A BRIEF HISTORY OF HORSES REPRESENTING HISTORY

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This week’s entry is a little early.  I was inspired by my step-son’s recent class visit to Washington DC, and it’s Memorial Day in the US.  A day we honor our military and front line service members, active, retired, living and deceased.  Social Media pages are covered with images paying tribute, and among them are some I’d like to offer a little more insight on, for those who aren’t familiar.

I was lucky, with my Dad having served in the Army during the Viet Nam war (thanks Papa!), and a deep love of American History, I learned most of this at a fairly young age.  While families of classmates and friends were going to the beach or Disneyworld on their family vacations, we were driving up and down the east coast, visiting locations made famous by the US Military and the Civil War.  I’m reasonably certain, I’ve been photographed, sitting on cannons at most of the major battlefields.  It taught me a lot, mostly, a great respect for our military history, and conveniently, the roles horses played in it.

Horses representing their riders’ status in statue-

 
It’s believed traditionally, that the position of the horses hooves in statue with their rider, speaks to the rider’s manner of passing.  That’s what I was taught years ago.  There were also similar thoughts on which way the statue faced, determining nature of death or status, which are also incorrect apparently.  Nonetheless, I enjoy the folklore.  Here are a few examples:

GEN. ULYSSES S. GRANT: Union Square, at the east end of the Mall (1922). All hooves on ground; died in peace.

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MAJ. GEN. WINFIELD SCOTT HANCOCK: Seventh and Pennsylvania NW (1896). One hoof raised; wounded in battle.

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MAJ. GEN. ANDREW JACKSON: Lafayette Park (1853). Two hooves raised; died in peace.

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The Military Caisson-

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The military caisson was orignially built in 1918 for the purpose of transporting cannons, but was eventually replaced with a flat bed, designated for the “final ride” of a fallen soldier.  This special honor is reserved for servicemen and women who are being buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetary.

The six-horse teams are always matching black or grey, in full harness and saddles, with riders on the left side horses only.  This tradition dates back to their early military service days, were the right side horses carried provisions and supplies.  In addition to their funeral duties, they’ve served in parades as well.

 

The Riderless Horse-

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In the United States, the caparisoned (or riderless) horse follows the caisson and is part of the military honors given to an Army or Marine Corps officer who was a colonel or above; this includes the President, by virtue of having been the country’s commander in chief and the Secretary of Defense, having overseen the armed forces. Alexander Hamilton, former Secretary of the Treasury (1789-1795) was the first American to be given the honor. Historian Ron Chernow noted that Hamilton’s gray horse followed the casket “with the boots and spurs of its former rider reversed in the stirrups.”  Abraham Lincoln was the first president of the United States to be officially honored by the inclusion of the caparisoned horse in his funeral cortege, although a letter from George Washington’s personal secretary recorded the president’s horse was part of the president’s funeral, carrying his saddle, pistols, and holsters.  Traditionally, simple black riding boots are reversed in the stirrups to represent a fallen leader looking back on his troops for the last time.

 

To all who stood tall in the face of danger, to your families and loved ones, your service isn’t forgotten.  Today is your day, and we honor you.  God bless America!

HEALTHY AS A HORSE

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Having horses in your life is often an expensive hobby, if not lifestyle. One that’s not for the faint of heart, or light of bank account. That’s not to say only the wealthy can have horses, we certainly never were and managed to pull it off, but it’s not something you get into without a good financial strategy. That being said, here’s the great news, horses are really good for you!

GET PHYSICAL-

Considering horse-ownership, but not sure if you can afford the time and money for it? No problem, Having a horse or horses easily offsets those problems, by also serving as your fitness program!

Unless you’re one of the lucky 2% that can afford to just write a check once a month, then drive to the barn whenever it suits you, to have a spotless, tacked horse handed over for you to play with, and hand back when you get bored for someone else to deal with, going to the barn is a great workout! Stall cleaning, grooming, riding, and lots of other activities that you often encounter at the barn, can get you in, and keep you in the best shape of your life. My personal favorite feature is, you don’t think of it as working out, it’s the best trick ever! Whatever money you’re spending on your horse, could come from your gym membership, so it doesn’t have to dig further into your bank account, and it still provides the same physical results. Personally, I HATE a formal workout and gyms, the structure doesn’t suit my personality, but put me in a barn, I’ll go for hours without complaint, and be fitter for it (the smell is another issue, but well worth it!). Cardio? Check. Weight training? Check.  Stretching?  Check!

 

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EMOTIONALLY CHARGED-

Looking for another place to cut corners so you can afford a horse?  You can shelf that therapist, because horses are great listeners!  They have large ears to hear all your troubles, and big strong shoulders to lean on when you need support.

It can almost serve as double duty, but time spent grooming your horse makes them feel good, and can make you feel good.  The physical effort helps you work out the stresses of the day, and you can’t help but talk to your horse while you do it.  The more time you spend with them, the more you share, and before long they know everything about you, but will never say a word.

Maybe you had a crummy day at the office and you have a lot of stress or anger to sort through.  Turn your horse out for a bit and take it out on that dirty stall!  It’s no different than a trip to the gym and therapist all in one.  By the time you leave, your blood pressure is lower, your mood is improved, your horse is happy, you’re more relaxed and happy…  All you need now is to go home, put your feet up, and enjoy a glass of wine (adults only please!).  The improvement on your life, and your relationships will be measurable.

