Monday, February 28, 2011
Are the Best Leaders Horse People?
(George Washington, Prayer at Valley Forge, although, the horse he rode most during the Revolution was his sorrel horse, Nelson.)
I was going through the checkout the other day and saw the 100th Anniversary Commemorative magazine for Ronald Reagan. While I was waiting, I thumbed through it, and what I was amazed at were all the wonderful pictures of him with horses.
It made me ask the question--are the best leaders horse people? I'm not talking about the ones who hop on a horse for a photo-op or buy a ranch to be more Reaganesque. I'm talking about real, true, dyed-in-the-wool horse lovers who have learned life's lessons through horsemanship. And I'm not talking about policies, which we may or may not agree with--I'm thinking about leadership qualities: the ability to inspire and change people.
And then, I thought of the leaders who weren't or aren't horse people, and how they could have benefited from a life with horses. Richard Nixon? Maybe he'd have been more honest. Gerald Ford? Maybe he'd be more real and approachable. Jimmy Carter? Maybe he'd be tougher. President Obama? Rather than being just a good orator--good with words--maybe he'd be able to speak deeper, stronger and more true. Sarah Palin? Maybe she'd talk less and listen more.
There was a time when everyone needed horses and every leader was depicted on horseback--almost mythically. But then, there were those politicians who loved horses just for the horse's sake: Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and others.
Here are some pictures of great leaders and their horses. If you know of others, please let us know in the comments. And, I'm not positive the politicians above are not horse people in some way, but from what I've seen, they don't appear to be. If I'm wrong, correct me.
In my searches, Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt were the easiest ones to find pictures with horses. In fact, there were so many pictures of them, I only included a very small sample. These were, truly, humans who would rather be horseback. We do know, however, many others of our first founders were also avid horsemen, but with the lack of photography, we are left to the few paintings.
George Washington: Washington's favorite horse during the Revolution was his sorrel horse, Nelson.
"Washington had been passionately fond of horses from early boyhood, and owned his first horse at 17. His mother, Mary Ball Washington, was a skilled horsewoman who taught young George how to train horses using only the gentlest of methods, and to never resort to any cruelty. Washington learned that harsh training methods were counter-productive, because horses treated with respect are eager to please their riders." from James Hodges, click here to read more about the horsemanship of George Washington--I'm pretty sure you horse lovers will be fascinated with what it says there.
Abraham Lincoln: "I care not for a man’s religion, whose dog and cat are not better for it."
Lincoln owned several horses: Tom, Belle, Old Buck, and a reddish-brown horse named Robin (who was called "Old Bob"). Lincoln rode Old Bob when on the circuit as a lawyer.
"Don't Change horses in midstream"--from his quote: "An old Dutch farmer, who remarked to a companion once that it was not best to swap horses when crossing streams."
Theodore Roosevelt--leader of the Rough Riders. When, during his time in the White House, they asked him to switch to automobiles, he refused saying, "The Roosevelts are horse people."
You may enjoy this walk through the White House Horse History.
A letter to Theodore Roosevelt from RB Cunninghame Graham in 1917: "God forbid that I should go to any Heaven in which there are no horses." I've often thought the same thing.
A book I want to read:
Winston Churchill: "No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle."
Franklin Pierce--14th President of US: "If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth". Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe, letter to President Franklin Pierce. What his actual relationship was with horses and animals in general, I don't know. This photograph is more of the mythological type--where the horse is depicted as almost surreal, fantastical--and lends to the appearance of Pierce being more of a war hero.
Ronald Reagan: "I've often said there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse."
Every conservative wants to be Ronald Reagan. Guess what? They're not. He was one-of-a-kind and there will never be another.