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February 2000

Doris Clark
Horses are Her Life - Horses Keep Her Young

by Joseph RADDER

You might say Doris Clark was born to be a horsewoman. Her father, Harry H. Hall, was a founding member of the Buffalo Saddle and Bridle Club and the whole Hall family including her mother Charlotte and her sister Grace, were horse hobbyists and took horses very seriously.

Doris remembers fondly the affairs that were part of the monthly horse shows at this private club. “They were quite elegant. The club was furnished beautifully with Kittinger furniture. And we always looked forward to the refreshments, especially the hot chocolate and petit fours.”

Ponies were a part of Doris Clark’s life almost as far back as she can remember. So the transition to horses as she was growing up in the city came naturally. All of the Halls loved to ride on the bridle paths in Buffalo’s beautiful parkways and all through Delaware Park...a kind of recreation that would not be possible today. The family kept their horses at their own stables on Meadowview Place. The groom’s name was Mr. Taylor (“We wouldn’t think of calling him by his first name.”) As Doris Clark speaks of Mr. Taylor you can tell he had a great deal to do with her growing love of horses.

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Doris and a friend.

Doris attended Nardin Academy (known then as “Miss Nardin’s”) for her entire elementary and high school education. Her most vivid memory of Nardin’s is the statue of the Infant of Prague in the chapel. “Her cloak looked just like velvet and when I was very young I would feel it, always to learn it was really stone.”

“We received an excellent education at Nardin’s,” Doris recalls. “And we learned politeness. When class was dismissed we were required to back out of the room so as not to turn our backs on the teachers.”

“If there was a horse show coming up on the weekend we would be excused from school on Friday or Monday. There was never any question about that.”

Doris Clark was the youngest student ever to graduate from Nardin Academy. She wanted to go on to Veterinary school at Cornell but because of her age (15) she would not be accepted. And so she went to Toronto where she started riding for a friend of her Dad’s. Soon she was competing in horse shows all over Canada.

Doris continued to show horses in Canada until her marriage to LaBar Clark. The newlywed Clarks established a home in Williamsville where Clark became a prominent citizen...a member of the school board, a trustee of the Methodist Home for Children and a “pillar” of the Williamsville Methodist Church. The Clarks had five daughters, all riders. In the Williamsville days they kept their horses at Mrs. Reginald (“Peach”) Taylor’s private stable on Sheridan Drive.

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Doris and her late husband LaBar during their Williamsville Days.

The family moved to East Aurora in 1973 where they acquired a 28-acre farm, ideal for horses.

Less than a year later, in October 1974, as he was taking his daily walk, LaBar was tragically killed by an intoxicated hit-and-run driver. It was at this difficult time in her life that Doris’ knowledge and interest in horses enabled her to carry on with her life and build a successful and rewarding business now known as Fox Run.

The Clarks lovingly restored the old farmhouse. The living room in this charming home tells the visitor immediately that this is a horse family. The walls are full of pictures of the Clarks riding, jumping, hunting and showing horses and the room is abundant with trophies and ribbons won over the years. Indeed, one of the conversation pieces in the room is a quilt Doris made during the Blizzard of ‘77 entirely of prize ribbons.

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Doris Clark showing a jumper in Montreal.

Adjacent to the old farm house is the complete Fox Run horse facility and a show stable called North Run, operated by Doris Clark’s youngest daughter Missy, one of the top horse trainers in the United States.

Fox run spreads out over 28-acres a mile or two outside the village of East Aurora. There are four barns, an indoor arena with a heated spectator lounge and an outdoor sand ring. A large grass Grand Prix field will be completed in 2000. Here Doris teaches both riding and jumping - however, jumping is not mandatory.

Students range from age 7 to adults and come from as far as Canada, Rochester, Erie and Allegheny for lessons at Fox Run.

North Run, on the same property, is the show stable run by Missy Clark, who takes her students and horses on the “A” show circuit approximately 40 weeks a year. In the wintertime Missy moves her base to Palm Beach, Florida.

Missy Clark has been involved in the training of seven National Equitation Championships won by her students. Missy owned many of the horses that were ridden to win these national titles. According to the national magazine called The Chronicle of the Horse, “Missy Clark has been victorious in the most prestigious shows on the A-rated circuit.”

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Doris riding Guesswork in 1989.

At North Run, Missy also leases and sells warmbloods and thoroughbreds...hunters, jumpers and equitation horses.

“When one of my students is ready to move on to bigger things, I have Missy take over the training program. Our businesses complement each other perfectly,” Doris said.

On the subject of fox hunting, Doris tells us that a hunt run used to go right through the fields where she now has her facility, hence the name Fox Run. “When East Aurora began to grow in population, this was no longer practical, and the fox hunts were moved to Geneseo.”

For many years, Doris Clark participated in the foxhunts in both Canada and Geneseo.

When asked about the movement by animal rights people to try to stop hunting, Doris replies with a smile; “That’s nonsense. Objections to hunting are unfounded. In all the years that I’ve been involved, I’ve never seen a kill. The pleasure is in the chase.”

As part of her program at Fox Run Doris Clark has taught diverse groups from many areas of Western New York. These include students from the Gow School in South Wales, the East Aurora Pony Club and the University at Buffalo Riding Club. She also has a day camp in July, participates in local horse shows and contributes articles to leading horse publications.

One of the activities she seems to be most fond of is an exchange program with the Bertin Stables in Oakville, Ontario. On alternate months the Oakville group visits Fox Run and vise versa. There is a festive atmosphere at these events. As one looks at the player piano in the Clark living room it’s easy to picture a dozen or so boys and girls, age 8 to 18, cups of hot chocolate in hand, clustered about the player piano singing their favorite songs.

As one born and bred in the city and suburbs, this writer has had little or no experience with horses but has always admired horses and horse people from afar. The horse, it seems, is one of the most intelligent of animals and the men, women and children who love them and work with them are fortunate indeed. Doris Clark is one of those fortunate people.

Joseph Radder is a freelance writer.

 

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