Before Jackie Robinson ever donned a Dodger uniform - there was Tom Bass. Before Rosa Parks ever demanded a seat in the front of the bus - there was Tom Bass. Before Martin Luther King ever had a dream - there was Tom Bass. Before Barack Obama ever ran for President - there was the legend of Tom Bass - the black horse whisperer.
Born a slave, Tom Bass rose to the summit of what had always been a white man's profession, the training of the America's greatest Saddlebred horses.
At nine years old this Mozart of the equestrian world used his extraordinary natural talent to teach an outlaw mule who couldn't even be handled to canter backwards. An advocate of gentleness and patience, Bass turned dangerous horses into reliable mounts - without ever raising his voice or using a whip. His immense knowledge of equine psychology allowed the man who had been born in a slave cabin to invent a revolutionary and humane bit, still in use today.
Yet Bass's greatest achievements were in the saddle, not in the training ring. What he was able to entice horses to do defies belief. His consummate skill and immense empathy with horses allowed him to produce horses of such exquisite proficiency that their accomplishments are still remembered today. Buffalo Bill's famous white horse, Columbus, was one such legendary talent.
Bass was able largely to transcend the race barrier because he was accounted the greatest horseman of the late nineteenth century. The first black American ever to ride in Madison Square Garden, in an age when racial segregation ruled the nation, Tom Bass was the mounted friend of five presidents of the United States, including Teddy Roosevelt.
Upon Tom's death in 1934, his name was a household word, synonymous with equestrian feats of unparalleled beauty and achievement. Then his story faded into oblivion, until this fascinating biography of America's most remarkable black horseman was rescued from the shadows.