All the Pretty Horses - By Mandy Haskin

The following was written by my daughter Mandy for the May 3 issue of Stride magazine (http://issuu.com/stridemagonline/docs/stride5), accompanied by photos. It's still "Hangin' With Haskin,” but this time written by the better Haskin. Part 2 will be posted in the next blog.

All the Pretty Horses 

“When you wake you shall have all the pretty horses. Blacks and bays, dapple grays…”

That lullaby pretty much sums up my childhood. Indeed, I grew up with quite a number of pretty horses. It started at 10 months old, with a very pretty bay named Northern Dancer. From that day on, my picture was taken with a lengthy list of champion Thoroughbreds. A chestnut stallion called Secretariat soon followed. A sunny afternoon was spent playing in a field with a sweet dapple gray by the name of Lady’s Secret. I rode in a car up the rolling Pennsylvania hills as Lonesome Glory galloped alongside. I picked flowers as Da Hoss grazed just inches from me, only a week after his second Breeders’ Cup Mile win. Genuine Risk showed off her first foal to me. 

And I saw the regal Dahlia twice – first as a baby in my mother’s arms, and then years later, standing on my own two feet, now tall enough to reach her nose. I introduced my dolls to Precisionist, gave a bouquet of dandelions to Alydar, and Holy Bull nibbled on my hair. And I have it on good authority that my first kiss just may have been from Cigar. He was quite the charmer. Then there was Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Forego, John Henry, Damascus, Mr. Prospector, His Majesty, Danzig, and Spectacular Bid, who by that time was white as snow. The list goes on and on. Mighty photo albums lined our shelves at home, as they still do today. The pages are not as white as they used to be, and some are now frayed along the edges, but the albums are still there, forming a wall of memories that any horse lover would dream about.

On my last trip home, I looked at some of these albums. The covers creaked open, revealing a rich tapestry of scenes – this horse, that farm, big smiles, outdated outfits. But instead of joy or nostalgia, a strange emotion crept into my mind. Regret. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have one true memory of these scenes. That my only “memories” of these remarkable experiences were through photos and stories. Even once I was old enough to capture these moments, I lacked the appreciation to really make them stick in my head. Despite what my father enthusiastically tried to tell me, I couldn’t fully understand who these horses were, or what they had accomplished. 

That feeling of regret was quickly followed by an overwhelming sense of guilt. How many people would kill for experiences like this? Yet, to my naïve younger self in these photos, it was just another horse. It pains me to write that. Admittedly I took it all for granted, not knowing at the time how lucky I really was. While my dad was having me pose for pictures (no doubt encountering some resistance and overly dramatic rolling of the eyes in later years), I didn’t realize he was actually giving me a very special gift. I have to believe that he knew I couldn’t appreciate all this then, and that’s why he froze these moments in time.  He wanted me to look back at them all these years later and think, I did this – how lucky was I?  Sitting here now, looking at a photo of me as a baby with chubby cheeks meeting Northern Dancer, I’m thinking that very thought. 

I suppose childhood memories can only be fully embraced in retrospection. Only then do we grieve over their transience and celebrate their sublime purity. That’s why we take photos. So that those moments will one day be suspended in time and bound by gilded picture frames. Untouchable. A brief glimpse into who we were and the experiences that made us who we are today. I am the person I am today because of years of green pastures, white fences, shaded stables, the soft purring of barn cats, the crinkling of peppermint wrappers, and of course the blacks and bays and dapple grays.    

Thanks to my dad and a library full of photo albums, I will always have cloudless memories of all those pretty horses.
 

50 Comments

Leave a Comment:

millreef

Clearly, genetic abilities have been passed down from father to daughter!

05 May 2010 2:03 PM
Proud Mom

Hey -- she is a better writer than you, Steve!  I, on the other hand, remember each horse as I either held you, Mandy, or guarded you from being bitten or kicked.  Such wonderful memories.  And, so wonderfully written.  I like to think I also had something to do with your writing expertise!

05 May 2010 2:05 PM
Susie

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, Mandy.  I've enjoyed your Dad's writing over the years, and now I enjoy  yours.

05 May 2010 2:22 PM
Dianne

You are one lucky girl!  Even though you didn't know what it all meant at the time, you are fortunate to have seen these great thoroughbreds.  I will always cherish the few moments I got to touch Secretariat, my all time favorite runner.  I will never forget that moment.

05 May 2010 2:24 PM
sodapopkid

Steve, How old is Mandy??  

