Page 18 - June 2008 The Game
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18 The Game, June 2008
Horse Wisdom from Ancient Greece
Canada’s Thoroughbred Racing Newspaper
Queen’s Plate Memories
By Gary Poole
1959 was a memorable year in the annals of the Queen’s Plate. It was the race’s one hundredth consecutive running and the second one where the namesake ruling monarch was in attendance. The winner was New Providence, a colt that would go on to be the  rst runner to sweep the newly created Canadian Triple Crown. His owner Mr. E. P. Taylor, who was the host that day to Elizabeth the Second, also had the pleasure of receiving the trophy from Her Majesty.
On a personal level it was an exciting day for me. My parents let me miss the  nal afternoon of school (the Plate was on a weekday to accommodate the Queen) and I was witnessing my  rst running of the classic race. I haven’t missed one since. Doing the simple math, God willing, this will be my  ftieth straight Plate. Along the way I’ve been privileged to see some truly outstanding thoroughbreds run in some very exciting renewals. I’ve chosen to highlight seven other Plates for how they stood out in various ways. These include the quality of the winner, the overall class
of the  eld, how the winner impacted the sport in general and the prestige of the Plate in particular. I also considered the emotional effect an individual year’s race had on its spectators or what made that running unique in some manner. Since I had such a wide range of criteria and my list was limited to seven, some very important editions and high caliber winners weren’t included.
I will discuss my selections in reverse order, ending with what I consider to be the greatest Plate of all. While I’m sure some might disagree with my picks along the way, I doubt that many will be surprised at or dispute the top choice.
#7- The 1980 Plate took place in an atmosphere of intense emotion and deep sadness. Avelino Gomez, the  amboyant jockey, who was the heart of Canadian rac-
ing for many years, died tragically the previous week in
a spill in the Canadian Oaks. In a pre-race decision, the Plate riders agreed that whoever won would throw  ow-
ers from the winner’s blanket into the air as a tribute to El Perfecto. The jockey who earned the privilege wasn’t one of the leading lights of the riders’ room. He was grizzled veteran Bill Parsons who rode mostly cheaper horses, seldom acquiring a stakes mount. This day he was aboard a longshot but one of the best bred runners in the race, Driving Home, a son of the great Roberto from a dam by the good  lly sire, Native Charger. Driving Home ran his race Gomez-style, coming from seventeenth place at the three-quarter call to win with a dramatic late charge. There were few dry eyes in the crowd when Parsons tossed the yellow blossoms skyward in honor of his late fellow reinsman.
#6- The attempt to compete against E. P. Taylor as a breeder in Canada in the  fties, sixties and seventies proved so futile that many prospective owners adopted a policy
of “if you can’t beat him, join him.” They patronized the yearling sales, bought Wind elds’ offerings and tried to beat the king of the Canadian turf with his own stock. Owner- breeder Jack Stafford took a different approach. He had
a connection to important Kentucky horseman, Preston Madden, whose famed Hamburg Place Stud had been home to such famous stallions as Seabiscuit’s arch-rival War Admiral. Through Madden the food company magnate had access to such stallions as T.V. Lark and Amber Morn. The latter sired for Stafford back-to-back Plate winners in 1973 and 1974, Royal Chocolate and Amber Herod. The better
of the two was Royal Chocolate. He earned nearly a quarter million dollars at a time when that was serious money. He also secured for his plain-spoken, likeable but somewhat irreverent owner a meeting in the Plate winner’s circle with the Queen. The colt, an impressive  ve length winner, was certainly the best that day over a  eld that included such star runners as future good sire Sinister Purpose, the great  lly La Prevoyante and dual champion Victorian Prince.
By Peter Valing
“In grooming, begin with the head and mane; if the upper parts are not clean, it is waste labor to clean the lower parts.”
The great minds of ancient Greece gave
humanity invaluable insight into subjects rang-
ing from philosophy and science to politics and art. Their thoughts also turned to horses, which
the Greeks used chie y for war, but also for entertainment in the oft- erce races that took place in the hippodrome. In The Art of Horsemanship, the soldier-philosopher Xenophon produced the world’s  rst treatise on how to buy, tend, train and ride a horse. Considering that in one year alone
he covered over three thousand rugged miles on horseback (while being pursued by enemy forces), it can be assumed that he knew a bit about what he wrote. While the horse world has advanced greatly since the unshod and bareback days of antiquity, there remains in Xenophon’s equine observations a timeless wisdom.
