Thursday, Oct. 18 2012 4:43PM
Hertzog honored for “Royal” service
LS resident recognized for 50+ years as American Royal vet
By Russ Pulley
Veterinarian Bud Hertzog started one day this week at Lee’s Summit Animal Hospital examining a sick monkey.
He prescribed antibiotic shots.
This was a special monkey, Herzog said, a service monkey trained to help its owner who has limited use of her arms and hands.
“It feeds her, does everything for her,” Hertzog said.
Hertzog said he works with all kinds of animals because he understands the bond people have with their animal.
He treats everything from exotics, snakes or elephants, to show horses worth thousands of dollars.
Also he’s veterinarian for the buffalo and elk herds at the wildlife enclosure at Lake Jacomo’s Missouri Town.
In November he’s being honored at Kansas City’s American Royal as “American Royal Horse Person of the Year” capping 51 years of service as an official veterinarian for one of the nation’s preeminent livestock shows.
While he’s stepping down from that paid post, Hertzog, 81, will continue his practice in Lee’s Summit, where he also has eight other veterinarians on staff, and consulting with the Kansas City Zoo.
“I love what I do,” Hertzog said. “I’d be lost if I didn’t get to come in here.”
Robert E. Hertzog, born and raised on a dairy farm next to Longview Farm in Lee’s Summit, attended his first American Royal when he was 5.
In 4-H and FFA he showed cattle there in 1946. Graduating from the University of Missouri in 1956, he started his practice in Lee’s Summit and continued going to the shows. In 1961 was appointed assistant to the American Royal’s vet at that time, Ed Ebert and given the senior position a few years later after Ebert died in a tractor accident.
The United Professional Horsemen’s Association which was looking at candidates for the honor and heard Hertzog was retiring, so the selection committee knew its next step.
“After we put the pieces together it was a no-brainer,” said Carol Carlson, the UPHA/American Royal National Championship Horseshow Chair. “He’s a man that’s gracious about serving the community.”
Hertzog also served many years on the Lee’s Summit Board of Education and the Jackson County Legislature.
“I have great, fond memories of great people I’ve worked with,” Hertzog said.
His job at the Royal was part enforcer, part caretaker. Horses are “an accident waiting to happen” Hertzog said. And people bent on winning sometimes will cheat.
Hertzog recalled in the late 1960s when Tennessee Walking Horses had become the rage that unscrupulous trainers were using drugs or chemicals on the horse’s equivalent an ankle to improve their gait for show.
By irritating the joint, those trainers forced horses to take each step quickly, to avoid putting weight on their hoof. Show officials decided to put a stop it.
In one event inspecting 22 horses, Hertzog sent 20 back to the barn, disqualifying them.
“I had to have a police escort to get out of the building that night,” Hertzog said.
A federal law helped end the abuse, he said.
Another year an ice storm trapped horses, trainers and Hertzog in the barn for two days. Many horses were injured, slipping, when being loaded on trailers, he said.
One horrifying night, during barrel racing, a horse dropped dead in the middle of a race in front of 1,500 kids from FFA. It had a massive aortic rupture. Hertzog, for insurance reasons, had to do an autopsy at the Royal facilities while the grief-stricken woman who owned the horse waited.
He remembers celebrities bringing horses, Gene Autry and Arthur Godfrey. And appearances by Canadian Mounted Police. Draft horses, Percherons, Belgians and Clydesdales, six to a wagon, 18 or 20 teams circling the arena, making it shake.
He cared for the horses and farm animals at Longview Farm, chosen by Loula Long Combs, one of two sisters who inherited the farm, who was the acknowledged queen of the American Royal in her day.
Growing up near the 2,200 acre farm, he played in the Sunday baseball and basketball games with farmhands children. He went to Cedar Hills School, a one-room building with 25 to 30 children, with the older ones helping teach the others.
He said an often ignored Longview operation was its large greenhouses where orchids were raised and shipped around the world.
Hertzog said Combs made sure none of the children at the farm were neglected.
“If there was a need, she responded to it,” he said.
Hertzog said that at the Royal there was thunderous applause every time Combs was pulled into the show ring by her hackney ponies.
“She was one who captured the crowd,” Hertzog said.
He said he remembers going to her mansion at Longview to take care of her dogs.
She had 13 dogs living upstairs with her and her husband.
“Each one had its own bed, with a clean sheet every night,” Hertzog said.
Hertzog said as a young veterinarian he’d learned a lot from the trainers Combs had hired for Longview and who were famous in their day, Johnny Haffey, Dave Smith (from England) and Charlie Bishop. The textbook learning at university doesn’t compare to hands on experience, Hertzog said.
At the farm she kept 140 horses among other animals. Colts born with show potential were kept at the show barn. Others that didn’t look as good were put to pasture to live out their lives.
Hertzog and the hands would sometimes need to catch and vaccinate them. They’d never been bridled or handled in 30 years, he said.
“That was a real rodeo” Hertzog said.
The school district’s decision to convert the show barn into an elementary school, even keeping stalls intact, was a unique opportunity to preserve a landmark that’s special to him.
“It gives me chills to see that,” he said.
Hertzog said he’s stepping down at the Royal because at his age he can’t quite handle the long hours required for that job. But he’ll stay involved as a volunteer.
“If I were able to start again tomorrow,’ Hertzog said. “I’d do the same thing all over again.”