Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Book Review: Old Bones the Wonder Horse

Today when you mention horse racing people mostly think of Barbaro, or maybe Secretariat, Man of War or Ruffian. (I always remember Secretariat, because he won the Triple Crown the year I was born.)

But growing up, one of my favorite non-fiction books - and there weren't many - was the story of a racehorse whose track record was simply amazing - no pun intended!
My mom once connived with my 6th grade teacher to only allow me so many fiction books per non-fiction book read. You'd think she'd be happy I was reading, but I guess when you're whipping through Zane Grey, Walter Farley, Dick Francis, Robert B. Parker, Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys, and Louis L'Amour books at the rate of 20-30 a week, a few less fluffy titles wouldn't have killed me...
At any rate, I did have a few lapses into reality, and this book was one of them.

Old Bones, the Wonder Horse by Mildred Mastin Pace
The story of Exterminator, one of the most famous Thoroughbred race horses of all time - his life may not be quite the Cinderella story it's made here, but as told, it does make a good book.

Unprepossessing as a youngster, the gangly gelding came out of nowhere to win the Derby by a length. He went on to win multiple stakes races, and dominated the racing world for several years in the 19-teens and twenties, even setting a couple of world records. His career was shadowed, however, by another racing great, Man O' War, although the two horses never raced against one another.

Unlike many high strung and anxious Thoroughbreds, 'Old Bones' as he was familiarly known, was placid and laid back when not racing, and traveled easily, which may help account for some of his racing success. Accompanied by his favorite stable pony, Peanuts, Old Bones lived to the grand old age of 30 (very old for a large horse breed), and his birthday was celebrated every year with the local children and plenty of carrot cake -- at least that's how the story goes.

Old Bones was one of my favorite horse books growing up, and remains a treasured afternoon read. I once baked a carrot cake for my own pony in his honor, and loved the fact that this horse story had a happy ending.
Can't remember if Shan actually ate any of his cake or not (it was an eggless, sugarless, raisin-packed recipe - really yummy), but I sure had fun making it. And I'm guessing he probably did.

I have to say, my pony was quite the Hoover when it came to all sorts of odd people food. He'd practically beg for peanut butter & banana sandwiches or granola. Blueberry picking, he'd raid the filled buckets if I wasn't careful. And of course carrots & apples... Neither of which I can get Sunny to touch - isn't that odd?

At any rate, Old Bones has stuck with me through the years. I'll have to hunt down that carrot cake recipe, too!


JJ said...

It kind of sounds like the Seabiscuit book I just read...young, awkward horse struggles to come out on top by defeating the high strung War Admiral, or in your case, Man O' War.

SunnySD said...

Seabiscuit is on my shelf, too - I'm looking forward to reading it. For some reason, I have a hard time remembering it's there and un-read yet - lol!

P.J. Alice Saunders said...

OLD BONES was my favorite book!! It is the only book my mother every read with me! Actually, I laid on her bed and read it to her. She loved horses too!! She wasn't well, but never before or after was there a book that we shared. Special story, special memory

SunnySD said...

So glad you enjoyed it! Sounds like a very special memory.

Katherine said...

OLD BONES was also one of my favorite books...I read it countless times as a kid and now as an adult I think I'll hunt down a copy and relive a few childhood memories. Enjoyed the blog very much!