, so I took a better factory job at Belvedere Products, where I worked as an upholsterer. Fortunately the two jobs seemed to work quite well together—that is, for a few years. Eventually the horse business got big enough that I had to give up the factory job. At this time I might add that while I was working at Belvedere Products, I lost the remaining sight in my right eye. I was twenty-seven years old, and I wondered if I'd still be able to continue the horse business. Somehow I just knew I could. In some respects it was easier continuing the business after I lost my sight than before. During the last couple of years of seeing, I found my sight was actually more of a hindrance. The strange thing was that all this time that I was buying, selling, and trading horses, I never thought of it as a career or anything to base a future on—just something to while away time and keep myself busy. I was probably thirty years old before it dawned on me: Well, I'm probably born to be a horse trader and probably will be the rest of my life.

And so I still continue buying and selling horses. But I also started buying and selling saddles and horse trailers. I found that the three seemed to work quite well together. And so I practiced this for a few years and traveled around the country having a good time. But in 1975 a big change came into my life. I met my wife to be, Sue, and we were married. At this time we specialize in the Arabian horse. I will have to admit that I am just a little bit prejudiced toward the Arabian—although, in fairness, we have owned some outstanding quarter horses, appaloosas, thoroughbreds, Tennessee Walkers, and a few Morgans, as well as a few other breeds. But our business is basically geared around the Arabian.

The next major change in our lives occurred in 1981. We moved away from Illinois and into Tennessee on a twenty-acre farm near Estill Springs. Estill is located exactly half way between Nashville and Chattanooga on Interstate 24. Our farm has four stock-filled ponds. We have in our ponds catfish, bass, and crappies, as well as a year round spring fed creek. So I thought perhaps when we moved to Tennessee that I might retire from the horse business—strictly relax and fish and have a good time.

But as things will happen, they don't always work out that way. When I moved from Illinois, I sold every horse that we owned. But a good deal came along with some horses, and before I knew it, we were back in the horse business bigger than ever. We had to build a new barn to expand our facilities. And if all goes well, we hope to build a new house this year. It's about time. Sue deserves one.

I often have people tell me they think it's just amazing the way I handle and get along with horses. And they wonder if I think other blind people could do the same thing. And my answer is immediate. Yes.

If I were a young blind person and wanted to get into the horse business, there are ways in which I feel this could be accomplished. I would start buying and selling saddles and bridles and other related accessories. It would take approximately six months to a year to learn most of the horse equipment. But hopefully this would be a way the beginner could start to meet competent and qualified horse people and also a way for the beginner to start his or her education in becoming a genuine horse trader.

To become a horse trader it's a long drawn out process. It's just like going to college. It's going to take from three to five years to understand completely and learn the horses' anatomy and conformation, as well as various good and bad points about the horse, as well as studying up on pedigree.

So that is why I think I would start handling horse-related accessories. This would bring in a source of income while learning the business.

There is no reason why other blind people can't become genuine horse traders. The horse business is a multi-billion dollar business. And ninety to ninety-five per cent of the people who get into the business fail. Now I know that may seem hard to believe. Let me assure you that it is true. Therefore, there is money to be made for the remaining five percent. So I say if you are at all interested in becoming a horse trader, go for it.