Article: Morgan debacle

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Mar 17, 2003, 12:33:08 PM3/17/03
Trainer is at center of Morgan horse scandal
By Florence Shinkle Of the Post-Dispatch
updated: 03/15/2003 12:52 PM

Chantilly Lace, the little Morgan mare whose identity was stolen, ended up on
a farm in Texas Gulf owned by Joan and Glen Bosman.
The stallion that was the founder of the Morgan breed was a small, burly
fellow - a tugboat that could outpull draft horses twice its weight.

Modern breeders of Morgans have been trying to make the tugboat look more
like a sailboat, adapting the breed's conformation to the high-style lines
necessary for show ring appeal.

But this pursuit of beauty is supposed to be governed by the strictest
ethics. All transformations of type must be achieved by mating only purebred
animals to purebred animals. "Improving the breed," it's called -
manipulating a venerable gene pool to produce an archetype for the future.
Abiding by the restrictions is a sacred trust. Cheating can trigger a pursuit
of fraud on a par with the FBI chasing a notorious counterfeiter.

Few breeders have been more successful in incorporating long-necked elegance
and height into their Morgan foals than Bruce Ekstrom, a trainer with a farm
in Marthasville, an hour west of St. Louis. After one of the horses he bred
was named the world champion Morgan halter horse in 2000, his breeding
program was advertised in an industry publication under the headline, "One
Man's Vision for the Morgan Horse."

Now Ekstrom's vision has been marred by scandal. The American Morgan Horse
Association - the regulatory organization for the breed - has expelled
Ekstrom for allegedly devising a crossbreeding scheme in which he
misrepresented an American Saddlebred mare named Summer's Song as an
established Morgan mare, Chantilly Lace, and sold the Saddlebred's offspring
for $30,000 to $100,000 to buyers who thought they were getting purebred
Morgans destined for the Morgan show ring. Ekstrom says that he thought the
horse was a Morgan and that he was a victim, too.

By the time the crossbreeding was unraveled - in a coast-to-coast gallop to
trace the identities of the two mares through blood typing - some 50 progeny
of the Saddlebred mare were on the books as purebreds. The Morgan registry
expelled them all, bringing on a lawsuit by three couples who want the court
to order the reinstatement of their animals.

Ekstrom, a world-renowned judge of Morgan conformation, acknowledges that the
horse he thought was a Morgan has irrefutably been shown to be a Saddlebred.
But he says he didn't set out to fool anybody.

"This was perpetrated on me," he said. "It happened on my farm, but I didn't
perpetrate it. There were 120 horses on this farm when she came. Do you know
how easy it is for one horse to slip through?"

For years, it was easy. Before blood typing was required, the purebred
registries could only trust the breeders to keep honest, accurate track of
breeding operations and to provide the correct information about parentage.
Now science has put honor to the test - and solved the case.

A pretty face

The Morgan mare Chantilly Lace was foaled in 1973 and registered that year by
her breeders, Lynn and Udell Ingles of Sorento, Ill. The filly would mature
to be small - no more than 56 inches at the shoulder - and sturdy and
sweet-tempered, with the traditional features of the breed.

In color, Chantilly Lace was chestnut with a white sock on one hind leg and a
star and strip on her forehead that her breeder said "looked just like a
comet with a tail." The markings were duly noted on her registration papers.
She was not blood typed to complete her identity profile. The procedure was
still uncommon in the 1970s.

Lynn Ingles sold Chantilly Lace to a neighbor, Maxine Melm. In 1976, Melm
sold Chantilly to James Perrodin, a Texan who worked in the Merchant Marine
and had a piece of land on the Gulf coast near Bridgewater. Perrodin also
bought a horse from Ingles, another Morgan that was Chantilly's dam, or
mother, named Merwin's Marketta.

What made the two deals unusual was that Perrodin got the horses but not
their registration papers. He made only partial payments up front for the
animals, so the sellers gave him photocopies but refused to transfer the
distinctive title papers with the gold seal of the Morgan registry until
Perrodin paid the full price. So Chantilly and her dam went to Texas while
the documents that confirmed their identity stayed with Ingles and Melm.

