|Tom Bass and the Renowned Belle Beach|
Tom lived in a town (Mexico, Mo.) known as “the Saddle Horse Capital of the World,” and built an international reputation as a premier Saddle Horse trainer and a dazzling equestrian showman.
In addition to breeding and showing many famous horses, Bass invented the Bass bit, a mechanism designed to protect a horse’s mouth during training. The Bass bit is considered standard equipment in contemporary stables. He is also credited as an originator of the first American Royal Horse Show in Kansas City. During his lifetime, Bass was the only African-American man to exhibit at the American Royal shows, where audiences adored this high-hatted rider of the famous Belle Beach. He also met five presidents and rode in several presidential inaugural parades.
At the time of his death, Will Rogers eulogized: ”Tom Bass, well-known Negro horseman ... died ....You have all seen society folks perhaps on beautiful three or five-gaited Saddle Horses and said: ‘My what skill and patience they must have had to train that animal.’ Well, all they did was ride him. All this Negro, Tom Bass did was to train him. For over 50 years America’s premier trainer.”