Monday, May 25, 2015

In Memory of the Horses of Yore

Famous Horses/Smithsonian

I overheard this morning that the Indy cars (those sharp-looking, highly dangerous race cars that just ran at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) all use either Chevy or Honda engines.  Isn't that interesting?  Not a Mercedes or a Ford to be seen.

That got me thinking about  my horses and the horses I have known and loved (or hated) in my lifetime.  I've had a couple of Chevys, a Trans Am, and a bunch of Hondas.  I've got a tank now, a couple of Jeeps and a Cougar.  They're all different in the way they perform.  There have been pushers and go-ers, speed demons and lunks.  They've all been special.

Since it's Memorial Day as I write this, I felt the need to look up some of the famous horses I've never known, though some of the names are household words.  When I was a kid, Secretariat was The Horse.  He ranked right next to The Black, from the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley, as the horse I'd most like to ride.  I wasn't nearly good enough for those horses, but the dream was alive and well as I entered my 50's.  Now I'm happy to ride, period, and I choose the lunk on the days when the Cougar just is a little overly glad to see me and the tank is giving me the stink eye.

Horses will continue, I'm sure, to come and go through my personal space, and they'll all be memorable.  But the horses of bygone days will remain the stuff of dreams.

Images of Famous Horses We'd All Love to Meet

I can't put pictures of all of them in this post, but the link above will take you to a happy few minutes of drooling over beautiful horse pictures.

This image of Napoleon's horse, Marengo, is a fine place to start.  Yes, Napoleon is in the picture too, but who cares?  The riders of the famous horses are generally not as famous as the horses.  Naturally there are exceptions.  George Washington is certainly as famous as his mount, Nielson.  I do love that the artist captured both Washington's steely-eyed stare and Nielson's "there's a bug on my leg" nonchalance in the image below left.

I'm not a fan of comments that begin "All horses will" or "No horse ever", but in an exception to my own rule, I'm going out on a limb to say that horses on the whole just don't give a flying fig about human endeavors.  They are often partners, but generally conscripted, not voluntary.

Horses have served man for centuries, for no reason that we've been able to determine.  We've treated them well at times, badly more often.  We've gone to war on them, killed them for food, used them as labor in the fields, and ridden them on pleasant hacks through fields and woods. We've bred them to be fast, slow, big, small, tough, fragile, pretty and sometimes homely.  I wonder that they have stuck with us for so long given how little they seem to get in return.

Of all horses, the one most well-known and who brings a thrill to the heart of every rider has to be Pegasus, the mythological mount of Hercules.  We still to this day can't quite stop comparing riding to flying.  We love the image of wings and relinquishing our earthbound status for even a few minutes.  Pegasus is the horse that takes us there to that moment when our personal Chevy takes a few perfectly-balanced steps or spins in perfect balance around the barrel or pushes off for a perfect arc over a rail.  We're all Hercules in that moment, and we have history and the horses that fill it to thank for that.  

So on Memorial Day, let's remember our fallen soldiers and the horses that many of them rode in on.  Here's to all the heroes!

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