Heart

What is it with me and horse movies? Seriously. 

Last night, we watched Secretariat, the 2010 movie. 

In the spring of 1973, I was in a full leg cast, having busted up my right leg in a weird accident on my own horse, a stubborn little mare called Poco. Watching Secretariat run the Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont to win the Triple Crown that spring was a delight. The  memory still evokes tears of wonder and joy.

Awhile back, we watched Seabiscuit. Seabiscuit was Horse of the Year in 1938.

Both horses were undeniably great.

Unlike Seabiscuit (“the horse is too small, the jockey’s too big, the trainer’s too old”) Secretariat had it all: size, strength, the right trainer (Lucien Laurens), the right jockey (Ron Turcott), a groom that loved him (Eddie Sweat) and an owner who believed in him completely (Penny Chenery).

But – most of all, like Seabiscuit, Secretariat had heart. Literally and figuratively. Heart. 

Dr. Thomas Swerczek, then head pathologist at the University of Kentucky, estimated Secretariat’s heart probably weighed 22 pounds. That’s more than twice the average size of a horse’s heart.

So what is it about watching a great horse run? Or a great athlete in any arena? Or a great artist, a great musician, a great parent or friend or teacher? 

What makes greatness? 

Obviously, a gazillion factors come together in the right place and the right time – things we can control and things we can’t.

The one thing all the greats have in common: heart. 

An old story (there are many variations on this) says that a famous trapeze artist was instructing one of his students on how to perform an especially daunting move on a high bar. The young student stood on the precarious perch, frozen, paralyzed by fear.

The great instructor put his hand on the young man’s shoulder. 

“Throw your heart at it. The rest will follow.” 

Seems like a pretty good plan to me.

Throw your heart at it, y’all.

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