Transformational horse power is a term that encompasses the natural pre-existing element of Equine evolution and heritage, recognizing its tremendous, ongoing benefit to human beings. Ever since they were domesticated, horses have helped people shape the world with their unconditional love, talent, creativity, empathy and willingness to participate. Regardless of whether we consider celebrated super stars like Zenyatta, backyard ponies, or horses of the distant past, the transformational power of horses – physical or non-physical – is a magical and under appreciated phenomenon.
Zenyatta, always. Regardless.
With persistent and ever increasing power, Zenyatta propelled her massive body with tremendous, lengthened strides. She wasn’t running from predators, but instead, she was running under contrived conditions, fabricated by her human counterparts. Even so, every fiber of her being was invested; her mind, muscles, nerves and Heart. Given her Gifts, her understanding, her will-power and her generosity, it was inevitable. She would make this a serious contest of wits, wills and sheer determination.
She rounded the final turn and targeted the finish line, the close of her long and arduous trip, finally within grasp.
She had passed every horse but one; a brilliant colt named Blame who had acquired the lead with a relative ease; a clean start devoid of jostles and bumps, and a smooth glide on the inside track.
They grappled mercilessly, matching themselves stride for stride in the final stretch, each unwilling to yield to the other. Blame held on tenaciously, stretching his head across the wire first.
Zenyatta’s fans were stricken and stunned. It was as if they had been immobilized by an invisible, poisonous dart. Wishing the finish line was but a bit further in this 2010 Breeder’s Cup Classic, emotions burst forth, as fans and connections bore the terrible burden of shocking defeat. The energy of the entire broadcast seemed to be lackluster, seemingly held back by an impending doom; Zenyatta – America’s darling – falling short of a perfect record and a perfect ending to a Cinderella story.
Tears and moans filled the air as people grieved the loss of what was to be the most intense race Zenyatta had ever run. She vaporized a twenty length deficit to come within a nose of her twentieth victory (out of twenty races).
For Zenyatta, however, her countenance was unmarred and unscathed. She never prescribed to the fallacy of human whims, she merely conquered an imposed environment through strategic and synergistic alliance. She didn’t ‘lose’…she never lost. She felt undeniable love and honor all around her; without which, her achievements would have been a violation and a sham, recorded in some karmic or intangibly fateful way. She gave her all, even under severe challenges. We deeply knew that, and we deeply thanked her.
Zenyatta was and always will be her True Self. An ‘imaginary’ human W-L record, Hall of Fame this or that, Sports Illustrated stories, Oprah says, or whatever, can’t change a Soul like hers.
It’s important to understand, that for humans, reality is played out in a materialistic, subjective, good/bad, right/wrong world…for horses, Life is a comprehensive combination of physical and non-physical coherence that we still fail to comprehend. It simply isn’t measured on ‘human’ levels or on ‘human’ terms…but we still fail to recognize that, too.
Grace, Confidence and Unconditional Love
In 2009, the Breeder’s Cup Classic was an anomaly. Zenyatta didn’t want to go into the starting gate, and then, Quality Road, the next to be loaded, became dangerous.
Had she felt his fury or fear? To me, it’s obvious...Undoubtedly.
Horses are herd creatures; very telepathic and empathetic. She felt and sensed his distress. She showed reluctance, but still complied – obviously conflicted. But, then his feelings became apparent to the rest of us. He fought unremittingly against his handlers. They tried to force him with blindfold tactics, but still, he refused. Unable to communicate with him effectively, they got him to a point where he could be handled.
The officials removed the other horses from their padded slots, hoping to reset the starting conditions for this prestigious international event. They needed to establish some normalcy, some regularity. Five million dollars were at stake for humans. Something else was at stake for Quality Road and Zenyatta.
Finally, the bell rang, the gates opened, and all the horses (except Quality Road) sprung like tightly wound coils. Zenyatta spilled out of her post position hesitantly and seemingly confused. The other horses left her behind. It took at least a furlong (1/8th of a mile) for the effects of the bizarre starting circumstances to wear off.
When her mind cleared, she was well behind the pack with perhaps nine furlongs to go (The Breeder’s Cup Classic is 10 furlongs, or 1 1/4 miles long). She found her rhythm and began building her momentum; driving…breathing…pounding…each footfall building upon the previous one.
She caught the other horses near the final turn, and systematically picked them off one by one – passing the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, passing the 2009 Belmont Stakes winner, passing the best horses from Ireland and Brazil – and then…with astonishing form, Zenyatta become the first mare in history to win the coup de gras of horse racing on American soil. She soundly defeated the best horses in the world, despite her setbacks.
She never surrendered, never doubted; instead, she relentlessly conquered the challenge. Her supreme effort left some people cheering wildly, while others’ ecstatic tears smeared makeup and drenched countless tissues.
Mike Smith, the jockey, rode this impressive, elegant mare to front of the grandstand; her veins still swollen and throbbing beneath a sweat laden and glistening dark bay coat, her nostrils still widened with each massive breath. There she stood regally – staring at them, nodding at them…not frightened by the noise of thousands of screaming, emotional voices, or by the waving of thousands of hands – but instead interacting with grace and reciprocal appreciation…they cheered and waved ever more enthusiastically…their adoration unleashed and shared by viewers all over the world.
