A Horse, of Course
with Don Blazer
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The Horse in Motion
Don Blazer

        I think television commercials show the world what the horse does best.

        "Here comes the king, here comes the big number one"--- and here come the Budweiser Clydesdales, 32 hoofs in action, feathers floating as each shod foot strikes the ground and the rhythm of it beats in your heart.

        How about commercials for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes?   First the shot of hoofs dancing in place under the starting gate, then the gate bangs open and a burst of color and sleek muscle explodes forward, and finally, the beauty of
Thoroughbreds straining, giving their all, as they reach and extend their strides just before the finish line.

         What a horse does best is stride and glide, prance and dance and pull and jump and float and fly.   The horse is grace and beauty and power and every ounce of his being is "motion."

        The horse first put his motion to work for man as a pack animal carrying baggage.    Soon the horse was pulling a travois, and then a chariot.  As man improved the design of his vehicles, the horse improved too, getting bigger and stronger.  (There are some who say the Chinese rode astride even before others had the horse pulling vehicles, but we'll discuss that later.)

       For years the horse was the main source of power for vehicles which ranged from fancy coaches to light gigs.

       Of course, men and women love to ride horses, and they love it best when the horse moves smoothly.  So some horses gait….which is actually a "walk" at various speeds.

       Gaited horses include the Peruvian Paso, Tennessee Walker, American Saddlebred, Paso Fino, the Racking Horse, the Standardbred and the Missouri Fox Trotter.  The Fox Trotter's gait is also a walk, not a trot.  Of all gaits, probably the most spectacular is the rack which requires very high action on the part of the horse.  Over a straight course, a racking horse may cover a mile in 2 minutes, 20 seconds.

      Prancing is most commonly thought of as a "parade horse."  By many refined and controlled springy movements might also be called "prancing."  Such action includes the passage, which is a slow prancing-like trot, or the piaffe, which is a prancing-trot in place.

       The classic art of equitation (riding) is known as Haute Ecole, or "high school."  It is based on natural leaps and paces derived from tactics employed by ancient cavalry in combat.

       Brought to its highest form by the Spanish Riding School, the Lipizzaners (a breed from Central Europe) perform the Airs Above the Ground.  The most difficult and highly publicized is the "capriole".  To perform the capriole, the horse must leap into the air, then kick out with both hind feet and finally land on all four feet.

       Jumping is exciting to watch and exciting to do.  Horses do it quite well even though their anatomy is not the best for vertical jumping.  The greatest jump ever recorded, that I know of, was made by a Thoroughbred, Ben Bolt, who cleared 9 feet, 6 inches at the Royal Horse Show in Sydney, Australia in 1936.

        But maybe what horses is really best at is running.

        Horse racing is called the Sport of Kings.  For horses, running at speed is the natural defense, and horses have developed it so well, it should be called the Sport of Life.
Some say the greatest race horse of all time was Man O'War.  Others say Secretariat, or Exterminator.

        I think the greatest race horse was Hi School Reunion.  I bet on him and he paid $80 for a $2 bet.

        Yes, thanks to television much of the world has seen what horses do best.  Horses move best.

        Seeing it is wonderful, but the greatest thrill is to pull or prance, jump or run…..to move……with your horse.