I first discovered Neville Bardos a year ago, when I was playing with a short-lived blog project called “Retired Racehorse Today.”
The story began, “Hello, I’m a racetrack reject named Neville Bardos.”
“Retired Racehorse Today” didn’t last, mainly because I used the Blogger platform and I hated the interface, but Neville Bardos grew greater, harder, stronger. Here he was in 2010, placing 4th at Rolex Kentucky:
And here he is in September of 2011, just four months after the barn fire that left him in intensive care for smoke inhalation, placing seventh at Burghley:
Now Neville is up for the United States Equestrian Federation’s Horse of the Year honors, and today he even has his picture on the front page of the New York Times. This OTTB is a star.
As his trainer, Boyd Martin, points out in the Times story, Neville Bardos is an improbable horse, one who survives everything that has been thrown at him. He escaped being sent to slaughter after a poor racing career in Australia, and proved himself to be one of the finest horses in international Eventing. He came back from injuries that should have sent him out to pasture simply begging to get to work.
The other horses nominated for Horse of the Year include dressage, show jumping, and saddleseat, and while they have all impressive resumes, no one has had to display the depth of courage and gut that Neville Bardos has. This chestnut gelding is not just an amazing ambassador for Thoroughbreds and OTTBs, he’s an amazing ambassador for his species.
(Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone could write a best-selling self-help book based upon “the principles embodied by Neville Bardos.”)
There’s a lot of talk about how War Horse brings back to people just how strong and enduring horses are, how their spirits carry them through when their bodies seem to be able to take no more. Neville Bardos is our War Horse. He embodies everything that is great about the Horse, and, in doing so, the Thoroughbred, a breed of horse with so much heart, fire, and strength that they cannot be stopped, but gallop on and on.