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, January 26, 2011

Future Unicorn MOORLANDS TOTILAS - The World Champion!

Some future unicorns are easier to spot than others! Moorlands Totilas or "Toto" is one of those. He is so beautiful he makes your eyes hurt just to look at him! This blog is dedicated to all of the Noble and Great horses in our lives and Totilas is truly one of the Noble and Great ones!

Please accept my apology if you are not as nutty about Dressage as I am, but if you watch the video (one of dozens on the internet about this horse) you will surely agree with me that this horse deserves to be nominated for unicornhood. Moorlands Totilas and his rider Edward Gal led the Dutch team at the World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in October, 2010. They took away three gold medals and recieved the highest scores in Dressage History. They amased an unparalleled number of perfect 10's. In fact, during Toto's eighteen month career showing at Grand Prix they won nearly every test they entered.

Totilas was owned by Cees Viser. He is by Gribaldi and is half Trakehner. The fabulous black stallion was first put under saddle at the age of five (race horse owners take note!) and was trained exclusively by Edward Gal for the next five years until his unprecidented performance in Kentucky...his first overseas trip. Gal said in an article in the December addition of Dressage Today (my second favorite magazine) that he has never ridden a horse that can compare to Toto. He has so much power and energy but is also supple. His attitude is different, too. He responds instantly and gives all he has and everything is easy for him.

Gal kept Totilas on a strict training schedule. His day started with feeding at 7:30. He rode him at 9:00 for 1/2 hour to 3/4 hour. Then he was given lunch. He was put on the walker at 2 in the afternoon for 45 minutes. Later in the afternoon he was given a hand walk and a graze and another hand walk at 7 p.m. He was never turned out loose in the pasture as he gets too wild and he has been know to hurt himself. Such is the life of the world's top dressage horse.

This is an interesting video of Totila's Grand Prix performance at the WEG (If you watch Gal at the WEG Free Style, even with the one goof, watch the rider. He earned a 10 for his riding at that competition.

Sadly, the incredible pair of Gal and Totilas has been broken apart and the WEG was their last competition together. Either just before, and kept a secret, or just after the World Equestrian Games Totilas was sold to Paul Schockemohle of Germany. Schockemohle was a big time show jumper now a big time breeder. He runs a stable of 3,000 horses and produces 500 foals a year at his farm. Totilas was moved there right after the WEG. It was announced in November that Totilas would have a new German rider: Matthais Roth. I watched a German video of him riding Toto and it made me so sad. Totilas belongs with Edward Gal. I am so sad that Toto was taken from his rider and trainer. It reminds me of Shema being taken from Bethany in Behind The Mist. I imagine that Toto's heart is broken, too.

Totilas will be used for breeding, of course, and a contract has already been signed to breed him with Brentina. See the November Post on Brentina.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Noble and Great horses come in every shape and size. They are a part of our life, a part of our memories or a part of our dreams. Blog reader, Carol, sent in this letter nominating her first horse for Unicornhood.

The family car bumped along some obscure Montana dirt road. I could barely make out the barb wire fence on the side of the road ,it must have been a moonless night. My four siblings and I were in the back of the station wagon, my Mom at the wheel. I remember the excitement I felt in my heart, you see, we were on our way to buy a horse! A horse for the kids! My Mom already had a half arabian horse named Copper . She had re-named him "Arab". It was soon discovered that he was half Arabian and half crazy, so not to be ridden by the kids. The car slowed down and in the head lights I could see the figure of a young cowboy. My Mom said his name was Butler. She turned the car toward him on a small turn out, facing a Montana gate. The cowboy had lifted the wire loop, stepped inside and was sorting through what looked like a wall of horses, all shaggy and caked with mud. The cowboy was pushing and pulling making his way though the herd looking for the mare. The mare that he had said was dead broke." She can carry half an elk , just tie it on, slap her rump and send her home." He had boasted. I couldn't see much through the window, but soon he had parted the herd and led "Beauty" into the pool of light shining from the headlights. I could see she was a golden color, but her mane and tail where a mass of cockle burrs. My Mom was out of the car now and Cowboy Butler proceeded to demonstrate how safe a horse she was. He hopped on her back sliding first off her rump, then over her head. He picked up her feet and crawled under her belly. I could see my Mom counting out three crisp $20 dollar bills. Sixty dollars to make an 8 year old girl's dreams come true. She wasn't just for me, but I knew I wanted her more than anyone.

We had a lot of work to do to bring out the Beauty in that mare. She had cracked feet and my Dad rubbed lanolin from a bucket on her hoofs. We curried off the mud and it was us kid's job to comb all the burrs out of her mane and tail. When it was all said and done, Beauty was indeed beautiful. She was a light palomino with a flaxen mane and tail. We didn't have a saddle for her and even if we had, I would have still climbed on her bareback.

