Life stud­ies

With the same tech­niques used to cre­ate mu­seum ex­hibits, we “re­con­struct” four fa­mous stal­lions, imag­in­ing what they looked like and how they moved.

EQUUS - - Contents - By Deb Ben­nett, PhD

With the same tech­niques used to cre­ate mu­seum ex­hibits, we “re­con­struct” four fa­mous stal­lions, imag­in­ing what they looked like and how they moved.

The first three parts of this series re­vealed the amaz­ing amount of in­for­ma­tion ev­ery bone and tooth in a horse’s body can con­vey. The CBS tele­vi­sion series “CSI” has brought this field, along with its sis­ter dis­ci­pline “foren­sic anal­y­sis,” into pub­lic aware­ness, but both de­rive from the tra­di­tional mu­seum sci­ence in which I have been trained. Th­ese fields re­quire sim­i­lar knowl­edge, es­pe­cially with re­spect to in­ter­pret­ing ev­i­dence from bones and teeth.

In this fi­nal in­stall­ment, we step back to look at the big pic­ture: the full skele­ton. First we ask what the in­di­vid­ual looked like in life---this is sim­i­lar to the work of the po­lice sketch artist who fleshes out the skull of an uniden­ti­fied mur­der vic­tim as part of the ef­fort to solve a “cold case.” The con­cept of “re­con­struct­ing the life ap­pear­ance” is an es­sen­tial part of cre­at­ing mu­seum ex­hibits de­signed to en­thrall the viewer. It in­volves mak­ing anatom­i­cally pre­cise draw­ings, paint­ings and three­d­i­men­sional mod­els that bring di­nosaurs, Ne­an­derthals and Tamer­lane au­then­ti­cally “to life” from their bony re­mains. Of course, hav­ing im­ages of near­est rel­a­tives would also be use­ful, so to as­sist in this im­por­tant bit of fun, I have dug up 19th cen­tury pho­to­graphs of sons of Mor­gans Black Hawk and Ethan Allen and the American Thor­ough­bred Lex­ing­ton. How much do the sons re­sem­ble their sires?

Build­ing on pho­tos and re­con­struc­tions, we can take the process a step or two fur­ther than is usual in po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion or ev­i­dence gath­er­ing for a jury trial. First, I an­a­lyze and com­pare the con­for­ma­tion of the four horses un­der study. How of­ten do you see a con­for­ma­tion anal­y­sis of a horse who died over a cen­tury ago? Or one of a stal­lion who is the an­ces­tor of lit­er­ally thou­sands of horses alive to­day? There’s no ques­tion as to the im­por­tance of this as­pect of our study to any­one who owns or breeds horses.

An­other thing not of­ten done dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a crime is re­con­struct­ing the move­ment style of the de­ceased in­di­vid­ual, but this is cer­tainly rel­e­vant to any­body in­ter­ested in buy­ing or train­ing a horse. In­so­far as it is valid to de­duce move­ment style and ath­letic ca­pa­bil­ity (“form to func­tion”) from the skele­tons of liv­ing horses--some­thing we have done hun­dreds of times in th­ese pages---it is also valid to de­duce it from the skele­tons of horses who lived a cen­tury and a half ago.

Did foun­da­tional Mor­gan sires Black Hawk and Ethan Allen re­ally move like those old Cur­rier and Ives lith­o­graphs seem to show? Did Lex­ing­ton, one of the cham­pi­ons of the old heat-rac­ing con­tests, use a gal­lop­ing style dif­fer­ent from his many de­scen­dants who have been win­ners over much shorter dis­tances? Are there any patholo­gies ev­i­dent in the skele­tons that would have af­fected the horses’ abil­ity to move eas­ily and swiftly?

The skele­tal re­mains of the four stal­lions an­a­lyzed in this series are of in­cred­i­ble value be­cause they are not mere anony­mous “spec­i­mens” but horses whose his­tory, ath­letic ac­com­plish­ments, pedi­gree and prog­eny

we know. For the full dossier on each, please re­fer to “Bones Speak Vol­umes” (EQUUS 482); here’s a brief sum­mary.

Black Hawk— Mor­gan, by Sher­man Mor­gan by Justin Mor­gan, out of a part-Thor­ough­bred mare. Foaled April 1, 1833, in Durham, New Hamp­shire; died De­cem­ber 1, 1856, age 23. He was the most pop­u­lar sire of his era, the first American stal­lion to com­mand a stud fee of more than $100, and the founder of a ma­jor bloodline within the Mor­gan breed.

