This Blog is dedicated to the Noble and Great horses in our lives and throughout history. Visit the land of the unicorns in Behind The Mist, the horse lover's fantasy for pre-teens to adults.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

MR. ED - A Horse is a Horse

In Behind The Mist, the reader learns that the Noble and Great horses are trained to become unicorns in the after-life and earn their horns. This Blog is dedicated to the Noble and Great horses that we have known and throughout history.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course
And no one can talk to a horse of course,
That is, of course, unless the horse
Is the famous Mr. Ed.
So write to this source, and ask this horse,
he'll give you the answer that you'll endorse
He's always on a steady course, Talk to Mr. Ed!

People Yakity Yak a streak and waste your time of day,
But Mr. Ed will never speak unless he has something to say!

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And this one'll talk 'til his voice is hoarse,
You Never heard if a talking horse?
Well listen to this: I Am Mr. Ed!"

If you are singing along with this song then you must be about my age!

Mr Ed was an American situation comedy on CBS from October 1, 1961 to February 6, 1966, in the days when situation comedies were worth watching. I was just a ten year-old so, of course, I loved it! The star of the show was Mister Ed, a beautiful, intelligent, palomino horse played by a gelding named, Bamboo Harvester. His voice was by Allan Lane who originally wanted to remain anonymous but once the show was a hit, he asked for credit...which he never got! The credits listed Mister Ed as being played by "Himself." The co-star was an eccentric and klutzy architect named Wilber Post, portrayed by Alan Young. Ed would only speak to Wilber and loved to cause trouble for his owner.

Bamboo Harvester was a crossbreed of American Saddlebred, Arabian and Grade ancestry. "Grade" horses are basically Mutts of unknown ancestry. By 1968, Bamboo Harvester was suffering from a variety of health issues. He was quietly euthanized in 1970 and buried at Snodgrass Farms in Oklahoma. A different horse that was used for publicity shots died in 1979 but that horse was not the t.v. actor.

Wikipedia had an interesting explanation for how Bamboo Harvester was trained to move his lips:
"Others argued that examination of Mister Ed footage shows Ed's handler pulling strings to make him talk, and that this method was at work at least some of the time. Young later said during an interview for the Archive of American Television that a nylon string was tied to the halter and the loose end inserted under his lip to make Ed talk, saying that he had used the peanut butter fable for years in radio interviews instead of telling the truth. The loose thread can be seen tied to the halter, and it is clearly not taut as it would be if it were being pulled. Young also states in the AAT interview that after the first season, Ed didn't need the nylon – Alan and trainer Les were out riding one day and Les started laughing, telling Alan to look at Ed, who was moving his lips every time they stopped talking, as if attempting to join in the conversation. This difference is visible when comparing first season episodes to later ones, as it is clear that early on he's working the irritating string out, sometimes working his tongue in the attempt too, and later on he tends to only move his upper lip, and appears to watch Alan Young closely, waiting for him to finish his lines before twitching his lip.
Young added in the Archive interview that Ed saw the trainer as the disciplinarian, or father figure, and when scolded for missing a cue, would go to Alan for comfort, like a mother figure, which Les said was a good thing.[11]"

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

BECAUSE OF LOVE - A Christmas Story

This story was sent to me by a friend. I hope it will touch you as much as it did me.

A brother and sister had made their usual hurried, obligatory pre- Christmas visit to the little farm where dwelt their elderly parents with their small herd of horses. The farm was where they had grown up and had been named Lone Pine Farm because of the huge pine, which topped the hill behind the farm. Through the years the tree had become a talisman to the old man and his wife, and a landmark in the countryside. The young siblings had fond memories of their childhood here, but the city hustle and bustle added more excitement to their lives, and called them away to a different life.
The old folks no longer showed their horses, for the years had taken their toll, and getting out to the barn on those frosty mornings was getting harder, but it gave them a reason to get up in the mornings and a reason to live. They sold a few foals each year, and the horses were their reason for joy in the morning and contentment at day's end.

Angry, as they prepared to leave, the young couple confronted the old folks "Why do you not at least dispose of The Old One." She is no longer of use to you. It's been years since you've had foals from her. You should cut corners and save so you can have more for yourselves. How can this old worn out horse bring you anything but expense and work? Why do you keep her anyway?"

The old man looked down at his worn boots, holes in the toes, scuffed at the barn floor and replied, " Yes, I could use a pair of new boots.