Over the next few years, Perrodin disappeared, as did the horses. At one
point, Ingles sent a man armed with power of attorney to repossess her
animals. The man came back empty-handed. Texas had swallowed the horses

Enter Ekstrom

Ekstrom knew Melm, the woman who retained the papers on Chantilly Lace. She
was a small-time horse owner; he was a kingpin in the industry, a judge at
Morgan shows around the globe, credited with training or breeding animals
that accumulated 160 national championships.

"I love this breed," he said in a phone interview. "I have devoted my whole
life to improving this breed."

Ekstrom, 53, was born in Worcester, Mass., raised in Ohio, and educated at
Culver Military Academy and Ohio State, where he got a degree in animal
science. He began breeding Morgans in 1974, landing in the middle of an
ongoing war over how the breed should be developed - as the all-around family
horse it had been, or as a stylish, specialized animal suited for the show

For people not involved with animals, it is hard to understand the bitterness
of these philosophical splits over what an ideal animal should look like, but
for those who love purebreds, owning one that's adjudged to be magnificent is
a principal accomplishment in life. Honor and a measure of celebrity among
peers derive from it, not to mention money.

In March 1990, Melm was short of cash and, according to a report by the
American Morgan Horse Association, went to Ekstrom offering him the papers on
Chantilly Lace in return for cash amounting to the balance on the sale price
she had quoted Perrodin 14 years before.

Ekstrom later insisted to Morgan association officials that Matthew Rietveld,
an associate, immediately went down to Texas, had no trouble locating
Perrodin's farm and repossessed Chantilly Lace for Ekstrom. Rietveld gave
investigators a graphic description of Perrodin's place, mentioning details
such as a red barn and a stall with a brass plate bearing the mare's name.
Ekstrom and Rietveld told authorities that the 17-year-old mare came home to
Marthasville directly from Texas to be bred.

Two years later, in 1992, Ekstrom purchased the American Saddlebred mare
Summer's Song from Sally Briney of Springfield, Ill.

Briney recalls that Ekstrom said he was buying the horse for a customer in
Florida who wanted to breed her to an Arabian horse. The mare had already
been blood typed, and the blood work was on file in the database of the
American Saddlebred registry, managed by the University of Kentucky genetic

"But Bruce never asked me if she was blood typed, and I never told him,"
Briney said. "Why would I tell him? He said he was buying her for someone who
intended to produce half-breed horses, so it didn't seem to matter."

Summer's Song was approximately the same hue of chestnut as Chantilly Lace,
and she had somewhat similar white markings, including a star and stripe on
her forehead that was narrower than Chantilly's and a white stocking on one
hind leg. But there were differences - she had a smidgen of white on two
other legs as well, she was 12 years younger than the Morgan and eight inches
taller, with the swanlike neck and high stepping action that some Morgan
breeders had been trying to develop in their breed.

In 1993, Ekstrom sent a blood sample to the Morgan registry, which he
identified as blood drawn from Chantilly Lace. By 1993, the Morgan registry
required that Ekstrom had to complete Chantilly's identity profile with the
modern addition of a blood sample if he wished to register her babies. Once
the blood sample was accepted, Ekstrom registered 10 offspring in seven
years, ostensibly by a mare that would have been 20 years old at her first
conception. Her fertility at such an advanced age was unusual but not
impossible. No alarm bells went off at registry headquarters.

Lost and found

And where was Chantilly Lace - the real Chantilly Lace - all this time? She
had changed owners and no longer was lost in the wilds of Texas on the ranch
of the mysterious James Perrodin.

In 1985, Perrodin sold Chantilly and Merwin's Marketta to Glen and Joan
Bosman of Port Arthur, Texas. When the Bosmans bought the two horses, they
weren't interested in breeding them.

"We just wanted some lawn mowers," Glen Bosman recalled.

Nonetheless, Perrodin had included with the two mares the photocopied
registration papers that he'd received years before from Melm and Ingles. As
the Bosmans came to love and prize the horses, Glen Bosman decided to look
into getting the original papers. He contacted Udell and Lynn Ingles, whose
farm location was listed on the duplicates.

Lynn Ingles recalls, "That was in 1986 or '87 when I heard from them. For a
while, we sent pictures and letters back and forth. The horses looked

But she never contacted Melm to tell her the missing horses had been located,
because Melm had moved.