Her racing career was one of brilliance, fortitude and grace. She evoked awe from the very beginning, when people started saying, “We believe.”
Once she received more publicity, people who had turned their backs on the industry (for its failures, atrocities and cruelties) temporarily turned back, saying, “We believe.”
Thousands of exuberant fans delighted in renewed hope; their hearts filled with warmth and delight; repeated the words they were saying all along, “We believe.”
Onlookers, who were taken in by the whirlwind left by Zenyatta, joined the resounding chant, “Yes, we believe.”
The Power of Heart
She, with her grit, grace and awesome power, stirred the cauldron of earthly energies and changed us. During this particular time and in this particular instance, we shared Love; and Light. Our differences momentarily faded.
Although she couldn’t speak through a microphone, with her heart, she spoke directly to the hearts of people. It had a tremendous and beautifully transformative power.
As the power of a magnificent and pure heart acts, it indelibly effects.
Her campaign was so much more than racing. It was about inclusiveness, beauty, love, and a brighter future. She inspired all of us. She ‘involved’ all of us, from young to old, across the spectrum of gender and social status. She lifted all of us a little bit higher. Even those pragmatic soldiers of the industry said that there was something spiritual about her. She possessed a ‘look of eagles’ 1 when she turned her attention toward her admiring fans.
Little did they know that when they strained to touch her, in a way, they did; and she ‘knew’. Through her perceptive power, she felt and she knew. Nothing interferes or corrupts that ability for a horse.
A video during her first days at Lane’s End Farm shortly after her racing career ended, reduced its viewers to tears. Galloping across her paddock, whinnying into the wind, her unbridled spirit took flight and made us cry. She had raised us to heights we hadn’t been accustomed to, and brought us together in love. She inspired us, and now – in a sense – she was free…free to run unprompted and uncompromised.
The following comments have been made on various blogs and discussions about the Zenyatta phenomenon:
“I can’t read about Zenyatta’s accomplishment without experiencing that now familiar swell that begins in the lower abdomen, followed by the sense of that rushing upwards to lodge in the throat followed shortly afterwards by tears rolling down my face. Some may call it emotional. If they are right, then it is an emotional response to something overwhelming for which there is no other outlet. All I know is that I witnessed something beyond it all when I watched Zenyatta race.”
“I think that we are feeling something beyond emotion, something far more significant and everlasting. This mare has evoked some kind of awakening in our slumbering consciousness, something so remarkable and so beautiful, that it holds the key to the mystery of ‘spirit’.”
As humans, we all want to belong. We want to be accepted, and we want to be liked. We have a lot of rules in order to accomplish this. You must look a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain way, all of which serves to delay our real expression. Horses, especially a horse like Zenyatta, are not slaves to our cultural nonsense. They have the ability to cut through it all like it was bad hay. Yet they go even further.
They embrace us with all of our faults, our maladies, our mental illnesses, and our limitations. They do not have any trouble connecting with a child who has suffered paralysis due to brain trauma. Instead, they set this child free in many ways; a child who otherwise must be fed and wheeled around by others. One smile from a child that suffers in this way is a testimony to the unconditional love and special gift the horse gives freely to all. Liberation, unexpected achievement, experiential love, bliss…and involvement.
Horses have a way of sharing their hearts that reach deeply into our psyche. Like mythical Pegasus, they soar so much higher and stretch so much further than we do; yet, through their ability to connect and deeply understand…along with their incredible capacity for Love and devotion, they not only can take us to places we wish to go, they want to take us places we wish to go.
So, when a large group of people say there is something spiritual about Zenyatta, they are saying that they feel something greater, something mysterious, and something wonderful. It fills our hearts with warmth and charity because it meets our basic needs, without knowing how or why.
The rules of the material world are different from the rules of the non-material world. In the non-material realm, communication is limitless, reaching beyond time and space; it is not manipulated, nor is it bound to one location. People from all over the world can feel its effects simultaneously, while languages and dialects are rendered inconsequential. The very nature of spirituality transcends the material. We feel it, we know it, we instantly react emotionally and physically to it. Some weep, some leap for joy.
And we desperately want this. We want to feel connected to each other, and a horse like Zenyatta did that for us. We revere her strength, pride, and Gifts. We love her beauty and her talent. We love her determination and her courage.
But most of all, we love her because she loves us, and she wants us to be pleased.
Zenyatta – one among all horses – wants to share the vast wealth she possesses as a sentient, important being on this planet. This is part of the inherited treasure all horses possess and offer in their unique and individual ways. Hopefully, we listen to Zenyatta’s message, and learn how to share and contribute altruistically as they do; so Lovingly and so non-judgmentally (and with ears up!!)…
Once that torch is reignited within us, we can transcend all banalities and do things we never thought possible…
- “The Look of Eagles”, by John Taintor Foote, D. Appleton-Century Company, New York, 1936. ↩