05 May 2010 2:25 PM
sodapopkid

Steve, You and Mandy upload some of the beautiful pictures in the album. I would love to see them if you can put them on here some how.

I know it's possible , I don't know how to do it!

05 May 2010 2:28 PM
david in arkansas

Great story Mandy and what great horses you have seen. If you have not met Zenyatta yet in person, you would want to dedicate a whole scrapbook for her alone after you do!

Thanks for sharing!

P.S. I'm sure your much easier to look at than your dad too!  J/K

05 May 2010 2:40 PM
Marc W

My father took me to Windfields for the yearling sale the year Northern Dancer didn’t sell for $25,000 asked. The person we were with bought a nice stakes horse I believe was called Whitesboro. I also had the unique distinct of seeing Northern Dancer run twice as a 10 yr old growing up in Canada and losing both times—in his first race as a 2yr old at Fort Erie to Rambling Road and later in a turf race in Toronto to Garcon d’ Or. I was there when he won the Queens Plate but the picture taken that day was I on my knees crawling under people to get a view of the Queen Mother who was in attendance that day. I was there at Fort Erie racetrack a few years later walking his first crop (ND) for Windfields and Pete McCann as my summer job. My only live Derby was Proud Clarion beating Damascus (I had many chances to go to others but passed—I didn’t like the zoo of people (amateurs) that came for it)

My only pictures I have kept of was a horse called Roji who isn’t in the Hall of Fame but was the first horse I groomed that won a race and went on to win 100K when it was something special to do although he was only in my care until he won. I was still in school and only worked summers. I have owned a number racehorses and trained a few that have won and pictures were taken. Only that of Roji, and a picture with Bob Tiller’s Near The High Sea in the infield after winning a stakes race (Bob’s First –of many- in the coming years as a leading trainer in Canada)

I still have at my age of 56. I no longer work with horses, nor own any at the moment.

Great game, great memories, to bad it is a dying game in many ways. The glory days of horse racing seem a distant memory. Pity.

05 May 2010 2:43 PM
Zookeeper

All I can say is "THAT apple did not fall far from the tree". What a wonderful piece of writing! What an enchanted childhood! Bravo Mandy!!!

Kudos to BOTH parents for raising such a remarkable young lady! Looking forward to Part II, but now that I know, I'll grab a few tissues before I sit down to read it. Sniff! Sniff!  :)

05 May 2010 2:49 PM
Karen in Indiana

How wonderful! You may not have appreciated it then, but it sounds like you do now. And that's what counts.

05 May 2010 2:52 PM
longtimeracingfan

...oh WOW. Mandy, I sure hope you continue with your writing... and Steve, ya done good.

I remember seeing Citation in a boxcar as the train pulled through the station, on his way to the Hollywood Gold Cup. We were waiting for my dad, coming home after a tour of duty overseas. I remember being very excited to have seen Citation, and told my dad all about it. He was amused that seeing the horse meant more than greeting the dad at that moment... but he knew I had always been horse crazy.    

Sometimes we take things for granted, but isn't it wonderful to realize now what your dad's gift was!!!

05 May 2010 2:56 PM
Karen in Texas

Special story by a special girl from a special family! How fortunate to have been given those experiences.

05 May 2010 2:57 PM
amo5609

I too have some wonderful pictures of myself with some of "the greats".  When I was 11 years old and already an avid racing fan, my parents took my sister and I to Kentucky for a vacation.  We visited Claiborne and Stone Farms.  The picture of me next to  Ferdinan was the first image the popped into my mind when I read of his unfortunate death several years ago.  I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to see him, along with others like Gato del Sol and Mr. Prospector while they were still here.  

05 May 2010 3:25 PM
Marc W

10 was supposed to be 2

05 May 2010 3:52 PM
mz

Marc W and (lucky) Mandy: I never got to actually see Northern Dancer but I did force my poor dad (Italian immigrant in the 50's - non-racing knowledgeable at all) to take me to the Queens' Plate the year AFTER the Dancer won the Plate (so I got there in '65).

Dad had absolutely no idea about betting on the horses but I told him that Langcrest had finished second to My Hero the previous year and so he bet on Langcrest (how did he even figure out how to get to the betting clerks?) in the big sprint race on the same card.  Langcrest won at some ridiculously high odds.  

Great memories with my dad, Mandy.  Thx for bringing them up in my mind/memories/heart.

