I just watched Secretariat again.
If you haven’t seen it, seriously, go rent it. Or buy it. Or netflix it or whatever it is people do these days.
I’m notoriously picky about my horse movies. My friend Anne-Marie and I quite possible ruined Dreamer for a lot of little girls sitting around us in the theater. (“He can tell she’s infertile from a palpation?” “What’s that, a Polaroid x-ray machine?”) But Secretariat did a pretty good job, outside of Somethingroyal being so accommodating as to wait while Penny and her son flew in from Colorado before she foaled. The last thing mares do is wait for a human to be there, though they are quite adept at waiting until the humans decide to have a quick shower, or nod off for just 10 minutes after 24 straight hours of mare stare.
(I love the name Somethingroyal. Just so you know.)
There is no doubt that Secretariat was an incredible horse. The movie is exciting and uplifting, and even though I knew that he won the Belmont by a record 31 lengths, I was still on the edge of my seat.
As far as the best story though, I give the edge to Seabiscuit. Secretariat was a great horse. He was always expected to be a great horse, he had people who loved him and believed in him, and the only real story was that he turned out to be SO great. And I’m not trying minimize that.
But Seabiscuit. Seabiscuit is the story of a broken horse, a horse that shouldn’t be able to win, and of the broken people who believed in him. It was the story of a nation, with nothing to believe in, that found something to hope for in the little horse that didn’t know enough to lose.
Both these great racehorses had one thing in common though. They both had heart.
Heart is, without doubt, the most important trait a horse can have, whether they’re million dollar Thoroughbred or a backyard pony.
As inspiring as the movie was, I don’t think anything beats the actual footage of Secretariat winning the Belmont like no other horse ever has or ever will.
My personal feelings about the racing industry notwithstanding, there is nothing like a horse race. A good friend worked for a Thoroughbred farm for a few years, and I spent a couple springs there helping out, taking the night shift on foal watch. We went to the track to see one of ‘her’ horses race, and stood right on the tarmac. Anytime a horse is performing at the highest levels of their sport it is something to see. But the head to head competition of a race, the thunder of hooves as they fly past … it really is something that everyone should experience.