06 Apr 2014

Abel Davis (14 February 1925 — 30 September 2013)

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Abel Davis riding an event course on Solvay.

Catching up with my back issues of Chronicle of the Horse, I found in the December 16, 2013 issue the obituary of another great sportsman.

Money quote:

“When his cardiologist advised him to quit polo, Mr. Davis took up three-day eventing at Goose Downs Farm (N.M.). ‘I think his doctor only agreed because he didn’t know what three-day eventing was,’ said Audrey Hays, his second wife.”

Horseman Abel Davis died at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque on Sept. 30 due to complications from a chronic spinal cord injury. He was 88.

Mr. Davis was born on Feb. 14, 1925, to Gen. Abel Davis and Marjorie Mayer Davis in Glencoe, Ill.

At 18, Mr. Davis was drafted into the 14th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. He served in World War II, and on Jan. 1, 1945, he was shot five times during the Battle of the Bulge. He received a Purple Heart and spent 1½ years recovering in Virginia hospitals.
Mr. Davis’ first job was selling “Big Yank” overalls. He moved to Chicago, where he started one of the first direct mail businesses in the country, National Business Lists, and raised four children with his wife of 46 years, Susan Frank.

He spent free time foxhunting and skiing with his family in Aspen, Colo., and moved permanently to Tesuque, N.M., after he sold the business in 1968.

Together with Philip Naumberg, Jim Alley and Jim Ritchie, he established the Santa Fe Polo Grounds (later renamed the Santa Fe Horse Park and now called the Santa Fe Equestrian Center).

When his cardiologist advised him to quit polo, Mr. Davis took up three-day eventing at Goose Downs Farm (N.M.). “I think his doctor only agreed because he didn’t know what three-day eventing was,” said Audrey Hays, his second wife.

At 75, Mr. Davis achieved his goal of competing preliminary with his mount, Sir Francis Drake.

In addition, he was a whipper-in for the Juan Tomás Hounds (N.M.) for 20 years.

At 80, he broke his neck in a jumping accident, but he still took dressage lessons after recovering.

“After they made him, they broke the mold,” said Audrey. “He marched to the beat of his own drum. He bought all of his horses young and green and brought them up himself. There was no way you could tell him to get off his horse when he was older.”
He was a founding member of the Tesuque Volunteer Fire Department and an avid animal lover, who was known for his pack of red Dobermans.

Mr. Davis was preceded in death by his wife, Susan, and daughter, Leslie Davis. He is survived by his second wife, Audrey; his daughter Patricia Willson and her husband, Rich, of Albuquerque; his daughter Lauren Davis and her husband, Charles Stathacos, of Croton, N.Y.; his son Jad Davis and his wife, Sarah, of Santa Fe, N.M.; his son-in-law Bill Lazar and his wife, Lynn Rosen, of Bozeman, Mont.; and four grandchildren.

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One Feedback on "Abel Davis (14 February 1925 — 30 September 2013)"

Steve Bodio

He rode with the Juan Thomas– no more needs be said down here. Cowboys and old Spanish folks and socialites, chasing coyotes across deep arroyos on 17 hand horses, hours from the nearest paved road, not a few friends of ours.

Libby and I have cooked for their end of the season hunt at the request of the MFH, a friend. Their headquarters on the old Field (now Nance) ranch is well north and south of any pavement (60 miles of dirt from Albuquerque). I would have to start my life over to be competent to ride the jumps– looking on can be serious enough riding!

Young James Nance, son of the current master, is a poet published in Atlantic Monthly and a member of the sheriff’s dept, and was for a while the youngest MFA in the US I think.

And so on. We have a rather different country down here.



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