President Theodore Roosevelt’s stables remained full during his time in the White House. He had several riding horses and could often be spotted riding with various members in local parks and on the grounds of the White House. One of the Roosevelt horses was a particular favorite of First Lady Edith – Yagenka.
Yagenka, a bay mare, was typically ridden by Edith, Roosevelt’s wife. In Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter, Theodore Roosevelt explains that the mare received her name “after the heroine of one of Sienkewicz’s blood-curdling romances of mideveal Poland.”
In 1901, Roosevelt mentions Yagenka in a letter to his son Ted, stating that: “Poor mother has had a hard time with Yagenka, for she rubbed her back, and as she sadly needs exercise and I could not have a saddle put upon her, I took her out bareback yesterday. Her gaits are so easy that it is really more comfortable to ride her without a saddle than to ride Texas with one, and I gave her three miles sharp cantering and trotting.”
Edith rode Yagenka on a family excursion on November 28th, 1902, to go hunting. Then in August of 1903, Yagenka is mentioned in a letter from Roosevelt to Miss Emily T. Carrow. Roosevelt writes that Edith “is very well this summer and looks so young and pretty. She rides with us a great deal and loves Yagenka as much as ever.”
Later that same August, Roosevelt mentions that he has “sternly refused to allow mother to ride Wyoming, on the ground that I would not have her make a martyr of herself in the shape of riding a horse with a single-foot gait, which she so openly detests. Accordingly, I have had some long and delightful rides with her, she on Yagenka and I on Bleistein, while Ethel and Kermit have begun to ride Wyoming.”
In May of 1904, in a letter to son Ted, Roosevelt expresses concern about his family of horses. “I think Yagenka is going to come out all right, and Bleistein, too. I have no hope for Wyoming or Renown. Fortunately, Rusty is serving us well.” Cryptically (and uncharacteristically), this is all that can be found. Roosevelt could have been referring to an illness in the stables, or simply all the horses’ shared dislike of automobiles and attendant difficulties.
In June of 1904, again briefly, Roosevelt mentions that “mother” is giving “sick Yagenka” a bottle of medicine, but there is no more information to be found. Hopefully it was nothing serious, and Yagenka went on to live a full and rich life with the Roosevelts.