Ethan Allen— Mor­gan, by Black Hawk out of Poll, she by Red Robin by Justin Mor­gan, and trac­ing on the distaff side to Bul­rush Mor­gan and Cana­dian horses. Foaled June 18, 1849, in Ti­con­deroga, New York; died Septem­ber 10, 1876, in Lawrence, Kansas, age 27. He was a cham­pion at the har­ness track, the most widely ad­mired horse of the Civil War era, and in his own right the founder of a ma­jor Mor­gan bloodline.

Lex­ing­ton— American Thor­ough­bred, by Bos­ton out of Alice Carneal. Foaled in Ken­tucky in 1849 or 1850; died July 1, 1875, age 25. The most suc­cess­ful Thor­ough­bred sire of all time, his name ap­pears in the pedi­grees of 75 per­cent of liv­ing American Thor­ough­breds.

Rolf— Prze­wal­ski's horse (Mon­go­lian Wild Horse) stal­lion, by Severin out of Rosette. Foaled at the Hellabrunn Zoo in Mu­nich, Ger­many, on June 6, 1951; died May 7, 1981, at the Topeka Zoo in Kansas, age 30, a longevity record for his sub­species at the time.


In pre­vi­ous in­stall­ments we ex­am­ined limb bones and feet look­ing pri­mar­ily for sound­ness is­sues, and then we took a close look at the skull es­pe­cially with re­spect to the con­di­tion of

the teeth. The last body zone we need to an­a­lyze is the spine, which is es­pe­cially rel­e­vant be­cause nor­mal equine move­ment be­gins in the spine. If the con­di­tion of the joints be­tween the ver­te­brae in­hib­ited flex­i­bil­ity, it is cer­tain that the an­i­mal would not have been able to walk, trot, can­ter or gal­lop in a nor­mal man­ner.

Rolf— I be­gin with Rolf’s case be­cause it pro­vides a valu­able base­line. A res­i­dent of zoos for his en­tire 30 years, this stal­lion was pe­ri­od­i­cally turned out in pas­ture to run with a herd of mares. The ma­jor­ity of the time, how­ever, Rolf lived on the main zoo grounds, in an en­clo­sure where he could be viewed by the pub­lic.

Ex­am­i­na­tion of Rolf’s skele­ton shows arthropa­thy af­fect­ing nearly ev­ery joint,

but par­tic­u­larly ev­i­dent in the joints of the ver­te­bral chain (“spondy­loarthropa­thy”). The wide­spread na­ture and sever­ity of bony changes in his skele­ton, with ex­os­to­sis and al­ter­ations in the nor­mal bone con­tours so great that they even in­vade the ver­te­bral canal, sug­gest chronic in­flam­ma­tion af­fect­ing all body sys­tems, rather than in­di­vid­ual le­sions caused by strain or in­jury.

It would be dif­fi­cult to pin­point the cause of chronic in­flam­ma­tion and re­sul­tant changes to nor­mal bone struc­ture, but I can state on the ba­sis of 40 years of ex­pe­ri­ence with bones of zoo an­i­mals housed in mu­seum col­lec­tions world­wide that such patholo­gies as ex­os­to­sis, arthri­tis and loss of bone min­eral con­tent (os­teo­poro­sis) are far more com­mon in zoo equines than in

wild or feral horses and some­what more com­mon and of­ten more se­vere than in do­mes­tic horses. Equines kept in zoos in­clude not only Prze­wal­ski’s horses but wild asses, on­agers and ze­bras.

Those an­i­mals are usu­ally kept pre­cisely be­cause they are ex­otic--from far-flung ar­eas across Africa and Asia---so it would be a rea­son­able guess that we do not fully un­der­stand how to feed them prop­erly. The species of grasses that th­ese an­i­mals eat in their na­tive ar­eas are not al­ways read­ily avail­able in the United States. Fur­ther, it is known that mus­tangs on range con­sume a far greater va­ri­ety of grasses and forbs than do most do­mes­ti­cated horses, and the same was true of the Prze­wal­ski’s horse in its orig­i­nal range in the Gobi high desert of Mon­go­lia. At all sea­sons, even when grass is avail­able, the Prze­wal­ski’s horse sup­ple­mented its diet by nib­bling on a wide va­ri­ety of broadleaf plants and even brush. The one tasty co­mestible, how­ever, that no wild equine has ever been ob­served to eat is al­falfa (in Europe called “lucerne”), and yet in zoos, as in many sta­bles, this forb forms the bulk of the diet.

