“What’s your definition of a horse?” I was asked this week.
“Easy.” I said, “Strength and elegance on legs.”
The young person who asked me the question paused for reflection. “But what about ballerinas?” she asked. “Aren’t they strength and elegance on legs?”
“Yes, quite right.” I said, because I really enjoy the ballet too. “The difference is that a ballerina is strength and elegance on legs, with music in the background. Whereas a horse is strength and elegance on legs, that also eats hay.”
Again there was a pause and for a while I thought that my taxonomic ranking of horses in comparison to ballerinas was going to pass muster. But then it didn’t. “I think we should look it up,” she said, picking up a dictionary and reading. “It says here: a frame or structure on which something is mounted.”
“Is that a ballerina or a horse?” I asked.
It turns out that that’s a horse, but only the wooden kind – the kind of horse that you might hang your clothes on or use as a base while sawing a piece of wood. The other kind, the one that possesses strength and elegance, was described as: ‘a large plant-eating domesticated mammal with solid hooves and a flowing mane and tail.’ Which I thought was pretty much what I’d said in the first place.
The Collins English Dictionary takes a slightly different angle: ‘A horse is a large animal which people can ride. Some horses are used for pulling ploughs and carts.’
While it’s hard to take issue with that as a statement, you could possibly apply the same definition to oxen. And it’s a bit of an insult to the type of horses which will be running at Kelso on Saturday – they will definitely be the strong, elegant type, with solid hooves and flowing manes and tails. Horses like Cloth Cap (currently favourite for the Grand National), Aso, Lake View Lad, Two For Gold, Cool Mix and Definitely Red who make up the field for the bet365 Premier Steeplechase.
The beauty, the strength, the speed, the agility… And that’s just the office team as they prepare for a very special day at the racecourse. Because, while we enjoy every day that we get to see horses on the track, days like Saturday carry an extra spark of excitement. It’s the quality and competitiveness of the races, the grace and power of the horses – a spectacle that doesn’t just fill the eye, but also swells the heart and causes it to pump more powerfully.
It’s difficult to choose one horse out of so many classy individuals. This week’s selection is Solo in the bet365 Morebattle Hurdle – who could scoop a £100,000 bonus if he wins on Saturday and again at Cheltenham later this month. Expect to see him dancing down the home straight – like a ballerina, but with four legs, no music, and which likes to eat hay.