His arm slid defensively about the Old One's neck as he drew her near with gentle caressing he rubbed her softly behind her ears. He replied softly, "We keep her because of love. Nothing else, just love."

Baffled and irritated, the young folks wished the old man and his wife a Merry Christmas and headed back toward the city as darkness stole through the valley.

The old couple shook their heads in sorrow that it had not been a happy visit. A tear fell upon their cheeks. How is it that these young folks do not understand the peace of the love that filled their hearts? So it was, that because of the unhappy leave-taking, no one noticed the insulation smoldering on the frayed wires in the old barn. None saw the first spark fall. None but the "Old One".

In a matter of minutes, the whole barn was ablaze and the hungry flames were licking at the loft full of hay. With a cry of horror and despair, the old man shouted to his wife to call for help as he raced to the barn to save their beloved horses. But the flames were roaring now, and the blazing heat drove him back. He sank sobbing to the ground, helpless before the fire's fury. His wife back from calling for help cradled him in her arms, clinging to each other, they wept at their loss.

By the time the fire department arrived, only smoking, glowing ruins were left, and the old man and his wife, exhausted from their grief, huddled together before the barn. They were speechless as they rose from the cold snow covered ground. They nodded thanks to the firemen as there was nothing anyone could do now. The old man turned to his wife, resting her white head upon his shoulders as his shaking old hands clumsily dried her tears with a frayed red bandana. Brokenly he whispered, "We have lost much, but God has spared our home on this eve of Christmas. Let us gather strength and climb the hill to the old pine where we have sought comfort in times of despair. We will look down upon our home and give thanks to God that it has been spared and pray for our beloved most precious gifts that have been taken from us.

And so, he took her by the hand and slowly helped her up the snowy hill as he brushed aside his own tears with the back of his old and withered hand. The journey up the hill was hard for their old bodies in the steep snow. As they stepped over the little knoll at the crest of the hill, they paused to rest, looking up to the top of the hill the old couple gasped and fell to their knees in amazement at the incredible beauty before them.

Seemingly, every glorious, brilliant star in the heavens was caught up in the glittering, snow-frosted branches of their beloved pine, and it was aglow with heavenly candles. And poised on its top most bough, a crystal crescent moon glistened like spun glass. Never had a mere mortal created a Christmas tree such as this. They were breathless as the old man held his wife tighter in his arms.

Suddenly, the old man gave a cry of wonder and incredible joy. Amazed and mystified, he took his wife by the hand and pulled her forward. There, beneath the tree, in resplendent glory, a mist hovering over and glowing in the darkness was their Christmas gift. Shadows glistening in the night light.

Bedded down about the "Old One" close to the trunk of the tree, was the entire herd, safe. At the first hint of smoke, she had pushed the door ajar with her muzzle and had led the horses through it. Slowly and with great dignity, never looking back, she had led them up the hill, stepping cautiously through the snow. The foals were frightened and dashed about. The skittish yearlings looked back at the crackling, hungry flames, and tucked their tails under them as they licked their lips and hopped like rabbits. The mares that were in foal with a new years crop of babies, pressed uneasily against the "Old One" as she moved calmly up the hill and to safety beneath the pine. And now she lay among them and gazed at the faces of the old man and his wife.

Those she loved she had not disappointed. Her body was brittle with years, tired from the climb, but the golden eyes were filled with devotion as she offered her gift---

Because of love. Only Because of love.

Tears flowed as the old couple shouted their praise and joy... And again the peace of love filled their hearts.

This is a true story.
Willy Eagle

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Special Christmas Day Post:

The next post will be a special true story on Christmas Day. Take a moment away from your wonderful family activities to read this touching story. I hope Santa brings you your own copy of
Behind the Mist!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

HAMBLETONIAN - Grandfather of the trotters and pacers

In Behind The Mist, the readers learn that the Noble and Great horses are selected to become unicorns in their after-life and earn their horns. This Blog is dedicated to the Noble and Great horses in our lives and throughout history.

 Rysdyk's Hambletonian by Currier and Ives

When Tom and I were newlyweds, we drove across country from Oregon to New Haven where Tom was going to Yale. It was late at night and we were somewhere in upstate New York ( I still don't know where!) when we saw bright lights up a head. As we approached the source of the illumination we realized that it was a race track and that they were racing Trotters and Pacers. For you non-horse people, trotters race with a normal diagonal gait and pacers race with both legs on one side moving in unison. Anyway, I had never seen a harness race before but had read about it in Marguerite Henry's book: Born to Trot (about Hambletonian's famous daughter Rosalind.) So, we pulled over and had a great time watching the pacers that were running that night. Memories of that night piqued my curiousity about harness racing in the U.S. This is what I found out about the grandfather of the sport...a future unicorn.

