James Abram Garfield was the United States’ 20th President, although he did not hold office for long. He took office March 4th, 1881 and was shot by Stalwart and position-seeker Charles J. Guiteau on July 2nd, 1881. Garfield did not immediately die, however – he was struck glancingly in the arm and more seriously in the back. The second bullet shattered a rib and came to rest in his abdomen. Interestingly, his convalescence led to several inventions, including a rudimentary air conditioner to keep the feverish President cool. September 19th, 1881, President Garfield succumbed to his injuries.
Garfield’s time in the White House was so brief that he did not accumulate as many pets as some of his predecessors did. He did have a heroic Newfoundland dog named Veto, and his daughter, Mary (called Mollie), had a brown mare named Kit.
When her father assumed the Presidency, Mollie was 14 years old and until the previous summer had been an avid rider. But a bad fall from Kit made Mollie fearful. The summer before her father became President, Mollie was riding Kit at their home, Mentor Farm. As the tradition of the day dictated, Mollie was riding sidesaddle. Unfortunately, that day a stablehand had neglected to properly tighten the girth and while Mollie was atop Kit, the saddle slipped to the side. This startled Kit, who bolted, dragging poor Mollie – who’s foot was caught in the stirrup – along with her.
According to Margaret Truman in White House Pets, Mollie never rode again, although Kit did accompany the family to the White House in 1881. It is unknown whether Kit had been trained to drive a carriage; if so, Mollie may have used Kit as a carriage horse. After the death of the President, it is likely that Kit returned to Mentor Farm although this cannot be confirmed.