After school, before the fall Montana days grew short, on most Saturday afternoons, (when chores where done), and in the summer, when the sun would hang in the "Big Sky" until 10 o'clock at night, I would walk the four blocks to Veterans Park, past Rimrock Elementary where I went to school, cut though Rocky Mountain Collage and down Rimrock road to the Mission Home. The Mission Home, had a barn and a pasture in the back. This is where Beauty lived, in an apple orchard with my Mom's horse Arab. I would carry her bridle with me from the house, (funny I don't ever remember putting a halter on her). At first we would weave the apple trees in the pasture, always at a walk. No matter how much I would kick her she would not go any faster. In a while when my legs were stronger, she would trot a little, until I started to bounce to one side and she would slow down and let me right myself again. She never balked, or bucked. She never stepped on my feet, maybe she knew most of the time I was barefoot.

My days became magic, full of adventures. I had my girlfriends, and we had fun, but Beauty knew all my secrets and unlike some human companions she never told them to anyone. She would let me be who ever I wanted to be. I could be Yellowstone Kelly, Liver Eating Johnson or some frontiersmen from the Louis L'Amour books I loved to read, and she never cared that those might be strange characters for a girl to want to be. We would look for treasure, or escape from an orphanage in search of lost family. I loved to think I might ride far enough to find a hidden Indian cave that no whiteman had ever seen before.

Soon I started to venture out of the apple orchard. Sometimes I would ride her all the way to my house and give her a bath in the back yard, and then back to the mission home again. I loved riding through the neighborhood, all the kids would run out to see the girl riding the palomino horse. On one of those days, I thought about my good friend Saralee Melnick, the only Jewish girl in school. We didn't get to play much . Her mother was very protective, and wouldn't let her leave the house. Sara couldn't have pets because she was "allergic" So I rode Beauty up to her front door. Saralee looked out the window, and I could see the big smile on her face. Beauty was so good, she stood so still, and she didn't even poop on the lawn. In a little while Saralee and her mother came out the door and very carefully, with much fuss, Saralee was allowed to feed Beauty a few carrots. Mrs. Melnick quickly hustled Saralee back into the house to wash up, but as the door was closing her Mother smiled and waved good bye, and Saralee whispered "Thank you".

Rocky Mountain Collage had a dirt avenue running through a large park, lined with Cottonwood trees. Beauty and I would imagine all sorts of Regal events as we traveled up this Grand Promenade. One day as I was immersed in one of these day dreams, Beauty decided that I was ready for a canter! From a merry bounce on her back bone, to Royally rolling on fluffy white clouds, that was how it felt. Beauty had just given me a gift of indescribable joy. Cantering up my avenue of huge trees became part of my riding routine!

Back then, my best girlfriend was Maureen Degnan. Her Dad was an optometrist, so they had more money than most people I knew. Maureen being the baby of the family was, in my eyes, showered with more luxuries than I could ever imagine. She had not one, but two horses that were kept in a pasture too far away to walk to. One day her Dad arranged to pick Beauty and me up so Maureen and I could go on a trail ride! Maureen had a western saddle and a fancy bridle for her Appy, MoJo. I climb up on Beauty, bareback of course, and we took off on our amazing ride at the base of the Rim Rocks. I spent a good deal of time shouting at Maureen to slow down! I could canter bareback but a gallop was pretty scary to me. I should have known that Beauty would not let me fall, just like before when she felt me start to slide she would slow down enough to let me get centered again. Suddenly, ahead of me, MoJo jumped sideways to avoid a rattlesnake in the trail. Beauty did not spook but just kept on going at a trot and landed her stride right on the head of the snake. Now you might think that she didn't see that rattler, but I know better. She always took great care of me.

I had three wonderful years with Beauty, and then the dreaded day came. My Dad had gotten a new job in California. It was just not practical to take the horses. The thought of losing my dear horse felt like a rock lodged in my gut. I didn't dare let my folks see me sulk or cry, in a family of five kids you know that it is just life. I was glad that a family with kids had bought Beauty. They came in a pickup truck with high panels on the side. They led her up a ramp into the back of the truck. I was in the apple orchard, I don't know why, maybe I was hiding, I know I was praying . "Dear Heavenly Father, please let her look back at me". Then calling to her, in my mind..."Beauty, please, please look, let me know you love me too!" As the truck pull away her head turn, she look right at me, "I love you. Why aren't you coming? " she said. Standing behind an apple tree,in the pasture of childhood dreams, I let the tears flow .

Beauty left that day to fullfill dreams for other children. Now that I am an adult and have had a few other horse companions, I feel that Beauty was there when they came into my life. She blew in their nostrils to greet them, and she would say, let me tell you about this woman, I knew her when she was a child, I can tell you her dreams, but I will never tell you her secrets.

Carol writes her own blog about  her equestrian adventures. Check it out.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MARENGO - Tiny mount of Napoleon

In Behind the Mist, Book One of The Mist Trilogy, the reader learns that the Noble and Great horses in their life and throughout history are selected to become unicorns in the after-life. This blog is dedicated to those wonderful horses!
Famous Painting of Napoleon and Marengo by Jacques Louis David

 Marengo was the tiny mount of the once most powerful man in Europe: Napoleon I. He was born in approximately 1793 and was named after the Battle of Marengo through which he purportedly safely carried his rider. Marengo was imported to France in 1799 as a 6 year old. He was a gray Arabian, probably from the famous stud farm, El Naseri. Napoleon much prefered the little arabs to the more commonly popular thoroughbreds. Marengo was only 14.1 hands but was reliable and couragous.