Hambletonian 10, the Great Grandson of the imported English Thoroughbred Messenger, greatly influenced the sport of Harness racing. He was born on May 5, 1849 in Sugar Loaf, New York. Both the foal and his dam were owned by Jonas Seeley but Seeley's hired hand, William Rysdyk cared for them and grew to love them. He convinced Seeley to sell the pair to him for $125 and took them home.

Hambletonian made quite an impression on the local horse community as a 6 month-old at his first show and began his stud carrier as a 2 year-old. Rysdyk was challenged to a race by the owner of Hambletonian's half brother. The two horses were raced pulling skeleton wagons with their owners driving at the Long Island Union Course. Hambletonian came out on top. After that, Rysdyk was able to ask $500 for a stud fee. 

Hambletonian became a great sire. He sired 1,331 foals. The lineage of nearly all American Trotters and Pacers can be traced to one or more of just four of Hambletonian's sons.

This famous horse died at the age of 27 in 1876, outliving his owner by seven years. Both are buried in Chester, New York. Seventeen years after his death, many people who had known and loved him banned together to put up a granite monument on his grave which stands today on Hambletonian Avenue.

I am quite sure that Hambletonian is one of the fastest unicorns in Celestia. His daughter, Rosalind, makes a brief appearance in the last book of The Mist Trilogy, The Rising Mist. 

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Thursday, December 9, 2010


Okay, readers, I am thinking about this blog and Behind the Mist, WAY too much! I dreamt about Secretariat last night. You will be happy to know, however, that in my dream, Secretariat had earned his horn and was a member of the Legion of the Unicorn. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to get Behind the Mist!) I envisioned Secretariat, his chestnut coat glowing, galloping across the flower-filled fields of Celestia. Of course, he was leaving the other unicorns far behind. I can't say "in the dust" because there is no dust in Celestia! His horn looked like it was made of sparkling rubies. He was a sight to behold! What a great dream.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SECRETARIAT-You've Probably Heard of Him!

In Behind the Mist, Book One of The Mist Trilogy, the reader learns that the Noble and Great horses are trained to become unicorns in their after-life and earn their horns. This Blog is dedicated to the Noble and Great horses in our lives and throughout history.

When I was a newly-wed living in Connecticut while my husband, Tom, completed his undergraduate studies at Yale, we watched and cheered as Secretariat, arguably the greatest race horse ever, burned up the track and won the Triple Crown. I will never forget that horse!

In October, 2010, my trail riding buddies and I went to see the movie Secretariat. I think I cried through the whole thing! If you haven't seen it, it is a must. I was re-motivated to reach for the run my race. Great movie...go see it. It is also fitting that Penny Chenery Tweety, Secretariat's owner, is a fellow Coloradoan. So, this Blog post is dedicated to the Great Secretariat.
Secretariat was born in Mar. 30, 1970. This would be a good place to retell the story of the coin-toss by which the Chenerys obtained ownership of the big red stallion. The owner of the great Bold Ruler had proposed the idea of a coin-toss for the offspring of his stallion. Christopher Chenery sent two of his best mares, Hasty Matilda and Somethingroyal to Phipps' stallion. The coin-toss was held in New York City and was won by Phipps. He chose the weanling out of Somethingroyal which left the Chenerys with the colt born of Hasty Matilda and the, as yet, unborn foal of Somethingroyal. (Hasty Matilda had lost her first foal the year before.) Secretariat was that unborn foal.

Secretariat's fame rests on his success. Not only was he the 1973 Triple Crown winner, the first in 25 years, but his record in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont still stand. His time in the Preakness is not counted because of a faulty timer. His success is usually attributed to two things: His trainer, Lucien Lauren and his enormous heart. At his autopsy, it was found that his heart weighed close to 22 pounds. The average thoroughbred's heart is 9 pounds. Not only that, but unlike Eclipse's big heart, it was not malformed. Studies have found what is called the X Factor that is carried by the mare that contributes to the large hearts that are found in the fastest thoroughbreds. Secretariat's heart was so large that it was able to pump a huge amount of blood, giving him both speed and stamina. However, because this trait is passed through the mare, his off-spring did not inherit it from him. It is interesting to note that Man O' War is often credited with passing on his speed but, in reality, the mare he was bred to, Brush Up, had a bigger heart than he did and the result was War Admiral and Seattle Slew.