05 May 2010 4:11 PM
Cgriff

Obviously, you are a sire that can pass on ability to your offspring!

Very nice article with Dad's way with a phrase - she made you proud, Steve! (Which I'm sure she has done every day!)

Congrats and thanks for sharing her talent with us!

05 May 2010 4:44 PM
Rachel

♥ Wonderful

05 May 2010 4:51 PM
ruffianruns

Beautiful!  Thanks Mandy, Steve, and Proud Mom!

I can barely contain a squeal - some of the photographs are posted at the link Steve provided!  I didn't see that Steve spelled that out just after the link, until I read it more carefully.

Thanks again and good luck to you Mandy.

05 May 2010 5:04 PM
Ida Lee

Wow, what a wonderful childhood. I enjoyed reading about it so much. I grew up in New York City so I only got to watch them on TV like Trigger, Silver and Champion. You got to see the real Champs...Wow again...

05 May 2010 5:33 PM
Somethingroyal

There are times when after reading through some pretty ugly posts. I've asked myself why I keep coming back. After reading this wonderful story. I have been reminded that I come back for the ability to learn and to give something back to a sport I fell in love with 37 years ago. So many of you have such wonderful stories to share. And Mandy, thank you so much for sharing such wonderful childhood memories most of us have had to create from a distance. I'm sure you will cherish the memories of meeting the greats that have you written about for years to come. I'm sure your parents are very proud of you. Thank you!  

05 May 2010 6:13 PM
Derby gal

You are a wonderful writer with the same technique as your dad that makes words become pictures.

Recently at a riding school, I rode an old retired thoroughbred.(I am retired too)  I found out his name and did a 5x pedigree check.  Turns out his great grandsire on sires side was Northern Dancer.  It was such a mystical feeling because the second derby I went to at age 15 was when Northern Dancer won and I had been riding a decendent!  If I am able to attend 2 more derbies, it will be 50 consecutive ones hence my name on here.

05 May 2010 6:54 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you all for your comments about Mandy and sharing your own childhood memories. They are all so special.

Sodapopkid, Mandy is 25. Did you check out the photos in the Stride article?

Zookeeper, thanks. Part two is much lighter and wittier. It's actually part of the Stride article. I just broke it up into two parts because they were so different. You can read the whole thing on Stride right now. When you get there it is on pages 50-53.

05 May 2010 6:56 PM
Matthew

I have watch horse racing since I was a kid, thoroughout all these years my favorite champion racehorses from the past and present are Silver Charm, Seabiscuit, John Henry, Cigar, Tiznow, Lava Man, Big Brown, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Furthermore, I also like horses from Europe, U.A.E., and Hong Kong such as Oriental Express(Hong Kong Champion Racehorse from the late 1990's), Silent Witness(Hong Kong Champion racehorse), Ouija Board, Montjeu, Fantastic Light, Fairy King Prawn(Hong Kong) and Indigenous (HOng Kong).

05 May 2010 7:11 PM
kelso fan

What a wonderful way to make memories and how incredible to have the parents to make that happen!    I still remember seeing Kelso for the first and only time in Aiken, SC and the photo from that day hangs on my wall.

A few years ago I had the wonderful experience of being able to see and touch Sadler's Wells, the Dancer's finest son - even in my 50s that impressed me no end.

MZ,

I was thrilled to see that you had a memory of Langcrest.  My mare (that I lost last summer) was a granddaughter of Langcrest (out of Miss Langcrest) and you just added to the very little I know about him.

05 May 2010 7:20 PM
Runfast159

What a wonderful story, and you are indeed truly blessed from the perspective of some of us race crazy people.

I have been in love with the sport almost my entire life. However my family had no desire or patience to entertain the passions of a pre-teen child.  My memories are of watching every Santa Anita replay ever shown, and some of those horses I grew so fond of: Tiller, Variety Queen, Vigors and Terlingua to name a few.

But even those of us most passionate from an early age have our regrets.  I was so enamored with a horse named Flying Paster, so stuck with a "west coast bias" (remember, I was a kid then)that I could not allow myself the pleasure of seeing a horse called Spectacular Bid set the world on fire.  I didn't like his trainer, and I didn't like the Bid because he beat the tar out of every other horse I did like!  

It was many years later before I realized how excited I should have been watching him run.  He is one of the greatest athletes this sport ever witnessed, but I never enjoyed it while it happened!  Such is the way we are sometimes as kids.  It takes us awhile to apreciate these things.  But the best of us eventually do...