There are blood­lines even among do­mes­ti­cated horses that can­not tol­er­ate al­falfa, and in which the con­sump­tion of this legume causes a va­ri­ety of in­flam­ma­tory, al­ler­gic-type re­ac­tions in the short term and changes to bone me­tab­o­lism and mi­crostruc­ture in the long term. The re­sponse of breed­ers has been to try to breed horses that will tol­er­ate al­falfa---as most do­mes­ti­cated horses do. But this is the very point: wild equines and the Prze­wal­ski’s horse in par­tic­u­lar have never been se­lected for mankind’s pur­poses or con­ve­nience, so there is at least some rea­son to think that a diet con­sist­ing of 50 per­cent or more of al­falfa might pro­voke

oc­cult and in­sid­i­ous in­flam­ma­tion that would af­fect many of the body’s meta­bolic pro­cesses.

So much for wild equines con­sid­ered as a whole. How com­mon is se­vere arthri­tis in Prze­wal­ski’s horses world­wide? The an­swer is not known to me, but it would be telling, be­cause all the Prze­wal­ski's horses now in ex­is­tence de­scend from only nine of 13 an­ces­tors who were taken from the wild, the last be­ing the mare Or­l­itza cap­tured in 1947. Al­though strong ef­forts have been made to en­sure “out­cross­ing” among Prze­wal­ski blood­lines, in a horse pop­u­la­tion de­scended from such a small num­ber of an­ces­tors, out­cross­ing doesn’t amount to much to­tal ge­netic diversity. I there­fore think it rea­son­able to ex­pect all Prze­wal­ski’s horses to re­act to al­falfa sim­i­larly. None­the­less, it is pos­si­ble that Rolf is sim­ply an in­di­vid­ual who was par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to sys­temic arthri­tis. Also keep in mind that Rolf died at age 30, old by any

mea­sure and a longevity record for his sub­species that stood for many years. The op­por­tu­nity for the de­vel­op­ment of arthritic changes, and their sever­ity, tends to in­crease with age.

Rolf’s case should also serve as a warn­ing not to over-in­ter­pret spinal patholo­gies; they can­not all be blamed upon the highly un­nat­u­ral act of rid­ing or on ill-fit­ting sad­dles or abuse. As a zoo an­i­mal Rolf was, of course, never rid­den. Even tak­ing diet and ge­netic sus­cep­ti­bil­ity into con­sid­er­a­tion, the adage “never get into the rock­ing chair be­cause you may never get out” prob­a­bly holds true in his case: It is hard on horses to be stalled or penned for long stretches, and lack of move­ment prob­a­bly also took a toll.

Ev­ery­thing in horse­keep­ing in­volves man­age­ment de­ci­sions---in the sta­ble as much as in the zoo---be­cause there is no “nat­u­ral” way to ride and no “nat­u­ral” way to keep horses as long as they are fenced in en­clo­sures smaller than

about 40 acres, par­tic­u­larly if the en­clo­sure con­tains only a few dif­fer­ent nu­tri­tious plant species. Horses who must be kept off pas­ture be­cause they over-fat­ten and/or have meta­bolic dis­ease or other med­i­cal con­di­tions that rule out free-range graz­ing ben­e­fit greatly from reg­u­lar rid­ing. Many a do­mes­tic horse, whether stall-kept or pas­tured, has been main­tained as a good and ca­pa­ble per­former long into his 20s and even 30s by reg­u­lar, sym­pa­thetic and skill­ful rid­ing.

Black Hawk— This foun­da­tional Mor­gan sire shows lit­tle bony pathol­ogy any­where in his skele­ton, de­spite hav­ing lived 23 years. There are no de­tectable patholo­gies in­volv­ing Black Hawk’s spine, the only sur­prise be­ing a lum­bar ver­te­bral count of only five.

Ethan Allen— Due to burial in the ground for 13 years, Ethan Allen’s bones show greater degra­da­tion from soil acids and in­sect and bac­te­rial at­tack than do any of the oth­ers. None­the­less, this horse, like his sire, presents noth­ing in the way of ver­te­bral pathol­ogy. He has

a nor­mal lum­bar count of six, with the L5-L6 joint as well as the lum­bosacral joint com­pletely un­fused and free of pathol­ogy. Just for in­ter­est’s sake, com­pare Ethan Allen’s L5-L6 joint (page 41) to that of an 1,800-year-old horse re­cov­ered from a Ro­man fort in north­ern Eng­land. The an­cient horse shows fu­sion not due to pathol­ogy but in­di­cat­ing Eastern (not Ara­bian) in­flu­ence (the Ara­bian horse did not come into ex­is­tence un­til about 700).

