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, March 30, 2011

SEABISCUIT - looks down from Animal Heaven

With an informative book and movie out about Seabiscuit, you undoubtedly know a lot about this amazing horse and his story. Horse stories are wonderful, especially when they are true! As you watched the end of the video about the match race at Pimlico did you notice the jockey, The Iceman, on Seabisuit turn back after he crossed the finish line and yell something to War Admiral's jockey? I wish I knew what he said! When the two horses were head to head, Woolf said, "So Long, Charlie!" and Seabiscuit took off. Let me back "track" and give you some background on this famous horse: Seabiscuit was born on May 23, 1933. He was the son of Hard Tack and the grandson of Man 'O War. His name came from his father's, both of which stand for the crackers eaten by sailors. He grew up on Clairborne Farms in Paris, Kentucky and was owned by Gladys Mills Phipps. He had a rather inauspicious start in life. He was small and knobby kneed and his only desire in life was to eat and sleep. (Party Hardy in the second book of The Mist Trilogy: Mists of Darkness is like that!) He failed to win his first ten races. As a two year old he was raced 35 times. (Readers of this blog know how I feel about that!) Even with such a hard race schedule, he managed to still win five times and come in second seven times. In the great scheme of things, that is very good. However, he didn't catch any one's eye. Three of those races were "claiming" races where he could have been purchased for $2,500. No one claimed him. Seabiscuit was sold as a three year old to auto entrepreneur, Charles S. Howard for $8,000 who saw something in the awkward, lazy colt that he liked. He hired washed-up and unconventional trailer, Tom Smith. Smith, in turn hired Canadian Jockey, Red Pollard. Their formula worked for Seabiscuit. His fame spread as he began winning races under ever increasing amounts of weight. In 1937, Seabiscuit was the leading money winner, winning eleven out of fifteen races. That was also the year the beautiful War Admiral won the triple crown. (As I wrote The Mist Trilogy, I pictured the evil unicorn Hasbadana looking like War Admiral!) In 1938, Pollard was badly injured while racing another horse so his friend George Woolf, nicknamed the Iceman, was selected to ride the "Biscuit." Throughout 1937 and 1938, while the country suffered under the effects of the Great Depression, speculation was rampant about a match between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. While the west coast favored the Biscuit, the rest of the country put their money, if not their hearts, on War Admiral. The long anticipated "Match of The Century" was held on Nov. 1, 1938. The grandstands and infield were packed with 40,000 people while 40 million more listened over the radio. The video shows you the results of that race! Seabiscuit was named the 1938 "Horse of the Year" and the little brown colt became the national symbol of hope through hard work...something we need now! Not long thereafter, Seabisuit tore a suspensory ligament in a race. He and his friend, Red Pollard went to Charles Howard's ranch to recover together. Slowly, they both learned to walk and run again. Against all odds, Seabiscuit, with Pollard aboard, did race and win again. Their big comeback was in the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap where they walked away with the $121,000 purse. Seabiscuit was retired on April 10 and lived out his life at Ridgwood Ranch in Willits, CA. He received 500,000 visitors a year! A statue of Seabiscuit was erected at the ranch on June 23, 2007. Side note: There was an earlier movie about Seabiscuit filmed in 1949/50 titled "The Story of Seabiscuit" staring Shirley Temple! All of you Shirley Temple fans should check it out!
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ARKLE - Greatest Steeplechaser of all time

This blog is dedicated to the Noble and Great horses in our lives and throughout history. In Behind the Mist, the reader learns that these are the horses, that are chosen to become unicorns in the animal heaven. Behind the Mist is the fantasy for horse story lovers!

future unicorn

Do any of you remember the movie, "National Velvet?" I LOVED that movie. It starred a teenaged Elizabeth Taylor and a very young Mickey Rooney. That was a wholesome, touching movie that really focused on horses as oppposed to some horse movies where the horses are just an after-thought. That was my first exposure to steeplechasing - races of various lengths that include jumps. This is a cool video with great horse clips from the movie.

