I am the youngest of eight, and for the first bit of my life there was a distinct pecking order in my family, especially among the last three of us, “the three little girls.”
That order changed when I began riding, for I acquired boots, spurs, chaps, a helmet (used only for horse shows), and a riding crop. It was the crop that freed up my inner bully.
“Who was the ‘Mostest Horse*’?” I would drill my older sister.
“Wrong!” and snap would go the crop.
“What year was Man O’War born?” Snap.
To be fair, I had been forced to be the student whenever we played school; I had never gotten to be the teacher. A part of me saw this as pay-back.
The riding crop gave way to the field hockey stick. At that point, there were no more horse questions, just the occasional menacing swipe at ankles if any competitors got too close to me.
Recently at a book club meeting, when I told the story about my mare being related to Fair Play, Man O’War’s sire, I was horrified at my past self. I wondered out loud if Secretariat would have been able to beat the Mostest Horse. My sister immediately responded with outraged tsk-tsk, “Oh, no! How could you even compare the two?!”
Such is the power of conditioning.
"The mostest horse there ever was", said Will Harbut, Man O' War's groom. Man O' War died of a heart attack shortly after Will Harbut died.