This I Believe
I believe we should continue to honor the horse. Horses carried humans through history for a hundred centuries before being pushed aside by the automobile. They carried us through exploration and migration and war. For thousands of years everyone needed a horse. They were part of our daily lives. Now nobody needs one. Saddling a horse is far more than sticking a metal key into a machine and twisting it. Buying a horse is so much more than signing on the dotted line for a car. Selecting a stallion for a mare is so much more than looking through a car dealer’s catalog. Saddling a horse is work and pleasure and the warmth of his body will comfort you on a cold morning.
I believe I am a lucky man because I was raised among horses. From horses I learned of grief, sorrow and mortality, but also of courage, nobility and heredity. When I was young a horse trained by my father won the All American Futurity, at that time the richest race in the world. In 20 seconds that horse, Savannah Jr., changed our lives forever, not just financially but spiritually. That horse taught me that great things could happen to me. He inspired me the way Seabiscuit inspired a generation of Americans emerging from the Great Depression. Now, as the manager of a racetrack, I am still privileged to be around horses and horse people. I see how the people pamper their horses and how they condition them to the point that the horses prance and pull, showing their eagerness to get out on the track and do the thing they love to do best, which is to run. I see this same spirit when I visit the breeding farms where the young foals race around the pastures from sheer exuberance.
Many years ago I touched Secretariat. I placed my hand on his big bronze shoulder as he looked off over the Kentucky hillsides with his inimitable “look of eagles.” He was a king and he knew it.
I believe the power of horses is more than just their horsepower. I see this in the therapeutic centers where children with all types of ailments respond to horses as they respond to no other beings or forms of treatment. As if by magic, those who have been silent speak or laugh. Those who have been motionless move. Those who have been in pain seem to lose the pain and find in its place the joy of movement. Those who have been afraid find themselves confident and above fear.
Perhaps that is what horses have done for humans through all these centuries—lifted them up from the earth, above their weaknesses, and shared with them a speed and a spirit never known before. We may not need horses nowadays to get from point A to point B, but we need them to show us how big our spirits can be.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.