Secretariat lives in my barn

Okay, this is not true. I just want to make that clear from the beginning. And there are a number of reasons why it wouldn’t ever be true: Secretariat is dead; I am poor; the odds of me ever owning a Thoroughbred are extremely negligible. I could go on, but I think these reasons will suffice.

Tigger, however, is actually distantly (very distantly) related to Secretariat. But that’s not really the point.

Last night I watched the movie Secretariat–a good movie by the way–and I found myself thinking about the three beautiful equines waiting for me in Texas. This is not unusual; I typically reflect on my own special horses when I watch movies involving other special horses (fictional or real). Anyway, I was thinking about how special Secretariat was. I mean, easily one of the most special horses ever. He’s well remembered for being one of the few Triple Crown winners, but most people around my age will not have seen video of him running. But you should, even if you don’t like horse racing much.

What’s so amazing about this performance is that it’s the third race in the Triple Crown–which is an incredibly demanding challenge. The reason so few horses win all three races is because they are long races scheduled practically back-to-back. The physical and emotional strain is just too much for most animals. In fact, most horses are rested for the majority of the time between the races with the hope that they’ll recover enough to run well in the next one. But Secretariat did better in each successive race, finally winning the Belmont by 31 lengths. He crossed the finish line about 6 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. And he looked like he was just gaining speed the whole way. He looked like he could have kept running at that pace all day. You don’t have to know horses to appreciate how amazing this one was.

So, you know I liked the movie because of that. But I also liked it because it shared the bigger story–not just a good horse, but the people around him. And that broader story reminded me that there’s something true of all great horses: before they’re champions, before they’re household names, they’re just horses that someone looked into and saw something more than the sum of its parts. Someone sees a spark of something unquantifiable, something unexplainable, some internal quality, and so they decide to take a chance on the horse.

And for people like me, who never really grow out of that love for horses, we see that spark in our animals too. My horses aren’t champions. No one’s ever going to watch a You Tube video of them (unless we catch Soldier doing something funny). No one’s ever going to be amazed by them. Not a one of them is a Secretariat. But for all they mean to me, they might as well be.

So, Secretariat definitely doesn’t live in my barn. But that spark that someone saw in him, that unmeasurable specialness that was more than his accomplishments–we’ve got that in abundance. And even though I’m a couple thousand miles away and miss my horses something fierce, I count them as a blessing every day.

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