Lee’s Traveler – and Mine
With a bit of leisure (though not a great deal) on my hands, and a chronic mania to use words to express opinions, I have been writing articles on horses since the inception of my website. The alternative, I decided, would be to ignore a massive part of my life as an equestrian, though sometimes my fanaticism might alienate a good part of my readership that has never thought that being a hippophile is a desideratum.
At any rate, it has been one week since I buried Cody, my first horse, and it only seemed appropriate to write something about my other long-time companion, who shares his name with General Robert E. Lee’s favorite steed.
Lee’s horse was named Traveler, of course. He was purchased by the General from Major Thomas Broun, who bought him from Captain James Johnston, the son of the man who reared him. Lee first saw the horse in Western Virginia and afterward when stationed in South Carolina. Major Broun offered the horse to Lee as a gift, but when the General declined the offer Broun sold it to him. He was only four years old at the beginning of the War and greatly admired for his muscular strength and high spirits. The charger had been known as Jeff Davis, but Lee changed his name to Traveler. After the War, Lee often rode him in Lexington and once commented that an hour on horseback was never wasted.
I purchased my “Traveler” after he had retired from racing in California. He was no “loser,” but he also showed little promise of being a great racer. As a Thoroughbred, he too is high-spirited and muscular. I like him for his stamina, jumping ability, soundness, and courage. He has plenty of room between the eyes to denote character and intelligence. His hind legs stand well under him, and his forehand is light and free.
Traveler has always been more difficult to handle than Cody, due largely, I think, to the fact that for so many years he was asked to move about at one speed – all out. My policy in training him has been very simple, and I have tried to follow it consistently: kind treatment and incremental improvement. This attitude toward a horse is perhaps best described by the Greek statesman and general, Xenophon, who wrote: “Anything forced and misunderstood can never be beautiful.”
I use the mildest snaffle bit I can on Traveler, for the object of my training is not only to train my horses in their movements but also to train them to be quiet, supple, and obedient – and thus to be a true riding pleasure. I still have a long way to go with Traveler, but it would be neither wise nor productive to build up on any other foundation. Above all, I have learned that equestrian art is closely related to the wisdom of life. My horses have taught me a great deal about self-control, constancy, and the ability to understand what goes on inside in the mind and emotions of another creature.
A strong personality is required to ride a high-spirited horse like Traveler, and only a handful of very experienced riders have ever mounted him. My aim is to have a horse that is an absolute delight to ride, and so I cannot have him spoiled (or ruined) by another. I do not want an automaton but a confident, happy horse with which I can communicate and merge into a perfect partnership.
Traveler and I will miss Cody as long as we live, but we both have much to look forward to as we train in the months and years ahead. I am the humble and grateful owner of a splendid Thoroughbred who has a racer’s heart and in whom I have complete confidence. There is not a day that goes by that I do not thank God for my equestrian friend.
March 30, 2005
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. If you would like to know more about becoming a follower of King Jesus, please feel free to write Dave.