My Dad sent me a horse story today. I love Dad's tales of his youth growing up on the farm in Alberta.I often end up homesick for a time and place I know mostly through him. Missing my family spread far and wide, I feel like sharing, so here is Dad's story. Have a great day!
I read the history section of today's AQHA Newsletter and noted the world quarter mile speed records are now under 21 seconds.
"2005 April 3 – In the first race in which the top three finishers clock sub-21-second quarter miles, A Long Goodbye clocks a world-record :20.686 in the MBNA America New Mexico Challenge (G1) at Sunland Park, with second finisher Special Task Force clocking :20.850 and third-placed Viva La Vicky at :20.952.
The mph equivalent of a 21 second quarter mile works out to 42.6 mph, much to my surprise and delight. I'll tell you why.
When I was 12 yo (1951), Dad bought a 3 yo unbroke 15.3 H, 1150 lb, 1/2 TB mare out of a tall Standardbred driving mare. I called her Kit. In another deal, Dad got an old stockman's saddle that had come to Alberta from the Dakotas about 50 years previously. It weighed over 50 lbs and it was all I could do at the start to get the saddle up there, but she stood reasonably well for a green horse. She was much faster than any horse I'd ever ridden. I've described the feeling of losing my breath at her speed, as when you stick your head out a car window at 40+ mph.
One Sunday in 1955, after she'd covered about six miles under that old 50 lb saddle and 165 lb rider, most of it at a brisk gallop, Dad came up beside us in his 47 Mercury sedan. I asked him to let me know how fast she was at full speed and he clocked her at 42 mph. I knew she was fast, but until today, I had no idea how her speed compared to racing quarter horses. Yes, a quarter mile race is from a standing start, but Kit had no training, carried more weight and had spent a lot of energy just before that sprint on a sand hills back road.
"Kit" was definately hot blooded. She would not walk or trot while I was on her. She'd run as fast as I'd let her run, but if I tried to walk or trot her for a rest, she'd simply slow lope along until I let her go again. Without a rider, she was a calm, no nonsense horse, and as long as we were moving, she was safe along the highway or railway tracks, no shying at surprises. She was also very sure-footed, once skating quite a ways at nearly full speed when we came upon ice under the snow as we rounded a corner that fell away to the right. I thought for sure she'd go down, but when we hit solid ground again, she was able to get right back in stride.
I occasionally knocked on the back door at home after urging Kit to climb the four steps to the porch. We'd jump off the side after my little joke on Mom. Another time, we were going through a patch of trees and brush on a neighbor's farm, when she hesitated, like she didn't want to go in the direction I showed her, so I corrected her and she hit an old rusted wire imbedded between two trees. She'd seen it, but when I urged her forward, she knowingly went into the wire. Kit's obedience was impressive, except for refusing to walk.
Her stopping was a sight to see. We practiced it at the end of every ride, coming into the yard at full speed aimed directly at the cowbarn. No matter how many times we did it, she'd fly right at the barn until my first whoa. I'd say whoa with a light tug, 2 strides, whoa with another tug into transition, then whoa to slide, ending with her nose, front hooves and back hooves up against the barn, leaving long skid marks in the grass.
She was 10 yo when I left for college, so Dad sold her to the local horse trader. I often wondered if whoever bought her ever realized what a good horse she was.