Lex­ing­ton— While both Black Hawk and Ethan Allen were used al­most ex­clu­sively for driv­ing, as a flat-track racer Lex­ing­ton was rid­den. Lex­ing­ton’s back is very ab­nor­mal; lit­er­ally ev­ery ver­te­bral joint from the base of the withers (T5-T6) rear­ward to the lum­bosacral joint shows ex­os­to­sis. Move­ment at most of the joints was se­ri­ously com­pro­mised; some are solidly fused to­gether. Dur­ing Lex­ing­ton’s ca­reer in the 1850s, jock­eys still used the “back seat” rid­ing style, in which the jockey’s butt slaps down against the sad­dle with ev­ery gal­lop­ing leap (to see this hap­pen­ing, go on­line to the Wikipedia page on Ead­weard Muy­bridge where you can view con­tem­po­rary 19th cen­tury zooprax­is­cope “films” of Thor­ough­breds be­ing rid­den in the back-seat jock­ey­ing style). Re­peated con­cus­sion set up a lo­cal­ized in­flam­ma­tory process that even­tu­ated in ex­os­toses and fu­sions con­cen­trated in the sad­dle area.

Lex­ing­ton’s ca­reer at the track lasted only two years, due to the fact that he be­came com­pletely blind at the age of 5 (see “Oral His­tory,” EQUUS 484). He re­tired to stud, as his­to­ri­ans have noted “sound of wind and limb”---but not re­ally sound at all. In pre­vi­ous fea­ture ar­ti­cles (“Se­crets of Sec­re­tar­iat’s Speed,” EQUUS 434, and “American Pharoah and the Triple Crown,” EQUUS 458) I have pointed out that the most im­por­tant de­ter­mi­nant of speed is not to be looked for in the con­for­ma­tion of a race­horse’s limbs, but rather in the flex­i­bil­ity of the spine. While no horse will run if there is pain in his hooves, and no horse will win if he can’t breathe, Lex­ing­ton was com­pletely sound in th­ese re­spects. I con­clude from his track record---the horse set records nearly ev­ery time out---that un­til he was 5 Lex­ing­ton’s back could still flex, and thus he gal­loped nor­mally, pow­er­fully, and ef­fi­ciently.

There is an­other rea­son to be­lieve this: At 5 years old, a horse’s ver­te­brae have barely ma­tured. The last ver­te­bral growth plates to close per­tain to the low­est three joints in the neck. Oth­er­wise the ver­te­brae be­come ma­ture

from the sacrum for­ward, the process be­gin­ning at about 18 months of age with the sacrum and at­las but not com­plet­ing (at the base of the neck) un­til the horse is at least 6 years old. In the 19th cen­tury it was com­mon for a flat-track racer not to start his ca­reer un­til age 5 or even 6, and I sus­pect that Richard Ten Broeck, who owned Lex­ing­ton from the age of 3, knew that the horse was likely to go blind. He was there­fore mo­ti­vated to get him into com­pe­ti­tion as early as pos­si­ble.

Two fac­tors thus con­spired in Lex­ing­ton’s life to cause the de­vel­op­ment of spinal fu­sions: de­mand for ex­treme ath­letic ef­fort be­fore phys­i­cal ma­tu­rity, and be­ing con­stantly smacked in the back. Close-up pho­tos of Lex­ing­ton’s ver­te­brae show that the na­ture and pat­tern of his spinal patholo­gies is dif­fer­ent than in Rolf. Rolf’s le­sions are prickly-look­ing ex­os­toses and he has three fused tho­racic ver­te­brae. While some of Lex­ing­ton’s le­sions are also prickly ex­os­toses, most of them con­sist of thick sec­ondary bony de­posits with a smooth tex­ture that glue ad­ja­cent ver­te­brae to­gether. This is also true, for ex­am­ple, of a pair of Ro­man horse ver­te­brae from the same ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site men­tioned above--a much more an­cient horse in which I sus­pect that fu­sion was also due to un­sym­pa­thetic rid­ing. In both the Ro­man horse and in Lex­ing­ton, ab­nor­mal bone de­po­si­tion is con­cen­trated on the top and bot­tom as­pects of the ver­te­brae; this is not true of Rolf, whose le­sions are mainly on the tops of the dor­sal pro­cesses and on the sides of ver­te­bral joints. In Lex­ing­ton, there is a very clear spinal fu­sion be­tween tho­racics 12 and 13---just be­neath the fore arch of the sad­dle; the Ro­man horse’s fu­sion oc­curs at the very same joint.

