Horse exploits throughout history

WAR HORSES

The White Horse That Won A War--In 1423, Daniel de Bouchet, a Knight of Burgundy whose troops had been beaten back eight times by English defenders of the Belgian fortress, Braine-Le-Comte, mounted a white horse and changed to an ancient set of armor bearing the insignia of St. George. The English, seeing what appeared to be their own Patron Saint riding towards them, were thus tricked into surrendering.

The World's Most Expensive Footing--When King Aroudj I of Algeria (1474-1518) fled by horseback from the Spanish army attacking his Castle of Tlemcen, he hoped to slow their pursuit by scattering $3,000,000 worth of gold and precious stones behind him. Unfortunately, the Spaniards collected the fortune, followed its trail to the River Huexdca, and killed the king. The Carriage Ride for a Hat Archduke Ferdinand, son of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, so desired the wearing of a favorite hat at his 21st birthday party in 1765 that he sent a military expedition of officials in royal carriages, and several hundred mounted soldiers, to escort the hat on its delivery to him from home, 20 miles away.

Horsepower Hummer--It took 30 horses to pull the "palace on runners" built for Empress Catherine II, of Russia (1729-1796). The giant house-sleigh had a bedroom, drawing room, study, and library, and covered up to 100 miles in a day.

Nightmare Army--The city of Landrecies, France, was saved in 1543 thanks to the ghost troops of General Du Bellay. He tied 600 bags of flour on the backs of 600 cavalry horses, attaching lances, helmets, and shields, and then ponying them one foggy night past an enemy encampment of 40,000 soldiers. The flour bags, looking like giant riders, so terrified their foes that they were allowed to pass unchallenged, and the city was spared attack.

REMARKABLE RACES

Dead Heat--In 1880, the Astley Stakes race in Lewes, England, finished with three horses in a dead heat for first-place -- Wandering Noon, Mazurka, and Scobell -- and a pair tied for second -- Cumberland and Thera. Double the Odds On October 15, 1953, British steeplechaser Michael Morrissey, thrown from the saddle of one horse at the Southwell Race Track, landed in that of another.

The Original Ironman--To determine its three fastest horses, an annual 18-mile Mongolian race galloped horses towards the finish line with jockeys only five to eight-years old in the irons. The children, many so small they had to be tied into the saddle, were considered the lightest, and least-intrusive way to display the horses' natural running abilities. Amazingly, not a single jockey was ever hurt in the centuries-old tradition. Four Hundred to One

During the 19-year rule of Mohammedan emperor Caliph Hisham (688-743), one of this horseman's delights was to stage a race every couple of months where 4,000 Arabian stallions from his own stable were competed over a 112-mile course to determine his fastest and strongest horses.

Grounds Crew--Byzantine Emperor John Tsimisces was determined to host a great chariot race despite the fact that the only track large enough was pitted with huge holes. To solve the problem, the emperor ordered the holes filled -- with live prisoners. Incredibly, the fifty men, each crouched in a hole, emerged unhurt, and all were granted their freedom after the race.

AMAZING HORSEMEN

Horsepower--French assassin John Poltrot, sentenced to be quartered by four horses for having killed the Duke de Guise in 1563, proved so strong that the execution could not take place, despite three separate attempts with fresh horses tied to his arms and legs.

Mount Up--When his pony was lamed in a hunting accident, Baron Christophe de Tursanne of Bigorres, France, carried the 420-lb animal on his shoulders for more than a mile to a veterinarian.

Running for Office--Indian Emperor Akbar (1542-1602), demanded every person seeking to run for high office in his kingdom first play against him in a game of night polo -- using balls of fire.

A Royal Jackass--Sultan Muley Ismael (1646-1727) of Morocco, whose own egotism was so great he believed death by his hand should be considered an honor, always expressed his thanks to the servant who held his stirrup by cutting off their head. The Sultan bestowed his personal gift on 10,000 servants.

Move Over, John Wayne--Byzantine Emperor Romanus IV (1068-1071) could leap unaided from the ground to the back of his horse -- in full armor. Bet this one was a lot easier on his servants than Sultan Muley Ismael.

Them Bones--Fearing a soothsayer's prophecy that his horse would be the cause of his death , King Alexander III of Scotland (1241-1286), killed the animal with his dagger. Months later, while taking his new horse for a ride, it shied in fright at the bleached bones of the former mount and plunged over a precipice to its death, taking its royal rider with it.

Driving Force--Called the Greatest Charioteer in History, famed Greek driver Anniceris could make 1,000 turns in an arena, galloping at full speed, and never deviate from his wheels' original track.

The Ultimate Water Jump--As his last request before hanging in Nurenberg, Germany, Eppelein von Gailingen asked if he could mount his favorite horse. Once in the saddle, he spurred the horse through an entire cavalry regiment, up a ramp to the top of the fortressed city's wall, and jumped off to land in a moat 100 feet below. Both the horse and the rider escaped without injury.

Up and Down Under--In 1860, Adam Lindsay Gordon of Mount Gambler, Australia, jumped his horse over a 4 1/2 foot fence. No big deal, you say? The other side of the fence was so narrow, he had to land the horse sideways to avoid plunging down a 300-foot cliff. The horse then stood quietly while spectators took down the fence and walked the horse safely back to the barn.

HORSE SENSE

Salt of the Earth--That red salt block in the corner of your horse's stall could have started its journey on the back of a donkey. The salt is mined in Morocco, and transported through North Africa on the backs of this equus cousin.

Before Mr. Ed--Ammonius Dramaticus (319-396), the Greek professor of grammar at the University of Alexandria, rode a donkey to school each morning. But instead of leaving the animal outside while he lectured his students, the donkey was allowed to sit among them, where he listened with keen attention to its master's voice.

Sea Horse--Senpen, a horse owned in the 1970s by the Arnold Winick Stable, Delray Beach, FL, was born with a blaze in the shape of a sea horse on its forehead.

Balance--Italian animal trainer Frank Corradini, who died in 1899, staged performances throughout Europe which included a horse that could actually balance itself on a rope above the arena. Thank goodness for animal rights.

The Hanging Horse--Roman criminals of the Middle Ages were put to death at a bronze statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, mounted on a horse. The statue served as a gallows -- a rope was tied to the ears of the horse from which the victims were hung.