There was something about him that stood out from the time he was born. Experienced breeders know what it is, but they can't always explain it to those uninitiated in the ways of Nature. Suffice it to say, there was a quality about him that could, if the gods smiled and all went well, make him a star.
It wouldn't be easy. From a bumbling foal, struggling to stand on his own, he would make it through all the trials facing a young horse in this world. He would untangle his legs, raise his head high and whinny. He would sing to the gods and laugh at the clouds and race the wind. He would be what he was -- mind, body and soul. He would be a horse, nothing more, nothing less: A horse chasing the mist of destiny.
All of us see, at one time or another, a horse that catches our attention; a horse that stands out in a crowd. Call it a mysterious link - call it a deep, inner "knowing" - or call it love at first sight - we know when we feel it.
I've often wondered if everybody feels the same way in the presence of horses that electrify us this way. I don't have an answer to that, because we could all be watching the same show and each of us could be falling in love with a different entry. I could be saying "Can you believe that! Look how he moves!" and, right next to me, somebody could be bored to death! (Not really. Let's hope my idea of a good horse isn't that off the mark). I think you get the point.
Much of this, of course, has to do with our own idea of what makes a good horse. It also has a lot to do with the chemistry crackling between a rider (handler) and his horse. But, we all feel it. There are some horses ... graced by something almost other-worldly ... that just take your breath away. Those are the ones that just about everybody agrees on. You might be able to pick them apart and say this is "wrong" and that could be better, but, something makes it all work - even if it shouldn't. And those are the horses that last forever in our hearts.
Stories? I could tell you stories of horses that would unravel for miles. If we were starting in New York and driving all the way to California, you wouldn't need a radio to keep you company because I'd be talking about famous, talented horses you know - and a zillion others you'll never meet. By the time we reached Los Angeles, you'd swear you knew their colors, their sires & dams and the mischief in their eyes.
What transports a bumbling foal into a star? It takes more than you might imagine, more than many of us have. Is it impossible? Beyond our reach? No, it isn't. Transforming the right horse into a star is as possible as your willingness to do whatever it takes.
Many of us would say pedigree weeds out the losers. Still others would say it's all in the training. And most of us believe enough in our favorite feeds to endorse them to the world! But, training and nutrition can vary and, much as I respect a good and honorable pedigree, we have learned the hard way that pedigrees are only as good as the people who record them. Pedigree, alone, doesn't make a legend. As I often say, if you think of riders and their horses as athletes and actors, then you might as well take a clue from the masers of public entertainment: Hollywood and Broadway. As studio executives and career managers well know, great stars can hail from both sides of the tracks. But, we're talking about horses, you say.
Are we? Or, is it the people who love them that we're talking about? Likewise, when it comes to building a champion or managing your own career, are the challenges really so different? Personally, I find them very similar.
From the time a foal is born, it is the creative power and desire of its owner that fuel the feeding, training, grooming and other decisions of its life. If you believe in your horse, you'll take it to the top or die trying. Along the way, you'll learn all kinds of things. You'll learn them because you have to. Before you know it, you can advertise effectively, you can network with the best of them and you know every trick in the trade. Some you'll use; some you won't. But, at least you'll know about them.
We've mentioned pedigree, training, feeding and basic care, but we skipped over the most important thing of all. We didn't mention Heart. Am I talking about the size of a horse's actual heart? Am I speaking about its weight and circumference, you ask? After all, we've heard stories about horses with big hearts and maybe that's the secret of a champion. But, much as I, too, am fascinated by stories of the great Secretariat's unusually large heart, for example, I do not believe an oversized heart makes a champion. I don't believe it because all of the things we've mentioned are really just like the many ingredients going into a recipe. A little more of this, or a little less of that, will change the outcome of a horse's whole life.
As you bring your foals into the world each spring; as they struggle to stand and nurse and you hold your breath in the presence of the most beautiful thing you've ever seen, know this: Only the greatness of your love can bring out the best in a horse and only you can change a heart.
Ron Hevener ~ Author Of "The Blue Ribbon" & "Fate of the Stallion"