In life, all of "Red's" handlers knew he had a big heart but they were referring to his love of running and his work ethic. His primary jockey, Ron Turcotte, said when describing the horse, "I was just along for the ride." Indeed, if you watch a tape of the Belmont, you will notice that he never uses a whip.

In the fall of 1989, Secretariat developed Laminitis, a very painful and often fatal condition of the hoof. Surgery failed to correct it so the great red horse had to be euthanized on Oct. 4, 1989. He was given perhaps his greatest honor after death by being buried whole at the Claibourne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. By tradition, most thoroughbred's graves contain just their head, to symbolize intelligence, their heart, to symbolize strength, and their legs, to symbolize power.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TRAVELLER - Famous mount of Robert E. Lee

And now at last,
Comes Traveller and his master. Look at them well.
The horse is an iron-grey, sixteen hands high,
Short back, deep chest, strong haunch, flat legs, small head,
Delicate ear, quick eye, black mane and tail,
Wise brain, obedient mouth.
Such horses are
The jewels of the horseman's hands and thighs,
They go by the word and hardly need the rein.
They bred such horses in Virginia then,
Horses that were remembered after death
And buried not so far from Christian ground
That if their sleeping riders should arise
They could not witch them from the earth again
And ride a printless course along the grass
With the old manage and light ease of hand.

— Passage from Army of Northern Virginia, a poem by Stephen Vincent Benet

The history of Dressage, which means "Training," is deeply imbeded in war. The horse was long an essential part of war. Dressage was designed as the method of training war horses who needed to respond quickly forward, backward, left or right and turn on the forehand or the haunches. One of the most famous war horses in the U.S. was Traveller, the mount of General Robert E. Lee, who carried his rider into the battles of the civil war.

Traveller, originally named Jeff Davis (yes, weird name...I like Traveller better, too!), was born in 1857 in Blue Sulpher Springs, Greenbrier County, Virginia (now part of West Virginia.) He was half thoroughbred and half Saddlebred. He was originally purchased by Captain Joseph M.Broun of the Third Regiment of the Confederate Infantry from Capt. James W. Johnston, son of the breeder. His purchase price was $175 which would translate to over $4,000 in today's dollar. Captain Broun's brother latter wrote of the horse:
He was "...greatly admired for his rapid, springy walk, his high spirit, bold carriage and muscular strength."
From Thomas L. Broun, Southern Historical Society Papers, Richmond Virginia.

Major Broun also noted that there was never a need for whip or spur with Jeff Davis, the problem, unlike what is written in the poem above, was holding him back!

In the fall of 1861, General Robert E. Lee was camped with his brigade near Big Sewell Mountains, in close proximity to the camp of the Third Regiment. It was there that General Lee first laid eyes on the big, gray, Gelding. He took an immediate fancy to the horse and called him "My Colt." During the winter, both groups were sent down to South Carolina where Lee saw the horse again. Captain Joseph M. Broun offered the horse as a gift, which Lee declined. He said that if Broun was willing to sell the horse he would try him out for a week. After the week was up, Lee paid Captain Broun $200 for Jeff Davis.

Lee renamed the horse "Traveller." While he used Traveller for most of the war, it was not always a match made in heaven. In 1862 during the second Battle of Bull Run, Lee was standing beside the excited gelding on the front line. Traveller bolted and dragged Lee down a steep bank, breaking both his hands! Lee spent the next two years ridng a nice, calm mare named "Lucy Long." I can't blame him!

Lee returned to riding Traveller when Lucy Long got pregnant and rode him for the rest of the war and until the General's death on Oct. 12, 1870. Traveller died shortly thereafter in 1871 after stepping on a nail and developing Tetanus.

Traveller is currently buried on the Campus of Washington and Lee Univ. in Lexington, Virginia. The stable where he lived his last days is connected to the Lee family house that is on the campus. Traditionally, the stable door is left open so Traveller's spirit can wander freely.

I am attaching a link to an interesting video about three famous civil War horses, including Traveller. The video is from the Museum of the Confederacy.

No doubt about it! Traveller has his unicorn horn by now. I just can't decide if the horn is white to match his body or black to match his mane!

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