Zenyata: the greatest mare ever
July 17, 2010 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Zenyata may be the greatest mare ever. Even if your not normally into race horses, it's worth seeing this one, there may not be another like her. Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote Seabiscuit, explains why (NPR 6min).

Video clips related to the NPR story, why Zanyata is a modern legend:

1. She's huge (helmet cam - the other horses are not small).
2. She does a war dance before each race.
3. She has won every race (now 17 for 17).
4. ..in dramatic come from behind fashion.
5. She enjoys Guinness Stout (video mutes temporarily).
posted by stbalbach (44 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Her name is Zenyatta. And sorry, but does this count as a double?

Oooh, I like the war dance. That wasn't in the first post.
posted by dilettante at 12:25 PM on July 17, 2010


I love that horse. Big, beautiful, fast, and a total goof.
posted by Trochanter at 12:29 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The "war dance" almost looks like the way a Kentucky Trotter acts.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:37 PM on July 17, 2010


Ha, I know that this is a double because I made a post about Zenyatta this morning after hearing the NPR story and got stopped in my tracks by the auto-link-checker.

:: does Zenyatta prance-dance ::
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 12:39 PM on July 17, 2010


Isn't that 'war dance' the result of the trainer jerking her head and holding it down in an awkward position? That's the way it seems in at least two of the videos.

I don't like horse racing. I've been behind the scenes at race tracks and it's never pretty - for the animals.
posted by Malice at 12:44 PM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't like horse racing. I've been behind the scenes at race tracks and it's never pretty - for the animals.

Yes, yes, yes, the animals, the animals. But what about the hats. The marvelous HATS!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:48 PM on July 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I goofed her name. I didn't see the first post. None of the links were in the first post or I should have seen a warning (or something didn't work with the automated double double check, or I was blind to it). Anyway not that I care if it's kept or deleted, the dance and Guinness drinking are a big part of this horses fame not highlighted in the first FPP.
posted by stbalbach at 12:49 PM on July 17, 2010


Guinness is for closers.
posted by maudlin at 12:54 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do horses like pretty things?
posted by found missing at 1:00 PM on July 17, 2010


This is not even close to being a double. Nice post, thanks.
posted by maxwelton at 1:05 PM on July 17, 2010


So hey, horse people, I have a question. I live near the New Orleans Fair Grounds and while I don't usually go watch the ponies, I would make an exception for this amazing beast. Is there any way for me to easily tell if she'll ever be here, and when?
posted by komara at 1:06 PM on July 17, 2010


That helmet cam video is awesome; look how level the view stays during the gallop while the jockey's legs absorb the bounce from her stride.
posted by jamaro at 1:08 PM on July 17, 2010


Where can I find out where and when her next race is?
posted by phaedon at 1:10 PM on July 17, 2010


That helmet cam is awesome. That must feel like riding a locomotive. Sounds a bit like it, too.
posted by Malor at 1:14 PM on July 17, 2010


Well, nevermind. Looking at her races it looks like if I'm not at Hollywood Park or Santa Anita Park I'm out of luck. Not saying she's never coming to NOLA, but maybe it's too small a venue for a superstar like her.
posted by komara at 1:15 PM on July 17, 2010


Aha. August 7th at Del Mar.
posted by phaedon at 1:15 PM on July 17, 2010


> Malice: Isn't that 'war dance' the result of the trainer jerking her head and holding it down in an awkward position?

I fully and freely admit I know next to nothing about horses and horse-training and horse-racing. (Admission of ignorance made, opinion ensues.) But it seems like maybe Zenyatta has a little
cross-training in Dressage (YTL is not Zenyatta). So of course the war dance is the result of the training holding her head like that, but in the sense that it's how the horse is signaled to perform the prancing. It's a command like sit or stay.

It *does* look uncomfortable, but all of that saddlery looks uncomfortable to me anyway. I much preferred the little-to-no tack approach used by the Cavalia company in their performances. The horses are performing extremely complex choreography, and while they're doing it all for the treats that the human performers have in their hands, it seems very voluntary. No pulling or pushing or anything. And hey, the human performers are doin' it for pay too, I would hope.

