Wednesday, 10 August 2016

I Missed It By A Few Months,

back in 1976 the Great American Horse Race took place,

the event took place on May 31st, 1976, 40 years ago, as part of the 200 year Centenary celebrations, the race was set to make history, the Great American Horse Race had 91 riders and 450 people to support them during the longest horse race in history - 3,000 miles from Frankfort, New York to Sacramento, California, the race would take 100 days, starting on Memorial Day, May 31st, and finishing on Labour day, September 6th, and take the riders across the whole of the United States. about 200 well-muscled animals lined up in Frankfort, New York, ready for the race of a lifetime, you can imagine the horses that would enter for this race, Arabian stallions, favoured to win by almost all observers and Icelandic ponies, famous for their smooth gait and Viking pedigree, there were the tall Irish thoroughbreds, and there were striking Appaloosas and we must not forget Lord Fauntleroy and Deacon both mules, already dubbed "The 76'ers", after the pioneers that came 200 years before, the men and women who participated in this race truly lived up to this title, without their resourcefulness and determination, history would have been robbed of one of its most important events in the field of equestrian sports, above is Virl O. Norton, on a part of the race,

and here he is again leading the race in Cheyenne, the route was fittingly nostalgic, incorporating bits of the Oregon Trail, the Pony Express Trail, and, somewhat alarmingly, the Donner Party's doomed journey,

Norton was the 31st team to saunter across the finish line, before a crowd of cheering spectators at the State Fair in Sacramento, they settled in for hay and water, and waited for the other finishers, it would take a while before the organisers could total up everyone's ride time, tack on any penalties, and declare a winner, when the final count came through, it was Virl O. Norton by a landslide, with 315.47 total hours in the saddle, (The second-place horse, an Arabian, clocked in at 324.6 hours with penalties—he had gone lame just before the final leg.) the top ten, when released, was practically a show stable, including five Arabians, one Appaloosa, one Irish Connemara, but who won? yes you guessed it, Virl O. Norton was first with Lord Fauntleroy the mule and Deacon his second mule, which came in fifth place, Norton picked up his $25,000 prize money and headed back to his ranch in San Jose, for the rest of his life, he referred to himself as the Great American Horseman, and Lord Fauntleroy, the Great American Horse, who lived out his days in a green pasture in California, a fitting end for an animal who pulled off a very American dream.

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