05 May 2010 7:31 PM
sodapopkid

Steve, I checked out the articles, My gosh, absolutly fantastic, Mandy sure is a beautiful girl all grown up and a doll when she was child. And to see her and you with some of the equine greats that have gone on before us. Great job, can't wait for part 2, I will have to go and get some Kleenex first.  

Brings a tear to a grown man's eyes.

05 May 2010 7:54 PM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

Since you kindly provided a link to the E-Magazine, I've spent a good part of the afternoon perusing through it. I had no idea, there was such a treasure, right there at my fingertips, free of charge and chuckful of great articles and fantastic pictures. A horseracing lover's delight!

So, besides introducing us to the writing talent of your beautiful daughter, you have also opened the door to a new (to me) source of reading material for my insatiable appetite. Thank you so much!!!

05 May 2010 8:03 PM
Paula Higgins

Very nice article Mandy! Yes, you have clearly inherited you Dad's talent.

05 May 2010 8:05 PM
shuttleworth

Mandy, that's powerfully poignant... A friend of mine died unexpectedly Saturday night (Derby night), and a mutual friend posted an old photo of us on Facebook... this reminds me why all this stuff is important... your dad gave you a great gift indeed... I bet it's quite surreal when you think about it - being photographed with all those legends...

05 May 2010 8:35 PM
Karen in Indiana

Mandy, I just read the rest of the article in Stride magazine. You have the same talent for writing as your father, but with a wonderful imagination added. Look forward to reading more from you!

05 May 2010 9:29 PM
txhorsefan

Beautiful, Mandy and Steve and well worth waiting for!  Proud Mom and Steve, you have so much to be grateful for in having such a beautiful and talented daughter who is able to evoke such emotion with her words - y'all really did good!!  Thank you for sharing with us the link to the Stride site and for allowing us to be part of some of Mandy's first steps into horse racing journalism - I loved reading the part about more articles to come!  I wish I was more capable of expressing what a joy it is for me to read these articles and see the pictures of Mandy's childhood with the greats, but part of me has to be wishing I'd had some of those opportunities as a kid, too - lol!  The main thing I can learn from that is to make sure I do make the effort to share my love of the sport, of the horses with my grandkids.  My children already know I'm a horse crazy nut who never outgrew it like she was supposed to.  Thank you!

05 May 2010 9:34 PM
dustywhipp

Wonderful bit of writing!

While I haven't seen quite the amount of champions you have... I have seen a few, including Indian Charlie, Stevie Wonderboy, and Cigar. I hope to one day add the great Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra to that list.

05 May 2010 9:41 PM
RGGC

Lovely! My father, although a factory worker,also had a lot to do with my love of horseracing. Thank you Mandy for sharing your experiences with us and I hope we will see more from you in the future.Like father, like daughter! Steve Haskin; the Mr.Prospector of equine literature!

05 May 2010 9:50 PM
bree

Mandy, you are a gifted writer!  Your childhood memories are precious and regarless of whether or not you think that you appreciated them then, you do now.  What a treasure to look back on and yet look forward because that is what is most important. And wow what you have to look forward to with your connections! I look forward to hearing more!  

05 May 2010 10:22 PM
John T

Good article Mandy,you sound like a chip of the old bloc and i,m glad

your Dad showed you from a young age what a majestic animal the thoroughbred really is.And I can see as you got older you started to

appreciate the great horses you got

to meet as you were growing up.Northern Dancer is one of my favourite horses because quite simply ''He Was The Little Horse Who Could And Did''.

05 May 2010 10:51 PM
Gary Lynn

Beautiful, introspective piece Ms. Haskin. I once saw the great Bobby Orr skate in Philadelphia, but came away  remembering best  a super goal scored by journeyman, "Pieface" McKenzie. How I'd love to have that day ( a solar eclipse darkened the entrance tunnels) back. But I realize I witnessed greatness. Sometimes we're just a little too young! Best wishes!

06 May 2010 12:22 AM
Catherine

Mr. Haskin, I dare say your daughter has inherited your impeccable knowledge of the English language, which few can boast these days.

I must say that I am almost envious. You were able to give your daughter an opportunity that I can only wish my parents had been able to give me. She was, and is, very fortunate to have a father like yourself.

Best of luck - and several more pretty horses - to you both.

06 May 2010 12:47 AM
LouAnn Cingel

Beautifully written-absolutely beautiful.  How lucky and fortunate some are and of course we don't realise it until our later yrs.

