By Sara Watts

As is the story with many horse lovers, the love of horses was instilled in Carole Baxter at a young age by her father and grandfather. It has continued to this day and she has brought her husband of 18 years, Lee Baxter, along for the fun ride.

Carole was born and raised in Alexandria, Louisiana; to which she still calls home. It was here her dad, Roy O. Martin Jr., who loved horses and fueled her growing affection for the animal. She grew up with two older sisters, Marilyn (who sadly passed away in February) and Joyce, and a younger brother, Roy O. Martin III. They had a large yard and animals of some sort were always around.

During his teenage years, Roy Jr. lived next door to a training and boarding stable owned by Babe Heady in Pineville, Louisiana. Heady was originally from Kentucky and was a Saddlebred trainer. It was at this barn, until Heady’s retirement in the 80s, that the Martin family kept their horses.

Growing up, Carole’s grandfather, Roy O. Martin Sr., (founder of RoyOMartin) had a Saddlebred mare named Lady, with whom they had raised some colts. “I remember my dad telling us stories of showing one of those colts in Dallas, as well as about a doctor there that had a Saddlebred barn he would visit,” said Carole.

The transition to Tennessee Walking Horses for Roy Jr. came as the breed grew in popularity. The family had a few other pleasure horses, but the walking horse was the favorite. “I do not remember the first time I rode a horse,” stated Carole. “If we could sit up, we rode. But, I do remember riding my first Tennessee Walking Horse at the age of four. His name was Preacher John and he seemed like he was 50 feet tall!”

Earlier this year everyone was saddened by the loss of Carole’s beautiful sister Marilyn. It was Marilyn, along with their dad who inspired Carole to show horses.

Lee had a different upbringing, centered more around sports. He was born in Dallas, Texas and at the age of four, moved with his family to Monroe, Louisiana. Monroe was very peaceful with a 50s style to it back then. Lee recalls riding his bike to school, church and downtown; anywhere he needed to go.

Both Carole and Lee attended Northeast Louisiana University. Lee was in a fraternity that was associated with Carole’s sorority and they often attended the same functions and had the same friends. You would think this was the beginning of their story together, but oddly, they never met during this time. It was RoyOMartin that started it all. RoyOMartin is the company Carole’s grandfather started way back in 1923 with a small sawmill in Alexandria. It has grown exponentially from its humble beginnings. RoyOMartin now operates two oriented strand board (OSB) plants and the largest plywood plant in North America. They also own timber land and are Forest Stewardship Certified with Sustainable Storage.

It was only natural for Carole to enter into the family business after graduating from college where she majored in accounting. At RoyOMartin she took on the role as the Forestry accountant. 

Upon receiving his job opportunity at RoyOMartin, Lee moved to Alexandria. Here he became the OSB Sales Manager and here is where he finally met Carole.

Though now both retired, Carole still works some for family companies and oversees the company’s many charitable donations. Currently Carole’s younger brother Roy O. Martin III is the Chairman, CEO and CFO.
The Baxter’s have one son, Steve Couvillion, and a grandson named Charles who live in Prairieville, Louisiana, where Steve is a structural engineer. Steve rode horses when he was younger and to the delight of Carole, Charles rides a little when Steve brings him up to visit. Both boys enjoy LSU football…Geaux Tigers!

Though Carole is the only Baxter that you will find in the show ring, Lee still enjoys horses. You can find him trail riding and definitely on the sidelines as Carole’s number one cheerleader. For several years they belonged to a trail riding club. Just south of Alexandria, the club developed a horse camp in the former World War II training ground, Camp Claiborne. It was here that General George Patton developed his battle plans for the Battle of the Bulge. Many of the remains of the concrete structures and building footings remain. It is even said that there is still unexploded ordnance present, so it is not wise to veer off the trails.

One year the couple dressed up for Mardi Gras and rode their pleasure horses in the Courir de Mardi Gras, which is a Mardi Gras celebration where participants either ride horses or run through muddy fields chasing
a chicken to make the gumbo. “It was great fun,” expressed Carole.

Outside of horses and her commitments at RoyOMartin, you can find Carole visiting with family and friends, playing with her Shih Tzus and traveling with Lee. The number one thing Lee will tell you that he enjoys outside of horses is Carole. Add in to that fishing and his love for watching NCAA football, basketball and baseball, Lee is living his retirement to the fullest. Many would be surprised to know that Lee was a football official for 27 years at all levels, as well as a basketball official for five years. In 2001, Lee had the privilege of being an NFL official during the officials strike.

One of Carole’s dearest friends came as a result of horses. When both Carole Baxter and Carol Canerday had horses at Jerry Woodlee’s barn their friendship blossomed. Canerday cannot have nicer things to say about her friends Lee and Carole. Some of her favorite memories are of traveling with them and their dogs to different horse shows. “I have had more fun and have more stories to tell about our travels,” Canerday fondly recalls.

To this day, the Baxters still invite Canerday to ride and she calls them her caretaker. “I talk to Carole all the time,” said Canerday. “She is one of the most giving, civic minded people I know. She serves in her church and is just a wonderful, loyal friend. In the show ring, she is competitive, yet still friendly and congenial and always humble.”

