“She's related to Seabiscuit.” I let the words flow from one ear to the other while I looked at the scrappy mare through my camera as she flew over the jumps. People like to talk and I tend to filter things out. Being the hopeless romantic that I am however, as well as an amateur historian, I did have to ask Jessica, the owner of Topaz Tash, if her horse was in fact a descendant of Seabiscuit. Her answer was yes! I had no reason not to believe Jessica and my curiosity was peaked.
I went to the thoroughbred registry and looked her up. Being the horse novice that I was at the time, I expected to find a large generational gap between Topaz Tash and Seabiscuit. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this spunky little horse was the great-great-granddaughter of “The Biscuit” and not that far removed from her famous ancestor.
If you have not read the book by Laura Hillenbrand you really should. She writes in a style that brings the era of the Great Depression to life and her insights into the workings of the mind of a horse will forever change how you look at these amazing animals. It is not just a book about a horse but also a history of racing and the daily lives of jockeys. After reading Seabiscuit, I arrived at the conclusion that jockeys are the bravest of athletes. Anyone who basically stands on the back of 1200 pounds of horse that travels at 40 miles per hour using only their ankles to hang on gets my unconditional respect. I write this not only from the perspective of someone who has read about the subject but as someone who is a rider himself.
I could write all day long about the courage of jockeys but that is not the point of this article. My goal is to educate you to the fact that when you go to a horse farm or an event, you are surrounded by history in the form of some amazing bloodlines. It is true that a trainer will tell you that bloodlines don't always mean much, if they did we would have had triple crown winners every other year after Secretariat retired. Horse breeding is a crap shoot. The great horses come out of nowhere and then vanish. That being what it is I personally relish being in the company of the descendants of great horses. I have meet the grand children of the likes of Northern Dancer and yes, the great Secretariat. The fact is you would be hard pressed not to find one of Secretariats descendants at a large horse show. I personally know two of these horses and have met a few others.
For me, Seabiscuit is a hero. He overcame a lot of adversity and he never gave up. He was written off as not being a race horse and yet he became a champion. The Biscuit loved to race and would get wound up if he saw you go past his stall with a saddle. He loved to run and he knew how to use not only his speed but horse psychology to psych other horses into giving up. It may sound crazy but again I will tell you to read the book if you want to learn about what I am writing about here.
Once I was told that Topaz Tash was related to Seabiscuit, the connection was as clear to me. Like her great-great-grandfather, she was small in stature. She also had his work ethic. When she entered the ring she was all business and her owner told me it was all about her. She loved the attention of being watched while jumping and attacked the jumps with precision and professionalism.
It is interesting how many thoroughbreds who did not do well at the track have done well with jumping. This brings me back to a horse named Assistant, another descendant of Secretariat. I saw her at a show in Hillsborough, North Carolina. She looked like her champion elder when she jumped. What she may have lacked on the race track she more than made up for in the arena.
The next time you are at a show, take the time to talk with the riders and ask them about their horses. If it is a thoroughbred, ask if they know the horse's racing name. Be sure to bring a note pad so you can write the name down and do some research when you get home. It's a great way to connect with equestrian sports and also a wonderful way to look into the past.
As for Topaz Tash I feel as if I have reached across the years and touched the same flesh that made history in the late 1930s. I have felt greatness made manifest in the palm of my hand. That which was but a legend to me is now tangible, real, breathing, and sweating. What I thought was lost forever lives on and I rejoice.