“The hair on the backbone should never be touched by any implement at all. It is to be rubbed with the hand, and softly smoothed in its natural direction.”
Below are listed some central points made by Xenophon in hopes that they will aid the horseman, inspire tack room debate and in some cases elicit a chuckle on how much (or how little!) things have changed with horses over the course of two and a half millennia:
“He is generally made so at home and by the groom, if the man knows how to manage so that solitude means to the colt hunger and thirst and teasing horse ies, while food, drink, and relief from pain come from man. For if this be done, colts must not only love men but even long for them.”
I Buying a Horse (Not broken)
“The one great precept and practice in using a horse is this, - never deal with him when you are in a  t of passion.”
“In the case of an unbroken colt, of course his frame is what you must test; as for spirit, no very sure signs of that are offered by an animal that has never yet been mounted.”
“Compulsion and blows inspire only the more fear.”
“In his frame, the  rst things which I say you ought to look at are his feet. Just as a house would be good for nothing if it were very handsome above but lacked the proper foundations, so too a war-horse, even if all his other points were  ne, he would be good for nothing if he had bad feet.”
“Different horses fall to one’s lot at different times, and the same horse serves you one way at one time and another at another.”
“The bones above the hoofs and below the fetlocks should not be very straight up and down, like the goat’s; for if they have no spring, they jar the rider, and such legs are apt to get in amed.”
“After the horse appears to have had enough ex- ercise, it is well to give him a rest and then to urge him suddenly to the top of his speed.”
“The broader the chest so much the handsomer and the stronger is it, and the more naturally adapted to carry the legs well apart and without interference.”
“Neither horse nor man likes anything in the world that is excessive.”
“A prominent eye rather than a sunken one is a sure sign that the horse is wide awake.”
“The gods have bestowed upon man the gift of teaching his brother man what he ought to do by word of mouth; but it is evident that by word of mouth you can teach the horse nothing. If, howev- er, you reward him with kindness after he has done as you wish, and punish him when he disobeys, he will be most likely to obey as he ought.”
“Wider nostrils mean freer breathing than close ones, and at the same time they make the horse look  ercer.”
V Riding
“In springing to his place [a rider] must draw up the body with the left hand, keeping his right stiff as he raises himself with it; for in mounting thus, he will not look ungraceful even from behind.”
“Mettle is to a horse what temper is to a man.”
“After mounting the rider should sit quiet more than the ordinary time, and then move him forward by the most gentle signs possible. Next, beginning very slowly, induce him to turn to quicker paces
in such a way that the horse may reach full speed almost without knowing it.”
“Abruptness, you must remember, always con- fuses a horse.”
“What a horse does under done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer.”
While moving forward in any endeavor that has developed over a long period of time, it is worth- while to pause, take a breath and look back. At the beginning of the horsemanship tradition stands Xenophon, who knew and loved the horse so well so long ago.
“The broader and the shorter the loins, with so much the greater ease does the horse raise his fore- hand and bring up the hind-quarters to follow.”
“There are a great many more ugly colts that turn out handsome than handsome ones that turn out ugly.”
II Buying a Horse (Broken)
“A horse’s [age] once determined, the way in which he lets you put the bit into his mouth, and the head piece about his ears, should not escape you.”
“A disobedient servant is of course a useless thing, and so is a disobedient army; a disobedient horse
is not only useless, but he often plays the part of a very traitor.”
“With instruction, habit and practice [the horse] may do all  nely, provided [he] is sound and not vicious. But you must be aware of horses that are naturally shy.”
III Stable Conditions and Grooming
“A secure stable is a good thing, not only to prevent the stealing of grain, but also because you can easily tell when the horse refuses his feed.”
“Even naturally sound hoofs get spoiled in stalls with moist, smooth  oors.”
“As for his mouth, you must take as much care to make it soft as you take to make his hoofs hard.”
“Washing down of the legs is a thing I absolutely forbid; it does no good, - on the contrary, daily washing is bad for the hoofs.”
“If a [groom] tries to clean him facing with the horse, he runs the risk of a blow in the face from knee or hoof.”
“By approaching [the horse] at the side you can handle him most freely and with the least danger to yourself.”
IV Training
“The horse should be taught to stand still when the rider is taking his seat, and until he had drawn his skirts from under him.”
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