If the Washington horse people ever hold an Affection Sweepstakes, then a favorite colt is likely to be Col. Rene Studler of Georgetown, who has loved both hoof and bridle for more than 80 years.
he is a stanchion of the Washington International Horse Show, going on this week, and helped bail them out when they were on the rocks a few years back.
"The outside of a horse," he is fond of saying, "is good for the inside of a man." You gather that nothing improves a landscape so much as a pair of noble ears, and that spring was invented to provide the right background for a colt's birth.
You cannot see the colonel before lunch. Now that he has settled comfortably into his 80s, you at first assume he spends the morning gathering strength on barley water and yogurt, but you are wrong.
He rides every morning of God's world (if the day should prove impossible for riding, it is the other fellow's) but he does not mind seeing you after that.
He has a lavender-point Siamese cat who blocks the door when the colonel opens it to admit you, and he speaks roughly to the animal calling him "Fatso."
There is nothing of the slightest interest about himself, he starts off, but doubtless you want to know about the Nations Cup or something?
The nine-day show begins tonight at the Capital Centre, with barrel racing - it's "Western Night." On Sunday there will be the classes for Arabians, with the international open jumping competition and Liz Whitney Tippet will bring her champion driving horses in a word, sensational horses will do sensational things steadily until the night of Oct. 30 with pony hunter stakes, international open jumpers in a speed class and the President's Cup.
This year, teams from Canada , Britain, Germany, and the United States will compete, with events each night but culminating Oct. 28 in the Nations Cup. The international jumping, and exhibitions by the Tempel Lipizzan horses, will be seen every night. Also, next Friday and on Oct. 30 there will be cutting horse events, surefire public delights.
The colonel's house is not large, except by Washington standards, and the living room and dining room have sufficient grace and old furniture to merit inclusion on house tours from time to time. He is fond of a Chinese screen he bought years ago from the owners in northern China - "delicate negotiations," because, as he said, "you can't just go up to people and say how much do you want for your screen."
Over the fireplace is a picture, painted by Sir James Gunn,, of his late wife, in the pink silk dress she wore when she was presented at St. James's. The colonel is much attached to it.
Studler was born in Switzerland, but has lived most of his life in American, and from 1917 to 1922 he was an Army pilot.
"Never saw combat," he said, like a man noticing there was nothing but crepes for supper, "and of course that was hard for me to take because I had romantic ideas. But I got steered into teaching fliers to fly.
"Once they put out an edict that some nonflying officers had to qualify as fliers and I was supposed to teach them. One heavy fellow, a doctor, got up in the plane and then froze at the controls. I was sitting in front of him - I never could see the sense of that, putting the instructor in the more dangerous seat, since I always figured an instructor was more valuable than a student. Anyway, he froze. We had those ear cups with tubes and I hollered at him for a while but it didn't do any good. I reached back and did the only thing I could think of to do - I got the fire extinguisher and waved it in front of him, but he just sat there sort of glazed over. So I conked him on the head and took over.
"Don't think that fellow ever did learn to fly. Certainly not from me."
Before World War 11 he was assistant military attache for the embassies at London. Paris and Berlin, and he traveled all over Europe, keeping an eye on ordinance developments in various countries. He warned about one thing and another, and once when he was coming out of the Pentagon (though it was not the Pentagon in those days) somebody asked where he was going. He was going to ride a horse, but he said "I'm going out to see what the other end of a horse looks like.
"You know the old flying dress - riding boots, scarf - none of it made any sense for aircraft, but it reminded fliers of riding their horses. Some of the best test pilots, by the way, were anything but athletes. I remember one who was a professional musician."
Over the years the colonel and his staff accounted for seven patents, for such things as combination mounts for machine guns, cartridge belt links, etc. The citation for his Legion of Merit speaks of outstanding executive ability in developing, improving and simplifying weapons "Which gave results of unlimited importance" in World War 11.
The colonel agrees to show you the tack room or trophy room in the basement, the ceiling beams hung solid with ribbons from competitions ahoof.
Preceeded by Fatso, gifted at almost making everybody fail down the stairs, the colonel entered the low room, hung with pictures of favorite horses. Look at the jumper - That other one had to be put down (killed) - it was a very old horse - No, not broken leg at all.
"Twisted gut," said the colonel. "Not much you can do about a twisted gut.The vet worked, but it was too late."
Outside the house, the colonel will show you his small paved garden, with a hower tangled over with ancient wisteria. You can look out the living room to the southand see it all flooded with sunshine to the south.
"Shut up, Fatso," he said to the cat, who is annoyed by not being allowed in the garden, and who, in any case, approves of very few of the colonel's movements or arrangements but who is rarely more than 10 inches from him.
"Damned cat," the colonel said sweetly.