Harry D. Butler, Contributor

Editor’s Note: The following story is reprinted from The Gadsden Times in Gadsden, Alabama.

This story is about Rock-a-Bye Lady, a Tennessee Walking Horse I’ve known about for years, but never saw perform.

A half-century after her untimely death, this magnificent creature has been inducted into the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders & Exhibitors’ Association Hall of Fame, chosen because she accomplished a feat never done by any other horse. 

For those who don’t know, a Tennessee Walking Horse, or Walker, according to Wikipedia, is a breed of gaited horse known for its unique four-beat running-walk and flashy movement. 

Rock-A-Bye Lady was a beautiful mare, about 60 inches high and with a strikingly black coat. She was born on April 14, 1963, owned and raised by the Rev. Cecil Hart of Marshall, Missouri, who broke, trained and showed her for the first of her many blue ribbons. 

She was sold in November 1966 to a three-man group at a horse show in Montgomery, to be trained by Charlie Martin, one of the investors. A year later, Rock-A-Bye Lady won the mare classes at the Woodbury and Columbia shows in Tennessee. She followed that with the first of her nine world championships, with Martin riding her to the four-year-old mare crown. 

According to Ray Renfrow, then a North Carolina horseman, many people took notice of Rock-A-Bye Lady’s unusually powerful striding gait at that Celebration.  

Clarence Daugette Sr., a Gadsden businessman and founder and president of the Life Insurance Co. of Alabama, was one of them. He was looking to buy a Tennessee Walking Horse for his teen daughter, who had been riding since she was seven and had become quite accomplished. 

Anne Daugette was thrilled about the prospect of having Rock-A-Bye Lady as her very own steed. What was most appealing to the Daugettes was that the mare had the most powerful flat foot walk they had ever seen, and her running walk was simply a faster version of that iconic flat walk. 

The aspiring young rider persuaded her daddy, who was seriously considering another mare, to buy Rock-A-Bye Lady. And that decision, as they say, was horsemanship championship in the making. 

Anne Daugette, then 18, beat the professionals and rode Rock-A-Bye Lady to the Four-Year-Old Mare title in the 1967 Southern Championship Show, held in Montgomery. They later placed fourth in the Junior Championship and seventh in the Ladies Amateur Championship — but those were the final times in their four years of showring partnership that the combination won anything except first-place championships in shows across the United States. 

Renfrow, who provided information for this story (and married Anne Daugette in 1971), said Rock-A-Bye Lady really became famous at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.

“Anne ... showed her in eight classes at the Celebration from 1968 to 1971," he said. “With Anne in the saddle, Rock-A-Bye Lady won the Ladies Amateur Mare Championship in 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971. They won the Ladies Amateur Open Championship in 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971.”  

Rock-A-Bye Lady is the only mare in Celebration history to win the Ladies Mare Championship and Ladies Open Championship four years in a row. She is also one of the few horses to have an undefeated record at the Celebration. She was shown nine times there and won all those classes.  

“Even to this day, over 50 years later, many 'old-timers' would say that Rock-A-Bye Lady was, without a doubt, the greatest (Tennessee) Walking Horse show mare of all time,” Renfrow said. 

Sadly, Rock-a-Bye Lady died in 1971, but her record earned her a spot in the Hall of Fame, an honor achieved by only 64 horses in the history of the breed.  

Anne Daugette Renfrow accepted the award Dec. 1 at a banquet held in Lewisburg, Tennessee. 

Another interesting story in Rock-A-Bye Lady’s amazing career happened at the Dixie Jubilee Championship Horse Show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  

“Burt” Daugette, Anne’s younger sister, won the Amateur Championship at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in 1966, 1968 and 1969. She retired the Arnolt Challenge Trophy in that event on her stallion, Moonglow Jr. 

The combination twice won the Amateur Stakes in Baton Rouge, and the Kay McFarland Challenge Trophy in that event had to be won three times by the same rider to be retired, but Moonglow Jr. was retired to stud in 1970. 

So, Anne loaned Rock-A-Bye Lady to her sister for the Baton Rouge show, and of course the combination won the championship and retired the trophy. 

One more note: The mare’s original registered name was Rock-A-By Lady H.; the Daugettes added an “e” to By and dropped the H when they bought her. However, association rules decreed that the original registered name be used for the Hall of Fame, so she’s listed as Rock-A-By Lady H. among its members.