Monday, January 29, 2007

Down to the wire

When I was much younger I was horse-crazy, an affliction that strikes many. I saved pennies in an empty mayonnaise jar in the hope of buying a pony. I read Marguerite Henry's King of the Wind (Newberry Prize Winner), Misty of Chincoteague (a true story), Brighty of the Grand Canyon (based on a true story), Sea Star Orphan of Chincoteague, Born to Trot, The White Stallion of Lipizza, Album of the Horse, and Black Gold (a true story). All were illustrated by Wesley Dennis, whose paintings became my benchmark for drawing my own horse pictures.

I learned about the horses ridden by Napoleon, George Washington, Chief Joseph, and El Cid. I learned about equine history and how the various breeds developed. I was fascinated by racing and read the biographies of Man 'o' War (aka Big Red), Black Gold, and Seabiscuit. I remember some of the great Kentucky Derby winners: Citation, Whirlaway, Kauai King, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and Secretariat. The Triple Crown held my attention for many years. I was thrilled by the greatest racing filly of all time, Ruffian.

I still love horses and it hurts to see a horse break down in a race. I remember Ruffian's match race with Foolish Pleasure, and the shock and grief when she broke down as she came out of the gate. There was little that could be done to save her, and she was not of a mind to cooperate anyway. I felt the same sadness today. The Preakness has finally ended for Barbaro, but not the way we hoped. All of the months of surgery, medicine, and care were defeated by complications that continued to plague him. The hope was that he could go home in January. He has; to his final home.

The racing world has lost a wonderful competitor, who had the heart to try and vanquish this challenge, and the sense to cooperate with his human companions. He captured the imagination of children everywhere, and of a donor who gave a million dollars to the New Bolton Center.

It is in the imagination that all creative thoughts begin. If, from this, some horse crazy child is inspired to act on those thoughts, inspired by an animal whose greatest race was the one to survive, then Barbaro will have his legacy.

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