Considered the greatest steeplechaser of all time, Arkle was a bay Thoroughbred Gelding born on the 19th of April, 1957. His father was Archive. His mother was Bright Cherry (I like that name!) He was bred at Ballymacdl Stud farm, near Naul, Dublin County, Ireland, by Mary Alison Baker. He was owned by Anne, Duchess of Westminster, trained by Tom Dreaper (who also trained his archrival) and ridden by Pat Taaffe.

Arkle had a strange quirk. When he jumped, he crossed his front legs. Even with that, he won 27 of his 35 starts at varying distances and often carrying lots of extra weight. In fact, the Irish Grand National racing authorities devised two different handicap weight systems: one for when Arkle wasn't racing and one for when he was!

Arkle was extremely successful during his short racing career. He won 3 Cheltenham Gold Cups in a row: 1964, 1965, and 1966, plus tons of other big races. In December of 1966, Arkle struck the guard rail at the open ditch while running in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park. He broke the pedal bone in his hoof but finished the race anyway, coming in second. He spent the next 4 months in a cast but never raced again. His owner rode him for pleasure after that. (Called hacking.) Arkle was put down at the young age of 13.

Arkle was so famous and such a favorite in Ireland that the slogan "Arkle for President" was painted on a wall in Dublin. Everyone referred to him as "Himself" and fan mail was sent to him addressed simply as: "Himself, Ireland" and it would get there!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

BIG BEN - The Show Jumping Legend

show jumping legend

famous horses

This Blog is dedicated to the Noble and Great horses in our lives and throughout history. As you learn by reading Behind The Mist, the Noble and Great horses are chosen to become unicorns in the after-life.

This blog post is about the great Canadian Show Jumper: Big Ben

Big Ben was an enormous Belgian Warmblood. He was born on April 20, 1976 in Kalmthout, Belgium. He was originally named Winston after Winston Churchill. He grew to 17.3 hands. (A hand is 4 inches and is measured at the withers.) Winston was sold in 1983 for $2,000 to a farm in the Netherlands. His name was changed to Big Ben and his price tag became big as well. He was sold shortly thereafter for $45,000 as a mount for Canadian Equestrian, Ian Miller and moved to Miller Brooke Farm in Perth, Ontario, Canada.

In 1984, his remarkable show jumping career began. His list of accomplishments looks like a mobster's rap sheet it is so long! Just to name a few: He competed with the Canadian equestrian team 3 times. He won the World Cup Jumping Championship 2 years in a row: 1988 in Gothenburg, Sweden and 1989 in Tampa, Florida. His total winnings were over $1.5 Million!

In 1992, Big Ben survived a trailer accident that left two horses dead, a third too injured to ever be ridden again and a fourth too afraid to ever go in a trailer again. Not only did he survive, he went on the win a Grand Prix just two months later.

Hold on to your heart as you watch this video of him competing!

Big Ben was retired from competition in 1994 at the age of 18 after 11 years of competing. He spent his last days at the Miller Brooke Farm, where he is now buried. He was Euthanized after a serious bout of Colic on Dec. 11, 1999.

He is a Canandian Icon and even has a stamp made in his honor. Big Ben was inducted into the Ontario Sports Legend Hall of Fame and joined Northern Dancer as the only other horse to be inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.

A beautiful statue has been erected in his honor along the banks of the Tay river in Perth. The life-sized statue was created by sculptor Stewart Smith and depicts Ben carrying Miller over a 5 and 1/2 foot jump.

You can read more about Big Ben in the book Big Ben by Lawrence Scanlan and in a chapter found in An Apple A Day submitted by his groom, Sandi Hill.