After graduating from college, Carole purchased a walking horse and kept it in training with Jack Riley. With work being a main focus in her life, she ended up taking a break from showing for a while, but her love for horses didn’t keep her away for long. She had started raising some colts during her absence from the ring, with whom she kept with James Tidwell and Alvin Roberts. “After a long hiatus from showing, I brought a colt I had raised to Jerry Woodlee who was working for Lloyd Smith in Moss Bluff, Louisiana,” said Carole. “Jerry really helped me get back into showing and because of him I was able to acquire some nice horses such as Lively Prospect.”

It was back in the late 90s when Carole and Woodlee teamed up. That relationship stayed strong for close to 20 years, up until the time Woodlee retired from training. “Carole did real well with Lively Prospect,” expressed Woodlee. “She got along real well with that horse and they won several big classes at shows such as Jackson and Baton Rouge. They were a good fit.”

Carole affectionately recalls Lively Prospect. “He was my first top show horse. He was so sweet and always gave his all.” Brett Farve, a bay stallion by Ebony’s Threat, was also under the direction of Woodlee. He was a top competitor in both open classes with Woodlee and amateur competition with Carole. Together the trio accumulated 15 blue ribbon victory passes on the Louisiana and Mississippi show circuit.

Echoing Canerday’s amazing words to describe Carole, Woodlee expressed how wonderful of a customer and great of a woman Carole is.

“She is a very gracious show person in and out of the ring. Of course, she wanted to win like everyone else, but she was always happy for the winner even if it wasn’t her.”

Upon the retirement of Woodlee, the Baxters made the move to Dale Watts, where they have been for the past 10 plus years. “We have really enjoyed being with the Watts family at Pioneer Stables,” stated Carole. “Dale, Josh and Jonathan (until he moved away) have taken me to the next level! Lucy and Olivia are wonderful to us.”

Dale reverberates the same about Carole. “She is genuine. She is the most gracious, cordial person. Even if I think she should have won a class or received a higher placing ribbon, she is still happy for the winner.”

Carole’s immense love for animals shows with both her dogs and her horses. Two horses the Baxters owned that left too soon were Jose’s Star Attraction and Jose’s Emblem. Jose’s Star Attraction holds a special place in Carole’s heart. It was this smoky, black roan stallion that earned Carole her first world championship. It was 2015 when the duo topped the highly competitive Owner-Amateur Novice Ladies on Stallions World Championship class.

In just the three short years the Baxters owned Jose’s Star Attraction, until his untimely passing in 2016, the talent amassed 23 blue ribbons.

The Baxters currently have four horses in training with Watts. Two of them are two-year-olds. Jose’s Miss Ritzy is a full sister to such show ring greats as Jose It Ain’t So, Apollo Jose’ and Ms. So And So. Criss Angel is a stud colt out of the same mare as Marty McFly and Drop A Line. With lineage like that, there are high expectations for both contenders.

“We are very proud of our current horses,” said Carole. “Aside from the two-year-olds, my other horses are I Am A Three Timer, who is three, and of course the main man, Jimmer Fredette! We briefly owned Dixie Road and Star Of Kash. The Watts have a good eye for picking out some good ones.”

Jimmer Fredette is very near and dear to both the Baxters and Dale. Not only was Jimmer Fredette the first world grand champion owned by the Baxters, but he was also the first personal world grand championship for Dale. It was 2014 when Dale was in the irons of the striking, grey stallion to capture the coveted spotlight ride in the Four-Year-Old World Grand Championship. Making it even more special was the fact that the Baxters didn’t think they would be able to be at the Celebration that night, but thankfully their plans changed and they were in attendance to watch that special ride.

Since that win Jimmer Fredette has remained a mainstay on the Baxter’s show string with both Dale and Carole taking turns in the irons. Dale is so thankful for Carole and Lee as not only customers, but friends.
 What makes things special riding for Carole is that she is a fierce competitor, but it isn’t a blue ribbon or nothing for her,” said Dale. “She feels like you are doing your best. You know she has your back. In turn, that makes you want to work harder for her. I get more upset some times about defeat than she does.”

Before the 2020 season came to a halt earlier this year, the Baxters were able to attend the Heart O’ Dixie Showcase in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Here they picked up three wins with Jimmer Fredette, Jose’s Miss Ritzy and I Am A Three Timer. “We are thankful that we were able to attend the show,” expressed Carole. “We had a great time. I would encourage everyone to try to attend this show next year.”

Both Lee and Carole thank God for the joy the other has brought to their lives. Lee credits God, along with his mother and father and several within the fraternal order of officials for being his biggest influences personally and professionally. Carole gives credit to Jesus, Lee, her family and the Watts family for being her biggest influences personally, professionally and with her horse endeavors.

The future looks bright for both Lee and Carole. Whether that be enjoying their retirement together traveling, on the rail or on the trail. It all comes back to loving each other and their animals; especially the horse.