Horses and Presidents
 By Winniefield Park   •   10th Mar 2016   •   3,670 views   •   2 comments

One of the most famous paintings of the first U.S. President George Washington shows him wearing full military regalia and seated on a doe-eyed white horse. In the early days of the U.S. presidents rode horses, not because they wanted to, but because they had to. Horses in those days were how they got around. They carried presidents to battle grounds, though the countryside and certainly, some presidents, their first ladies and families enjoyed horseback riding just for the sake of riding. The White House at the end of the 19th century had a stable for twenty-five horses, a carriage house and tack rooms. It was originally built in 1800, and had expanded over the years. It saw major repairs after a fire during President Lincoln’s time. But, in 1909 President Taft embraced the coming automobile era by turning the White House stables into a garage for his steam driven cars and shortly thereafter the stables were dismantled altogether.

Horses and presidents still got together for ceremonial purposes, but horses became less important to the residents of the White House. Certainly, current president Barack Obama has not had a lot to do with horses, except one incident where he shook the hand of a person wearing a horse head mask. There have been presidents that were a bit more horse crazy.

One of the most famously horse besotted presidents was Ronald Reagan. Reagan was born in 1911, so horses were not an unfamiliar sight during his childhood. Reagan worked his way up from his rural background to become an athlete, sportscaster, movie star, and then eventually a politician. In the movies, he often acted in Westerns where riding skills were a must. While he was governor of California, he and his wife Nancy bought a 700 acre ranch he called Rancho del Cielo. There he and his family would escape the rigours of public life. Both he and Nancy rode. His riding presented a bit of a problem when he became president, and security was very important. It was difficult to find guards able to keep up with him. His favourite horse was a white Arabian stallion named El Alamein. Reagan's liking for jelly beans became folklore during his time in office and it’s said he shared them with his horses. A famous photograph shows him riding in England with Queen Elizabeth, who he and Mrs. Reagan welcomed to their ranch when she returned the visit.

Ulysses S. Grant was described as horse mad. His particular madness involved his trotting horses, and his war horses Cincinnatus and Egypt. It’s said that Grant once got a speeding ticket for racing a delivery wagon.

President Roosevelt was known as the outdoorsy type and loved to spend hours in the saddle. He was said to be a frail child, but believed in living a rigorous lifestyle that included many outdoor activities. He was for a time a rancher. He was known to be a bold rider, with a keen intuition about horses and horse training. When he was given an automobile for his presidential duties he refused, preferring to ride horseback. Bleistein was his favorite amongst his many horses. Bleistein, from the looks of his photographs was a rather common hunter type gelding, but Roosevelt liked the horse for his courage and good nature. If you were honored with the invitation to ride with the president, you would have been handed a typed sheet with his rules, which outlined where you were to ride, and what to do if you were on a fractious horse.

Polk, Tyler, Jackson and Harrison
James Polk was an avid horseman. John Tyler buried his horse with a headstone that read “Here lies the body of my good horse ‘The General.’ For twenty years he bore me around the circuit of my practice, and in all that time he never made a blunder. Would that his master could say the same! John Tyler.” Andrew Jackson rebuilt the the hastily built stables that were erected after the British burnt down the White House in 1814. There lived his favorite mount Sam Patch and his racehorse Bruxton amongst others. He is said to have a taste for gambling and racing, and brought the horses of his racing stable with him when he made the move from Tennessee to the White House. William Henry Harrison was one of the most prominent horse breeders of his time. Zachary Taylor often let his favorite war horse Old Whitey mow the White House lawn. Thomas Jefferson is well known for breeding Arabians at his home Monticello, and his favorite was a descendant of the Godolphin Arabian, named Caractacus.

Who will be next to occupy the White House? And,more importantly, what will be the name of their favorite horse?

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Valkyrie   MOD 
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