Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Little Horse That Could...

Every little girl at one time or another wants a horse. I was no different... But that basically was the extent of my horsemanship. I would go to the horse farm and trot around in circles on a horse that was about as fast as a 4 cylinder car going up a steep hill, which at the time made me exceedingly happy. What brings to mind all this nostalgia is a little race I saw today called The Kentucky Derby. Mine That Bird, a little horse that shouldn't have, but did win the race was bought for a mere $9500 ( about the price of a candy bar in racing circles) and hauled by a trailer behind the trainers pickup truck 21 hours to the track. I don't really follow horse racing and just happen to turn the TV on just before the race started, but to watch Mine That Bird come from behind weaving in and out of the crowd of horses was amazing. Being the 50 - 1 underdog made me even more happy for his win. Mine That Bird's win reminds me of another underdog I read about and the subject of today's reading recommendation - Seabiscuit.

In 2001 Laura Hillenbrand wrote a book called Seabiscuit that was an amazing read. I picked it up because someone whose reading recommendations I respect was reading it. He did not recommend it to me, but his enthusiasm in describing the book made me buy it anyway. I can not believe how much I enjoyed this book!

"In 1938, near the end of a decade of monumental turmoil, the year's number-one newsmaker was not Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Hitler, or Mussolini. It wasn't Pope Pius XI, nor was it Lou Gehrig, Howard Hughes, or Clark Gable...It was an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse named Seabiscuit..." And this is the story of the horse that had everything against him but found victory and fame anyway. Laura Hillenbrand is a great writer, she captures your attention as she leads you thru the world of horse racing with the hardships of being a jockey, to the rigors of nursing a horse to become a champion. Hillenbrand introduces us to a host of human characters - Charles Howard a bicycle repairman who eventually made his fortune with something called the automobile, and who eventually would own Seabiscuit, Tom Smith a cowboy with a talent for 'horse whispering' who would become Seabiscuits trainer, and Red Pollard a down on his luck jockey who would ride Seabiscuit to more than one of those victories and in the process turn his luck around too. Her writing is wonderful and her description of the Santa Anna race makes you feel like you are in the saddle and battling for your life! Even if you know nothing of horse racing, which I didn't, Hillenbrand pulls you into the story and entertains you. You will be surprised at what goes on behind the scenes and even at 50 - 1 odds I promise you this is a winner! (BTW- the Ballantine Reader's Circle edition has a great interview with Laura Hillenbrand in the back!)

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