Incitatus, the Most Spoiled Of Them All

It’s the holidays, and we’re all thinking about one thing:

What will we buy our horses for Christmas?

Will it be a shiny new quarter sheet with his name embroidered on the side? A fleece-padded raised figure-eight noseband with fancy stitching? Organic carrot cake with molassesy-goodness sweet feed in the icing?

What about purple silk stall curtains and a marble feeder?

You know you’ve been thinking about it.

Guest blogger Anne Shelton brings us an inspiring story as we begin all of our equine holiday shopping: Incitatus, the very spoiled equine favorite of the Roman Emperor Caligula! (Is he the one they made that movie about? Are there horses in that movie? I only watch movies with horses in them. Or cartoons. That’s why I like Brave.)

Incitatus, incidentally, is the name of no less than thirteen registered Thoroughbreds in history, according to the by-no-means exhaustive The 1924 model is by Caligula (surprise!) who is by Retired Racehorse Blog favorite, The Tetrarch. I couldn’t find a pic of him, so here is Caligula:

Those dapple-grey Tetrarchs! Can't get enough of them! Thanks TBHeritage for the photo.

Enjoy this story on the most spoiled pony the land has ever known, and maybe pick up a few pointers on holiday shopping for your own beastie this winter!


Incitatus — Anne Shelton


If you have a horse fit for a king, you’d better name him like one.

The Romans rarely did things by halves, and they valued horses that did the same. Caligula, who ruled the Roman empire from 37 to 41 AD, had a favorite horse named his horse “Incitatus,” a Latin adjective meaning “at full gallop.” Apparently, Incitatus lived up to his name and could really hoof it—as a chariot racing stallion, he has gone down in history as unbeatable.

Incitatus and Caligula

Incitatus had everything... except tack.

With Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gassett, we imagine Incitatus as an imposing thoroughbred stallion, with “a nervous head and a fiery eye…a splendid image of stirring life.” Considering this image, combined with Incitatus’s legendary speed, it’s no wonder Caligula was so crazy about him.

No…really. Caligula may have literally been crazy about his horse. Some historians think his lavish treatment of Incitatus is indicative of mental illness.

For instance, Caliduga treated Incitatus like royalty; is rumored that Incitatus lived in a stable made of the finest marble with luxurious blankets of purple. Dio Cassius, who published an 80-volume history of Rome, wrote that the horse was fed oats mixed with gold flakes and was waited upon regularly by a flock of eighteen servants. Apparently, Caligula had aspirations for Incitatus to ascend to even higher marble halls—Caligula first made Incitatus a Roman citizen, then a senator, and then talked of making the stallion a consul!

Of course, Incitatus’ place in history has more recently been questioned by historical revisionists who claim Caligula’s fondness for the horse may have been an elaborate ruse intended to rile the Senate of the time. As modern day politicians might compare their opponents to animals, Caligula may have been implicating that even a horse could do the work of the Senate. Satire, it seems, is the more favorable option…though some historians still maintain that the guy was just plain crazy.

Whatever the reason for Caligula’s kingly treatment of his stallion, the emperor certainly made sure that Incitatus received the best things in life. And when we as horse lovers look at it that way… we have to wonder if we aren’t just a little “horse-crazy” ourselves.

Anne Shelton comes from a family of horse people and thinks one of the most beautiful sights in the world is watching horses in motion. She currently writes for the quality horse trailer supplier 





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