Sunday, August 1, 2010

Remembering Big Red

Throughout our sport we have had the pleasure of viewing many "Big Reds." First was the mighty Man o War, whose coat was so deep, yet so vivid in its color it looked as though the big colt had been born of fire. Second was Secretariat. Not as heavy as the Man o War, but he was swift and seemed to bear wings on his feet. Next came Curlin, heavy with muscle like Man o War, but his coat the more golden red of Secretariat's. All were superstars, all greats in the sport of racing, but this story will not be about all their great accomplishments nor will it even include them. Here I share a bit about my own "Big Red."

I first met him along with two others. He was not in the worst shape, but far from the best. His feet were well overgrown, splayed towards the ends. His coat was far from red at that point. Half shedded out, encrusted with mud and sweat. His hips and withers jutted out from under his coat. Despite all this and the obvious neglect he had suffered along with his two companions, he walked slowly to the gate of the paddock where my sister, my trainer, my mother and I stood. One would think a horse that had endured this type of neglect would do anything but lower his head, trustingly, into one's hands. That, however, is exactly what he did, looking at me with his gentle, deep, dark brown eyes.

Out of the three I chose him to become mine. We had the farrier work diligently on his feet, which took nearly two years to completely fix. In the following months he put on weight and his coat shed out, losing that dingy half burnt color, and he began to blossom. To the naked eye he was not the most impressive specimen of a horse. When calm he looked like a sweet, adoring horse, but relatively plain in appearance. However, give him some sun, and watch him when he got fired up and he could rival Flame, the Island Stallion.

He was one of the most talented jumpers I have ever sat on, but also one of the scariest. He had a habit of stopping at funny looking jumps, then taking off when he decided they were nothing to fear. He did this once at an oxer set at two and a half feet high, and how he managed to clear it I still don't know.

He could be on or off. When he was on he could easily perform better than any other horse that shared the ring, but when set off it was my job to see how long I could stay on to keep him calm. We found out that he liked routine and seemed most comfortable when he could have me standing at his head.

Trading Places was without a doubt one quirky horse, but he was my horse and my friend. My Big Red.

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