He pranced into our lives on his tip-toes dazzling us all with his velvety sheen and bright eyes.
The story was that he raced successfully for four years – a long career for a thoroughbred, broke his ankle and rested for a year after surgery. In his first race back, he was far from the horse he was before the injury. The jockey jumped off his back and explained to the owner that he horse had lost interest in racing and deserved a new home that would love him and care for him. Actually what the jockey said was something like:
“Get him off the track, he’s running like a bum.”
On the next day, we got a call: “I brought you something, it’s in the third stall in your barn.”
The last time I got a call like this, there were two pygmy goats tied to my tack room. Naturally, I was suspicious. What we found in that third stall took our breath away. We gathered ’round him, myself and my cadre of teenaged girls as well as my husband. Watching this beautiful creature prance around his new home, we were mesmerized.
“Is he mean?” The girls wanted to know.
“Nah, he’s just got some steroids and some pain killers in him. Give him a little bit of time and he’ll be easy.” I assured them.
His papers were tacked to the wall and my husband was studying them.
“Well, first we have to give him a new name.” He said.
“Why?” chorused the girls.
“Because his registered name is “Wegottohaveharte.”
They all agreed that we needed to turn him out in the arena and see him move and play before we had any ideas. And play he did. Anyone who has watched a mighty thoroughbred race knows about the raw power and speed of the animal. But it’s not until you see them play unfettered by a rider or tack that you can fully appreciate the grace the joy and the stupendous fragility of 1100 lbs. of muscle and sinew.
This horse was almost perfectly balanced. Beginning from his chiseled face, to the way his arched neck flowed into rippling shoulders, a short and strong back, a perfectly rounded hip and then trickled down to shapely legs. But then the flow stopped when it reached the ruined ankles swollen to the size of small grapefruits. But this horse wasn’t thinking about his ugly ankles. He was focused on being free to roll and jump and play. All of the girls recognized the gleam in his eye filled with mischief and they squealed each time he galloped past.
Meanwhile, my husband was still reading his papers and I could tell he was impressed. It seemed this horse not only exuded class in his body and movements but this horse was also the grandson of the famous Seattle Slew and had himself won over $300,000.
Right away, the girls came up with names related to his racing prowess, his obvious love of speed and his forever running engine; Hot Rod, Indy, Speedy. Nothing stuck. My clever husband pointed out that this horse was smooth rhythm, grace itself, jazz-like and just plain cool. His name could only be — Coltrane.
The name stuck.