In October 1998, Ingles and her neighbor Anita Gallion were sitting together,
leafing through a publication of the American Morgan Horse Association. In it
was a full-color ad for a fancy colt bred by Ekstrom. The ad listed the
colt's dam as Chantilly Lace.

"I thought you said Chantilly Lace was with some guy in Texas?" Gallion
remembers inquiring of Ingles.

Ingles replied: "She is, I think - unless something has changed since I
talked to them last."

She called Bosman. "You still have those mares?" she asked him.

"Sure do," he replied. "My wife feeds them better than she feeds me."

Cross or double-cross?

In early 1999, investigators for the American Morgan Horse Association drew
blood samples from the Bosmans' two old mares and quickly established that
they were mother and daughter. But were they Merwin's Marketta and Chantilly

Neither mare had blood work on file to compare the fresh samples with, but -
lucky break - the sire, or father, of Merwin's Marketta did. The last year
that the old stud had produced a crop of foals was 1981, the very first year
that the Morgan association had required blood typing for registered
stallions. Comparing the stud's blood work with the samples taken from the
Bosmans' mares established the line of descent.

So what was the mare whose blood samples Ekstrom had submitted in 1993 as
belonging to Chantilly Lace?

For some months, the Morgan association's board of directors took a tolerant
view of the mixup. Mistakes of record had happened before when owners guessed
at which stallion in a pasture had bred a loose mare.

"In the absence of evidence of wrongdoing," the board chose to look on the
"Ekstrom mare" as an unknown Morgan, which was a right church, wrong pew
approach to the mess. Critical to the board's stand was testimony by Ekstrom
that his employee, Rietveld, had retrieved the mare in 1990 from Perrodin's
farm. Perrodin was at sea and unavailable to substantiate the report.

The investigation closed in November 1999. But then Perrodin surfaced, with
land mine effect, establishing that in 1985, he'd sold the farm from which
the mare supposedly had been repossessed in 1990.

Ekstrom then revised his story, claiming he'd been duped by Rietveld into
believing the mare that arrived on his property was Chantilly Lace. Rietveld
initially accepted responsibility, then recanted, saying he'd only claimed to
be the guilty party after Ekstrom offered to pay him $250,000. Ekstrom denied
the accusation of bribery.

In the midst of the unraveling of the plot, a group of Morgan owners who
preferred the traditional type of animal claimed they'd known all along the
Ekstrom foals had to have American Saddlebred blood in them.

The American Morgan Horse Association authorized the lab at the University of
California at Davis, where Morgan blood work was on file, to send a blind
sample of the blood work for the Ekstrom mare to the American Saddlebred
database at the University of Kentucky. The Ekstrom mare typed with 99
percent certainty as the Saddlebred mare, Summer Song. Not only was Summer
Song's blood work on file in Kentucky, so was that of her sire and dam. The
identification was absolute.

"For Bruce Ekstrom to say that mare looked like a Morgan - he's
hallucinating," said Judy Werner of Waterloo, owner of Radiant Sultan, the
sire of Summer Song. "I think he just swapped papers, but he never asked
Sally Briney if her mare was blood typed."

Owners of the Ekstrom mare's progeny are as bereft as art collectors whose
treasure has turned out to be a forgery.

"I have put $50,000 into training a lawn ornament," said Mary Kuhn of her
colt, Captive Rhythm, which was expelled from the Morgan registry.

Says Stephanie Jones of West Plains, Mo., whose parents brought her Angelina:
"I love her anyway. We will keep her." Angelina has been expelled from the
registry, as a broodmare prospect.

Ekstrom is selling his farm in Marthasville. His lawyer, Jack Hamlin of San
Diego, said Ekstrom was denied due process in the hearings before the
American Morgan Horse Association last summer and that he will file a civil
action against the association. Ekstrom maintains that he was first framed
and then pursued by an association board that was goaded by breeders from the
camp that prefers the more traditional Morgans.

"They had a vested interest in proving me wrong and putting me out of
business," he said. "They have turned on me. I'm considered one of the top
judges of Morgans in the world. Everything I have worked for my whole life, I
have lost."

Reporter Florence Shinkle:
Phone: 314-729-7904

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