Bastrop half a century ago was home to a nationally famous show horse named White Star, whose death in 1961 merited what may be the only front-page obituary for a horse in newspaper history.
Bastrop half a century ago was home to a nationally famous show horse named White Star. Although not the kind of celebrity who appears on magazine covers in check-out lines, her death in 1961 did merit what may be the only front-page obituary for a horse in newspaper history.
White Star belonged to Dr. W.V. Garnier of Bastrop, and spent most of her life in a luxurious stable on the Crossett Highway. Named the World’s Grand Champion Walking Horse in 1954, she also lived most of her life in the limelight.
Donald and Nancy Glossup, who now own the old Garnier property, are familiar with the legendary horse that once lived there.
“I’ve been told by people who remember her, that White Star is buried right outside my kitchen window,” said Nancy Glossup.
White Star was born in April 1949 at Willow Oak Acres in Prescott, Ark. The dark-colored colt was named Strange Gal by her original owners. However, the name no longer fit as the horse grew older and her coat changed to brilliant white.
Enterprise reporter Elizabeth Mitchell writes, “She was of such white texture that when she perspired after a turn in the ring she did not change to pink as some horses do, but ... she remained a snow white.”
Dr. Garnier found Strange Gal at a Shreveport horse show in December 1953, and bought her as a Christmas present for his family. She was re-named “Garnier’s White Star.” Her trainer, Percy Moss, moved to Bastrop with her.
When Moss rode White Star in the 1954 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, he became the youngest rider ever to win the Grand Champion title.
As her fame grew, White Star traveled all over the country.
Mitchell writes, “There was not a major horse show in the country that did not see her display her dazzling speed and with her unusual showmanship there was always an ethereal quality in the way she flashed about the ring, leaving spectators gasping or with a tear in their eye.”
Having won all the honors available in the horse show world, White Star continued to continued to draw crowds and was never officially retired. Her sudden death made front-page news Dec. 29, 1961.
“White Star, queen of the horse show world, is dead,” writes Mitchell. “The beautiful horse died about noon Thursday of volvulus after having been ill less than 24 hours. Every effort and skill of veterinary science was used to save her life but all efforts failed and the pride and joy of Garnier’s Stables expired.”
The Enterprise reports plans to erect a monument on her grave, but Nancy Glossup said the stone has mysteriously vanished.
“I couldn’t say for sure what it looked like or what happened to it,” she said. “I’ve been told someone may have smashed it and buried it, but we’ve never tried to dig it up.”
Her grave is unmarked, but White Star now has a street named in her honor in the subdivision adjacent to the Garnier property.
In an interesting footnote, two of Garnier’s other horses were chosen to appear with Elizabeth Taylor in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film “Raintree County.”
The Enterprise reports April 23, 1956 the film was going to be shot in St. Francisville. Unit production manager Edward Woehler was looking for a “matched team of gaited horses” and was directed to Garnier’s Stables by someone he met at the Natchez Chamber of Commerce.
“So the two Bastrop ‘residents’ will go into the movies,” the Enterprise concludes.