Horses gracing gracing our lives is such a gift from God-so magical!

LouAnn of Union, Missouri

06 May 2010 8:45 AM
Slew

Mandy and Steve, you both have the gift of a soul in the most poetic prose.  Thank you for sharing your talents and your stories.  It's a beautiful, thoughtful, well written journey.  I sincerely admire your craftsmanship.  It's a lovely reverie.

06 May 2010 8:51 AM
maryglynn

Bravo!! Enjoyed your writing as i have been enjoying your dad's. I am a 48 year old horse nut,to have been with such notable horses well

you know some folks are star struck  George Clooney Julia roberts ect well I have always been star struck by Horses. The Racehorses the notable stallions the racemares, It isn't just the racehorses either it's for me the ponies of childhood, Annie  dreamgirl My childhood friend General and my Love my mare Her name was Sweet Lou Cody. She was a 14.2 AQHA mare but for a girl that had the challenges  that i had Childhood cerebal palsy just being a teenager was hard enough but i had that sweet palomino to take me  away, I was never as good a rider as she deserved but we raised 3 babies off of her and 2 of them are state champions in barrel racing. She is buried here in my pasture it is funny but all the years can not diminish the feel of her under my hand . So While i may never meet the Great Zenyatta I can read such lovely words as that of Mandy and Steve  Haskins and my spirit can travel. Thanks for  letting me tag along for the ride.

06 May 2010 9:42 AM
Donna

Mandy,  Great writing, just like your Father!  Don't have regret. The fact that you were there, that you touched them, saw them.. saw their greatness... that's all that matters.  

06 May 2010 10:11 AM
david in arkansas

Maryglynn, that's a great story in itself!

06 May 2010 10:32 AM
Linda in Texas

Mandy, sweet Mandy, "apples do not roll far from the tree" and you are truly a shining example of that age old saying.

Mandy, quit your day job and take up in your father's footsteps under the ever watchful eye of your loving mother, Joan.

There is a unique relationship that goes without speaking when it comes to a father with his daughter and vice versa. I was lucky enough to have the same. My dad taught me to hunt,(i never pulled a trigger) fish,(never caught one,i would drop a line and the fish would scatter even at a trout farm) bought me 5 horses, which began my love of them, and he as a doctor showed me how to care for people who needed help,and to always look for the heart of everything i encountered and for their reason for being.

You have learned well my dear, and may you never lose the sweet heart that you have that comes out so well in your article. You do indeed get it!

Thank you for a precious article, you truly are "A chip off the ol'

block" and it serves you well and is most becoming.

06 May 2010 11:30 AM
Susan

To Mandy and Steve,

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. How many of us had dads that introduced their horse crazy daughters to thoroughbred horse racing and breeding? The very first memory I have was seeing Citation at Calumet Farm.He was quite old, but I could tell, through my dad's eyes I was witnessing something very special. Not to mention just being at Calumet! that felt magical in itself.

Good subject, good writing, Mandy, keep up the good work!  

06 May 2010 11:47 AM
Judy G ~ California

Steve~

Your daughter inherited your superior writing skills!

Bless YOU for sharing your experiences by taking her to meet these wonderful horses, even though she was young at the time. Her pictures are "priceless"!

Tell Mandy not to be so hard on herself - I didn't meet JOHN HENRY until 2005. I could kick myself around the block for not enjoying him in his prime!! Please also tell her she is a lucky, lucky girl to have you as her father! But, I'm sure she already knows that :-)

06 May 2010 12:42 PM
sentinel

Mandy's article brought me to tears, both because of her feelings about the wonderful horses and because it was obviouse her dad's genius has been passed on to her.  Both her parents must be so proud.

06 May 2010 2:05 PM
Kim R

Elegantly stated Mandy.  

07 May 2010 1:39 AM
Laura P

Lovely, Mandy.  Thanks for sharing your memories, and I hope you keep on writing, if that's your calling.  Frost referred to a "goal in life" of "unit[ing] my vocation with my avocation, as my two eyes make one in sight."  Your father has surely met that goal and my hunch and hope is that you will too. ~ Kind regards, Laura  

07 May 2010 3:04 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

I love this story.

07 May 2010 11:35 AM
LaQua713

Writing ability definitely passed down to you Mandy...I am jealous! Beautiful article, kudos to you!

07 May 2010 8:50 PM

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