To me, this all reflects the very strange relationship humans have to animals. They're pets, possessions, slave labor, and very occasionally something sort of like a partner, but it's never an egalitarian relationship, and I don't think it really could be. But many of us love having animals in our lives, and much of the time animals seem to be happy, at least as far as we can tell. Zenyatta certainly is participating in that war dance without subsequently throwing her jockey off or refusing to run? I don't claim to understand this, but I do think it's important to think about.

Sorry if this was a bit of a thread hijack. Thanks so much for this post (and the one I missed earlier apparently)! Zenyatta rocks!
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 1:32 PM on July 17, 2010


One of my favorite childhood reads was a biography of Man o'War, another huge, record-setting horse that ate up the ground (he won 20/21 races). Watching Zenyatta is like seeing those written descriptions of Man o'War come to life. She just flies once she hits her stride — amazing! And her dam's (mother's) name is Vertigineux, very appropriate (it's French for "dizzying; breathtaking; breakneck").
posted by fraula at 1:39 PM on July 17, 2010


A horse that drinks Guinness is all right with me.
posted by jquinby at 1:39 PM on July 17, 2010


She likes stout? I love this girl. Her wins from behind seems almost like she's letting the wee guys think they can win, but... waaaait for it......... Hehe.
posted by dabitch at 1:42 PM on July 17, 2010


i misread the title and thought is was a post about Jomo Kenyatta. I wondered why you thought he was the greatest mare. stupid lousy eyes.
posted by marienbad at 1:47 PM on July 17, 2010


A racehorse definitely isn't cross-trained in anything. They run. That's it.
posted by nosila at 1:48 PM on July 17, 2010


I don't like the horse racing industry. But I do love to watch them run, and damn, I have never seen anything like Zenyatta. She is one of those legendary race horses already.
posted by biscotti at 3:27 PM on July 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not really a fan of horse racing but Zenyatta is a stunning animal. With that dance of hers she's like, "Check me out, bitches." And as a fan of The Police I gotta love that name.
posted by fuse theorem at 3:45 PM on July 17, 2010


Isn't that 'war dance' the result of the trainer jerking her head and holding it down in an awkward position? That's the way it seems in at least two of the videos.


No, it's not. She also does it when the handler is leading her on a slack rein with her neck fully extended. I've known other horses that "danced", it was just a thing they did, mostly when they were impatient to be ridden and not led.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:36 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


My wife, a horsey person, says that Zenyatta is having a blast on the track. It's all in the ears, apparently.
posted by maxwelton at 6:06 PM on July 17, 2010


My wife, a horsey person, says that Zenyatta is having a blast on the track. It's all in the ears, apparently.

It's true. And watch her ears when she gets in front; they go up and stay up, because she knows she doesn't have to listen for anyone coming up behind her.

Her trainer says that her war dance is her way of warming herself up. She's stretching and showing off; her jockey is not doing anything with the reins to make her do this. It's just her. She knows how to play to the crowd and she does. When something she does gets a big reaction from the crowd, it stays in her repertoire. She cracks me up and awes me at the same time.
posted by OolooKitty at 6:40 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


horse
posted by Greg Nog at 7:32 PM on July 17, 2010


What a majestic animal. If you missed it in the first Zenyatta post, you've got to watch her 17th consecutive win, not only because it's a great race but because the guy calling it is fantastic. The contrast in his voice from the start of the race to the finish is awesome.
posted by Balonious Assault at 7:40 PM on July 17, 2010


That Apple Blossom race was really great. Man, was that horse flying.
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:56 PM on July 17, 2010


She's beautiful! My family and I love horse racing and there's nothing quite like a horse that captures your imagination. In re-watching her videos, I realized that she's just that much wider and taller than the other horses. I bet she has a huge set of lungs and a heart that matches her spirit too.
posted by Calzephyr at 8:04 PM on July 17, 2010


She was named for Zenyatta Mondatta, by The Police, who were signed to A&M records by Zenyatta's owner, Jerry Moss. (Wikipedia)
posted by tapesonthefloor at 8:05 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


...is what someone might add if they'd missed the obvious mentions in the previous post.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 8:22 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like all great athletes, she makes it look so easy the other horses must be embarrassed.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:25 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Horses are incredible, and I love to watch them, ride them, and care for them - but racing? Can't do it. Did any of you ever see Ruffian run? It was beautiful enough to break your heart. My father, who I saw cry only three times in my life, broke down in sobs that day in July of 1975, and never allowed horse racing to be on in the house ever again.

