It is a little known factoid that the horse was born in Wyoming.
The earliest fossilized ancestor of the modern horse, Eohippus, was found in the northern Big Horn Basin, at the foot of the Pryor Mountains. Eohippus was a dog-sized critter, hardly the magnificent animal that we know today, but he had all the architecture of Old Paint.
Since their birth in the Eocene, horses evolved in North America. For uncounted millennia, horses roamed the Big Empty until something – either climate or predators – caused them to pull up stakes and leave.
Or perhaps they just got bored and wandered off to see what might be over the next ridge. If you’ve spent enough time around ‘em, you know that horses will do that.
The bottom line is that, for a long time, there were no horses in Wyoming. They only returned when Spanish ships brought them back to the New World. The first broomtail to set foot back in Wyoming after so long an absence must have pawed the ground and snorted in glee, glad to be back home.
Oh, I forgot to mention that horses are a prey species. As such, they have developed a survival mechanism that we humans prize...they run. And they run fast.
We bipeds love to watch and ride horses when they run fast. Horses and humans are a natural fit. Its almost as if we were made for one another. Horses have 205 bones in their bodies, we humans have 206. I rest my case.
I had lunch the other day with a couple of gents who plan to bring organized horse racing to Cheyenne. Yee Haw!
There are already a couple or three racetracks in Wyoming, as well as a proposal to host horse racing at Frontier Park. With the prevalence of horse culture in the Cowboy State, I think this is a splendid idea and I tip my Stetson.
As an intriguing aside, the Cowboy State Daily office in Cheyenne is located in famed western showman Charlie Irwin’s old barn. Irwin ran a string of thoroughbred racers to great success, and employed Seabiscuit’s trainer, Tom Smith. Seabiscuit probably munched his oats in Irwin’s barn next to the stall of legendary bucking horse, Steamboat. Talk about royalty!
I would consider it symmetrical and providential if the Sport of Kings, horse racing, gained a firm foothold in Wyoming, the home of the horse. Gulf crown princes, European aristocracy and the Kentucky Colonels can all claim intimate involvement with the sport, but their horses all originated in Wyoming.
If you love horses, do yourself a favor sometime and wander through the paddock at a well-run track. Cast your eye over hot-blooded thoroughbreds getting ready to race. Each animal knows exactly what’s about to happen...he gets to run! The energy makes their skin twitch and their eyes gleam.
And horse racing in Wyoming wouldn’t be exclusive to blooded horses. Off-season, a good horse track could host Indian relays, one of the oldest and purest forms of the sport.
And proud cowboys from Wyoming ranches could settle those barroom arguments about who has the fastest cow horse.
All of this done in a well-organized and sanctioned venue that pays close attention to the health and well-being of the horse.
Too often (and I’m guilty of it too) Wyoming citizens pay more attention to UW or high school sports, shopping at the mall or other mundane, everyday stuff. And we aren’t even aware that horses were born here. And born to race.
I think it would be a great reminder of our common heritage and the importance of horses in the life of the Cowboy State if organized horse racing grabbed our attention more than pickleball or cornhole tournaments.
After all, when have we Wyomingites been content to let the Crowned Heads of Elsewhere usurp what is rightfully ours?
Rod Miller can be reached at: email@example.com