Improving the line

Gardens: Improving the line


Improving the line

John and Judy Chesnut’s farm hums with life this time of year.

Story: Bridget Broihahn

Photos: Bridget Broihahn

John and Judy Chesnut’s farm hums with life this time of year. The vast yard, with berm after berm, flowers beds in every nook and cranny and the vast pasture and grazing land for the quarter horses — and one pretty paint — seem like a world all their own.

“I got my love of gardening from my parents, Jack and Berniece Gones,” Judy Chesnut said.

Chesnut has thousands of plants and flowers in her expansive yard; every hydrangea species that loves Central Illinois is growing in her berms and flower beds. Coneflowers, daisies, cut flowers, and nicely packed low-to-the ground varieties of perennials and annuals meet and greet the eye in this flower heaven just northeast of Sidney.

If that beauty is not enough, listen carefully. In the air, a faint whinny softly lands upon a listening ear. Beautiful quarter horses and a sweet paint stand by at the fence, begging for a hand with an apple or at least a nice scratch between the ears. Their bright and intelligent eyes beg for attention. Their beauty is remarkable.

“We have lived and breathed horses for 30 years,” Chesnut said, adding that they showed them, too. “We owned American Quarter Horse Association’s champion Skip-O-Bar, also a world champion sire.”

It’s true, if anyone Googles the Chesnuts, their computer will light up with activity on the grand champion, its bloodline, the excellence of the Chesnut horses and the way in which they improved the line.

“We stood Skip-O-Bar right here at our farm. Our three best brood mares go back to him on the bottomside and Kid Clue on the topside. It’s a great cross,” she said.

The bottomside refers to the mare’s, or mother’s, lineage, and the topside refers to the sire’s, or father’s, line. The cross refers to the coming together of the two lines between the mare and the sire.

“One of the most prestigious AQHA shows, the Florida Gold Coast, our mare Sis-O-Bar was grand champion one day (in competition) and reserve in another. At the largest AQHA, the Congress, Sis-O-Bar placed 12 out of 188 contestants,” she said.

The whole family was in on the business. Daughters Rebecca, Ragina and Ramona were all raised to be horsewomen.

“Rebecca won the weanling Illinois Futurity with a filly we raised,” she said.

At one time they owned 28 head of horses. They now own seven.

“When the economy crashed, so did the horse world,” Chesnut said.

They still have sights for the future, and according to John Chesnut, he will have horses
his whole life.

“I just enjoy horses,” he said.

“Gracie Cox, our granddaughter, will soon have us back in the show life,” Judy Chesnut said of the Sidney middle schooler. “She loves horses. She even loves all the barn chores.”

Last December they added a new horse barn. The old one had to go.

“Thirteen huge rocks were the foundation of the old barn. We are planning to landscape around the new barn with these rocks,” she said. “In the office and the tack room of the new barn, we are using the old barn wood for the ceilings and walls.”

It’s important to the Chesnut family to bring the old into the new. That is the proven way to improve the line.