Read about the Legion of the Unicorn in Behind The Mist. You can purchase it here:

or wherever fine books are sold.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Noble and Great Horse: GRANITE CHIEF - 10,800 miles and counting

noble and great horses

Some of you are rookies when it comes to riding and actually get SORE after a short, little ride around the arena. Not Karen Chaton of Gardnerville, Nevada. Karen is an award winning Endurance Rider. Endurance riders race over distances from a few miles to a hundred miles! For many of those miles, Karen has ridden her Spanish Arabian, TBR Granite Chief. Chief has carried Karen over 10,800! He has been the recipient of numerous AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference) awards. Here are a few:

AERC National Mileage Championship 2 years in a row.

Distance Horse of the Year Award in 2005

Winner of the Wendell Robie Trophy twice. Wendell Robie was the founder of the Tevis Cup and the modern sport of Endurance Riding.

In April 2006, Chief won the Ed Johnson Memorial Award for the third year in a row for the XP Horse of the Year.

ENDURANCE RACES: Endurance races are from 50 miles to 100 miles in length. Shorter races are called "Limited Distance" Competitions. Arabians dominate the sport of Endurance racing because of their stamina. The most famous of the Endurance races is the Tevis Cup.


horse adventure story The Tevis cup is an endurance race that covers 100 miles in 24 hours. It was started in 1955 and is held in Ptacer County, California. It begins near the town of Truckee and goes over the Sierra Nevada mountain range and ends at Auburn, California. There are manditory rest stops and vet checks at the 30 mile mark and the 70 mile mark.

This video will give you a little idea of what the Tevis Cup is like.

Congratulations and welcome to "The Legion of the Unicorn" to Karen and Chief!

While you are resting up after your endurance ride, enjoy reading BEHIND THE MIST, available wherever fine books are sold or on its own website:

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

JIM KEY - Trained with Kindness

Jim Key and his owner Dr. William Key

Forget 5th graders...this horse was as smart as a 6th grader! Born in 1889 in Shellbyville, TN, Jim was an ugly duckling colt with a great heritage. He was the son of Tennessee Volunteer and the great, great, grandson of Habletonian (see my post about Habletonian posted on Dec. 15, 2010.) His dam had an interesting story herself. Her name was Lauretta Queen of Horses and was an Arabian that had been stolen from a Persian Sheik by and agent of P.T. Barnum....Hummm, I think I'll write a story about that! In any case, Dr. William Key, an ex-slave, had high hopes for the foal but when he was born, the colt was so sickly that Dr. Key didn't even think he would live. When the dam died, the colt refused to be away from Dr. Key so he was brought into the house and treated with William's own medicines.

Dr. Key was a veterinarian and a businessman. He made a fortune with the invention and sales of his own medicine: Keystone Liniment. As a result of his care, Jim grew into a beautiful, healthy and affectionate horse. Dr. Key was 56 years old at the time of Jim's birth. Even so, once Jim outgrew the house and had to be moved back to the barn, William moved a cot into the barn and slept with the horse. The two were never apart again.

For seven years, Jim travelled with William with his travelling medicines show. He became wildly popular and the first "Rock Star!" His value rose to $1,000,000 (that's MILLION.) This super-star had his own bodyguard named "Monk," and a lavish stable and private train car for travelling. He drank only purified water and was fed special hay. He received endless gifts from fan.

What was all the fuss? Well, by training with kind words and gentle touches, Jim learned to read, spell, recognize money and do basic math. The results of the careful training exemplified how the power of love (See Behind the Mist) transcends both race and species.

The two companions received numerous humanitarian and literacy awards, Jim being the first non-human to receive them!

Dr. Key, Jim and Monk retired in 1960 and returned to Shelbyville where all three are buried.

Dr. Key was a great man who clearly had a reverence for all of God's creatures. I am sure that both he and Jim are now members of the Legion of the Unicorn.

You can learn more about Jim Key on his official website:

There are also several books written about him. Two examples are:
Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and the Man Who Changed the World
Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World's Smartest Horse.

Both books and Behind the Mist, are available on

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Behind The Mist
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