You can’t turn on a television, or read a news story without seeing elephants and donkeys everywhere. It’s funny how that’s both literal and figurative… But, one animal has been visibly absent from the political scene, and The White House grounds for quite a while, horses. In an effort to avoid the dramatic, and frequent blasts of those currently vying to make 1600 their new place of residence, I decided to look back a bit.
In 1871 Ulysses S. Grant ordered a stable to be built at The White House. Horses were the transportation of the time, and The White House employed a number of them for the residents and staff’s use. The stable was expanded in 1891 to house up to 25 horses, and include a carriage house, tack and harness room, and living area for the stable staff and coachmen. This replaced the stable where Abraham Lincoln had housed his family’s horses, which burned to the ground February 10, 1864. When the fire was discovered, President Lincoln had to be restrained by soldiers from rushing into the inferno to save his boys’ beloved ponies, but to no avail.
Above, Lincoln’s horse, “Bob,” and Roosevelt’s stable staff with his favored saddle horse, “Algonquin.”
In 1909, given the advancements in the area of transportation, William Howard Taft ordered the stable be converted into a garage for his steam-engine cars. The stable was eventually demolished in 1911, though horses were still made available for White House use for years after. Despite Taft’s efforts to modernize the address, horses remained popular “pets” to it’s residents in the years after.
“Macaroni” Kennedy was often seen and photographed on The White House lawn and steps, spending time with his family. Being an East coast family, riding was almost a required skill.
President Ronald Reagan was known for his cowboy rolls in film, but was quite the horseman in reality as well. As a former Cavalry rider, he was so advanced, the Secret Service often struggled to find suitable agents with the ability to keep up, when he would sneak out for rides.
Horses have a way of keeping you grounded, and giving you flight, all at once. Perhaps if more of our political leaders were riders today, our country would be more focused on sense, than dollars.