I never watched racing from that time on, but every time I caught a glimpse of it - say on an airport tv or at a friend's house - my stomach did flip-flops. And then, when the inevitable happened, and it was on all of the news channels, it was that much worse. Barbaro. Go For Wand. Eight Belles. I don't think I have to say more. I know you're all horse lovers here and accidents happen in every sport, but damn, the price is high.
posted by HopperFan at 9:29 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a way, she's a much more successful version of Silky Sullivan.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:57 PM on July 17, 2010


You go, girl.
posted by effluvia at 10:38 PM on July 17, 2010


Isn't that 'war dance' the result of the trainer jerking her head and holding it down in an awkward position? That's the way it seems in at least two of the videos.

I grew up with horses, and around racetracks.

In the 'War Dance' clip, you can see that she is in a standard light racing snaffle, and her jockey is keeping contact with her mouth but he hasn't got her on a tight rein at all.

Any fool can force a horse to flex and toss the neck with a curb bit and double bridle, (I have seen some nasty, nasty "dressage") but you would have a lot more trouble to do it with a snaffle.
You'd have to be some kind of Haute Ecole genius to get those leg movements in response to a snaffle bit, and you'd have no time to train the horse for racing as well!

And it would be completely counterproductive to pick a fight with an excited racehorse going out to the start - the art and aim in this situation is to keep that horse calm and controlled - heavy hands on the rein are likely to get you a horse determined to bolt.

Also, that horse is Just Plain Showing Off. She thinks she is All That.

(She is)
posted by Catch at 11:22 PM on July 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Some horses, seems to me, really get the diva thing. Only beasties who seem more aware of a camera are cats. Dogs will ham it up, but really just to get in on what you're up to; it's not an aesthetic thing.
posted by cookie-k at 5:07 AM on July 18, 2010


HopperFan, I agree with you - it is sickening when a horse goes down. I was very hopeful for Barbaro. The horses also pay a price after their racing days are over - there's the Exceller Fund which tries to help retired racehorses and is named after the champion who met his end in a slaughterhouse. The racing industry really needs to own up to this part of the industry and take some responsibility. Plus their are many sick horses that run on sick bodies because they're loaded up with Lasix and Bute...in some ways modern horse racing is a disaster but I always feel torn knowing this wasn't always the case.
posted by Calzephyr at 6:29 AM on July 18, 2010


Calzephyr, I didn't know about the Exceller Fund, thanks - sounds like a worthy cause.
posted by HopperFan at 9:06 AM on July 18, 2010


I think horses could be cooperating with all the awfulness around racing as much as they do because racing is something they apparently engage in among themselves in the wild state.

I've read that young males outside the established harems maintained by stallions will spontaneously race each other, and that stallions add to their harems with something called the 'gathering chase' where a stallion will run down an interesting-- and potentially interested, if he's fast enough-- filly and nose her back into the group of mares he's already collected.

I like to think Zenyata wins "in dramatic come from behind fashion" sort of because she's checking the boys out, watching from behind, giving them hope, then blows past them at the end and laughs, as if to say 'not you, gluefoot'.
posted by jamjam at 3:45 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dogs will ham it up, but really just to get in on what you're up to; it's not an aesthetic thing.

cookie-k, ... let's not even start. Interesting opinion.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:27 PM on July 18, 2010


Ha hahaha, jamjam. I wasn't thinking exactly that, but watching her come up from behind - yes - she is definitely teasing the heck out of her fellow racers.
posted by dabitch at 3:06 AM on July 20, 2010


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