Napoleon was not a trained nor a skilled equestrian. He would bounce around in the saddle so much that he would wear holes in the seat of his breeches. Yet, he loved riding, both out of necessity and for pleasure.

Marango was just one of many horses that carried Napoleon into and out of battle and was injured eight times. Napoleon had a stable of 52 horses (or 80 depending upon the source.) The name "Marengo" is not found on any of his registries. Marengo is believed to be a nickname for his favorite horse, Ali. Napoleon even gave his wife a nickname so this is believable.

Anyway, back to Marengo. The little gray arab was one of the horses that escaped from the Russians in 1812 but he was captured in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo by William Henry Francis Petre. Petre took the stallion to the United Kingdom and Ireland and sold him to General Angerstein when the horse was 27. He was not successful in his intended career as a stud. He died at the age of 38, Arabs are known for living a long time but this is remarkable! His skeleton, minus 2 hooves, is on display at the National Army Museum in London. The skin was set aside for Taxidermy but was lost along with one hoof. One hoof was made into a snuff box and still holds a place of honor at St. James Palace in London. Yes, that is kind of gross!

The fame of the Napoleon Family horses goes on and this time in the U.S! Deep in the bowels of the tiny Heritage Hall museum in Marion, Ohio, are the stuffed remains of Prince Imperial, Napoleon's horse. Not THE Napoleon, but his nephew, Napoleon III. Oddly enough, the guy named his son and his horse the same name. That's my kind of guy! This horse ended up in Ohio when he was purchased by a local breeder and brought to the U.S. from France in 1869. The man paid the enormous sum of $3,000 for the horse and made much more than that by exhibiting the horse. He was billed as "The Greatest Living Curiosity of This or Any Other Age." Why? Because the horse actually had a forelock that extended seven feet in length and a mane that was nine feet, ten inches in length. It was kept in braids and the braids had to be looped! When the horse died, he was stuffed and put on wheels and pulled in parades. Now that is a weird but true story. This horse definitely deserves his unicorn horn!

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

RUFFIAN - Lost race, Lost Life

In Behind the Mist, The reader learns that the noble and great horses on earth are selected to become unicorns in the afterlife. This blog is dedicated to the Noble and Great horses that we know and love.

Ruffian may well have been the greatest thoroughbred filly to ever race. She won all ten of her races. On the eleventh race, she not only lost the race but she lost her life. This is the story of Ruffian, a noble and great horse that has surely earned her horn.

The beautiful filly, Ruffian, was born on April 17, 1972. Her racing career was phenominal. But it ended suddenly and tragically. In her eleventh race she was paired up with the 1975 Kentucky Derby winner, ..... It was billed as the "Equine Battle of the Sexes." Both horses had been ridden by the same jockey, Jacinto Vasquez. For this highly publisized race, Vasquez chose to ride Ruffian, thinking her the better horse. 18 million T.V. views joined the 50,000 people at Belmont Park to watch the race. The 1st quarter was run in an astonishing 22 and 1/2 seconds and Ruffian was ahead by a nose. About 1 furlong later, Ruffian was ahead by half a length. Suddenly, both sesamoid bones in her right foreleg snapped. The poor jockey struggled to get her to stop running but wasn't able to do so before her leg was pulverized.

After three hours of surgery, Ruffian awoke and began wildly thrashing about while laying on her side on the padded floor of the recovery stall. Her wild flailing undid all the repair work done during the surgery and the vets were forced to euthanize her.

I struggle everytime I see a race horse break her leg. My hanovarian, Jazz, (yes, he is the star of Behind The Mist,) didn't even have a rider on his back until he was four. These thoroughbreds are raced at TWO! I wish that could be changed.

People have suggested that the in-breeding is to blame for the delicate bones. Indeed, Ruffian seemed to have inherited weak bones. Her sire, Reviewer suffered four breaks before being put down. Her dam, Shenanigans, was put down after the second break. Her Damsire, Native Dancer, is considered the purveyer of "softbones."

One good thing happened as a result of Ruffian's death. It led to the invention of the "Recovery Pool," where horses awaken from surgery suspended in a pool of warm water.

Ruffian is buried by a flagpole in the infield of Belmont Park with her nose pointed toward the finish line. She was posthumously awarded the 1975 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Three-year-old filly. Sports Illustrated listed her as the only non-human on their list of Best 100 Female Athletes of the Century! She was 53rd on the list. Also, in her honor, the Ruffian Equine Medical Center opened on May 26, 2009. It is located outside Gate 8 of Belmont Park.

Attached is a touching tribute to her life. Beware, the beginning is quite disturbing.

The words to the song let you picture Ruffian galloping through the animal heaven as it is described in Behind the Mist.

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