Heroes...Of the Equine Variety
|From my columns for the|
The Washington Thoroughbred--
I have never truly understood the equine mind. Less powerful than the heart, more frail than the limbs, it never really demands the recognition that great feats and great moments should endear. Instead, it derives its passion from the moment, its necessities from a millennia of calculated reactions, and its ultimate judgement by the flickering conscience of man; a specie late to the game, who quite often, chooses to wield recklessly his vast arsenal of intelligence over an animal who lives by a more primal instinct. And yet, this animal still decides to serve us so very well.
I have always kept my heroes -- those horses great and small whose lives were spent in our loftier pursuits: for gold, for glory, or for some spot on that pedestal of life; that lesser men or lesser times may truly never share. And in their brief lives, they leave us awed and inspired, frustrated and saddened. But they never really leaves us. For they are our heroes.
Char D'Assaut was another such hero...perhaps the kind we all have in our life. Purchased in Kentucky as a broodmare, she taught me a lot about the power and responsibility of motherhood. Severely hurt having her third foal for us, she endured the pain, our constant and futile efforts to save her life, and the demands of her newly born foal. And for eight days and eight nights, she never allowed her own misery to win. She was a mother to the very end of life itself. Her halter and a lock of her mane hangs on a small apple tree on the old farm -- where time and the ever-growing bark has made the horse and tree into one.
|From the poem, "Dark Ivy."|
A. Allan Juell, 1987.
In 1987 the horse world lost the grand steeplechaser, Dark Ivy. A magnificent grey, he entered Aintree's Grand National as one of the favorites. Crossed by another horse at Beecher's Brook, he never felt the ground again.
Finally, I want to remember Benoit. A grand prix jumper, this bay Thoroughbred was owned by nationally known trainer and rider, Robert Ridland of Indianapolis, Indiana. A winner of over $78,000 in the show ring, Benoit lost his life in a fall at the 1989 Seattle Grand Prix. Tragically, both horse and rider had come out of retirement to once again compete as a team. They were the best of friends.
I remember standing in the show ring, holding a cooler as a shield -- part of a solemn circle around Benoit; other trainers, show officials, grooms -- shielding the scene from the crowd. Like pall-bearers, we attempted to add some dignity and compassion to his death; to somehow cheat the cynics of their moment. But most of all I remember the eyes. Tough men, professional men -- they too caught in the horrible vacuum of sudden reality. And their respect for Benoit was etched deeply across these many faces.
|Robert Ridland and friend;|
I helped carry Benoit off the field. I heard the announcer call the next horse. I once again heard the applause echo the effort of a clean round. I watched as somehow life went on. For in this world, it must go on.
No, heroes never really die. For somewhere in the green fields of human memory they all compete again...and we will cheer!