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 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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