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SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE-

Horses are naturally herd animals, so are humans.  That’s what makes us compatible.  We like each other’s company, we look out for each other, it’s an organic give and take relationship.  If you have your horse(s) at home, it can be a great, healthy family activity, even for the members who don’t ride, they can still actively participate.  If you board your horse, you get to know people at the barn and build relationships with them.  Being socially active is another key to good emotional health.

If you’re spending time with friends at the barn, you’re spending time with people who share a similar interest, which is a great platform for trying new things and meeting new people.  Those barn friends can help introduce you to more things that interest you, and more people with similar interests.  It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

For kids, it’s the first social circles they’ll develop, and often ones that carry on through their adult lives.  In school, most of my good friends were at the barn, rather than in school, and I wouldn’t trade those relationships for anything.  They’re they ones that sustained me through my teens and into my adult life.  I’ve maintained more connections with them, than I have anyone I graduated with.  Horse teach us so much, responsibility, trust, communication, honesty, all characteristics that translate perfectly into the human world and interaction.

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Horses are fitness instructors, therapists, and best friends.  At the end of the day, the cost is far outweighed by those benefits!

SHORT AND SWEET

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Hi Readers!

Due to some time constraints with training and meetings at my regular job, I’ve got to be brief this week.  I feel badly any time I’m not meeting a commitment, so I’m using this week to plug my favorite equine-based charity, The Shane Center for Therapeutic Horsemanship.

I’ve been volunteering there, assisting with the Veterans program, Shane’s Cavalry, but they work with all manners of adults and kids who can benefit from therapeutic horsemanship.  You can find more information on their website;  www.shanecenter.org

 

Organizations like this are always looking for volunteers and donors, so please take the time to check them out, or find one in your local area to help.  Right now there’s a fundraiser going on, an easy way to start giving…

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Make it a great week, and we’ll catch back up next Thursday!

AN OPEN LETTER TO MOM (AND ALL MY OTHER HORSE SHOW MOMS TOO)

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imageTo my Mama,

The first thing I noticed when I started putting together this week’s blog entry, was that I don’t have many current pictures of us together (I’ll get some added asap).  We’ll need to do something about that this weekend.  I guess that’s probably because I’ve always been the star, and you’ve always been “production” in the reality show of my life, but your value has never been in question.  Without you, there’s no me.

In addition to the countless lessons about life you’ve taught, and continue to teach me, you were a horse show mom for many years.  On weekends when I’m sure you probably had plenty of things of your own you’d have liked to have been doing, you were helping me load up the trailer at ungodly hours in the morning, to spend days covered in dust, sweat, horsehair, and an odd perfume of fly spray, show sheen, and Buddy slobber.  Only then to help re-load the trailer, and keep whoever was driving awake on the ride home.

The beauty of a horse show mom, like many other mom’s of various sports and activities, is that when you needed help at the show, and called out, “MOM!” someone always came running.  It might be your mom, it might be a stranger, but they were prepared to jump at the call, and provide whatever was needed.  What’s still funny to me, is how many of my friends still call my parents “mom and dad.”  I’m reasonably certain they did learn their actual names at some point, but I guess have always preferred the simpler and more comfortable monikers.

When I sit at baseball games now with my boyfriend’s son, and I’m the “mom” everyone turns to when something is needed, most often first aid supplies LOL, it reminds me of the great training I had.  A horse show mom carried all her tasks without seeming to be burdened by them, and mysteriously had exactly what you needed, whenever you needed it.  They are the work horses of the show world: pockets stuffed with bobby pins, lipstick, tissues.  Able to zip chaps, button tiny buttons, tuck shirts in (how was a stepstool always around when we never saw you carry one?), and wipe ever dusty boots and hooves, all in one sweep.  Dying of thirst?  You and your mom worked out sign language so she had a lemonade waiting for you when you left the arena.  Fall off your horse during a class (oh the embarrassment!)?  Mom was yelling across the arena, “do you need your step stool?!”

Some of my favorite memories were always after big wins, jumping down off Buddy to be wrapped in hugs, and even after the toughest losses, to be wrapped in bigger hugs.  Our weeks at the fair, seeing all the moms who stayed on the grounds forming their own little gang.  Mom washing her hair at the wash rack and strolling the fairgrounds with her hair in a towel turban.  Mom staying up long past my falling asleep to wash dirt out of show pants in a hotel room sink, and drying them with a hairdryer so they were ready for the next day.  Moms are superheroes without the benefit of a cape.

On the weekends when my own mom couldn’t be there, I always had backups (including dad, your letter’s coming).  Friend’s moms, and sometimes just the friends (we all got to be pretty handy at filling in) were on standby for whoever needed them.  I remember being at a show once that had been pretty muddy outdoors, and eventually was moved indoors.  A mom with a hose was spraying off her own daughter’s horse’s legs, then a friend’s, then a line formed.  She stood near the entrance to the indoor arena for an entire class-worth of horses, carefully rinsing mud off each one, with a smile on her face, wishing each rider good luck.

To you Mama, I owe the deepest of apologies for all the times I was a monster-I know there were many, and a lifetime of gratitude for all your support.  I’m the mom I am today to an amazing young man, he may not be mine by birth or on paper-but I couldn’t be more proud to call him mine, and to his circle of friends, because of the mom you are to me.  I love you to the moon and back!

xoxo

Your baby girl

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