If Lex­ing­ton’s back was still flex­i­ble when he was 5, when did fu­sions de­velop? My sug­ges­tion is that the con­cus­sional in­sults the horse en­dured dur­ing his race ca­reer pro­voked in­flam­ma­tion in the deep tissues along his back, an in­flam­ma­tion that would al­ready have been no­tice­able be­fore he was re­tired to stud. It is easy to imag­ine that the stal­lion might have been rather “girthy” in the sad­dling pad­dock, and de­spite his rep­u­ta­tion for hav­ing an easy­go­ing tem­per­a­ment, he might have laid back his ears, tried to duck away from the sad­dle, crow-hopped or taken a swipe with a hind foot at the sta­ble­hand at­tempt­ing to tighten the girth. At most rac­ing sta­bles, even to­day, this sort of “be­hav­ior”---ac­tu­ally the horse’s at­tempt

This pro­fes­sional en­grav­ing of Black Hawk (A) was made from life. In 1845, trot­tinghorse fancier S.W. Jewett made a draw­ing of Black Hawk from life (B), when the stal­lion was 12 years old. Pho­to­graphs of Black Hawk sons, Smith’s Black Hawk (A) and He­men­way’s horse, a.k.a. Farmer (B). to com­mu­ni­cate that he is un­com­fort­able---is usu­ally dis­missed as be­ing “just the way horses are.”

R.A. Alexan­der pur­chased Lex­ing­ton from Richard Ten Broeck in 1856 and re­tired the now-blind horse to stud. At Alexan­der’s Wood­burn sta­bles in Ken­tucky, Lex­ing­ton was man­aged in the tra­di­tional English man­ner: for fear of catch­ing a chill, he was blan­keted to the nines at all sea­sons, and the sta­ble was kept dark and un­ven­ti­lated. The stal­lion was taken out daily to stale, roll and wa­ter and was rid­den sev­eral times per week for ex­er­cise, but be­cause of his blind­ness he was not per­mit­ted on pas­ture.

Lex­ing­ton made his owner far more money as a breed­ing sire than he had as a race­horse; the stal­lion got more than 375 reg­is­tra­ble colts and fil­lies dur­ing a 20-year ca­reer at stud, that is, about 20 per year. As­sum­ing a 60 per­cent rate of suc­cess­ful foal­ing, this means that Lex­ing­ton was mated to about 26 mares per sea­son, each of which he would prob­a­bly mount at least twice. Thus, even as Lex­ing­ton lost his sight and his abil­ity to gal­lop nor­mally, he re­tained the abil­ity to mount mares. A case might be made that Lex­ing­ton’s back patholo­gies were caused strictly by the strain of mount­ing, but the pat­tern of pathol­ogy---di­rectly un­der the sad­dle area yet not greatly af­fect­ing the lum­bar span---ar­gues against this idea. Lex­ing­ton’s cer­vi­cal ver­te­brae are also clear of pathol­ogy.


Rolf— Since this stal­lion lived in re­cent times, one might have hoped for a good con­for­ma­tion photo that would make “re­con­struct­ing” his life ap­pear­ance un­nec­es­sary. Un­for­tu­nately, there are no side shots of him that can be

used for con­for­ma­tion anal­y­sis---al­though it is easy to find pho­to­graphs of other Prze­wal­ski’s horses. They are dis­tinc­tive in pos­sess­ing an erect mane--the hairs are not sig­nif­i­cantly stiffer than those of do­mes­tic horses, but as in asses, on­agers and ze­bras, sim­ply do not grow longer than about four to five inches. In the win­ter sea­son the mane along with the body coat be­comes much thicker, and the horse grows long “beard” hairs from the jowls to the muz­zle. There is no fore­top at any sea­son.

The Prze­wal­ski’s horse also has a dis­tinc­tive tail; the up­per por­tion is “capped” by a thick tuft of some­what stiff, short, lighter-col­ored hairs, which ex­tend out­ward and down­ward from the top and sides of the dock. The tail cap grows thick and long in win­ter and serves to shel­ter the thin skin of the per­ineum from icy win­ter blasts.

The Prze­wal­ski coat color ranges from a tawny golden shade to brown tinged with red. The pat­tern­ing is sim­i­lar to dun in do­mes­tic horses: There is al­ways a dark dor­sal stripe, dark points, and hor­i­zon­tal strip­ing on the legs that ex­tends up­ward from the dark can­nons and pasterns to as high as the el­bows and thighs. The muz­zle is, how­ever, mealy rather than black and there is a mealy ring about the eye. Prze­wal­ski’s horses are shaded darker along the up­per half of the neck, the up­per shoul­der, and along the back, while the lower half of the neck, breast, belly, in­ner flanks and the cau­dal as­pects of the thighs shade into a light cream, in some in­di­vid­u­als al­most white; the tech­ni­cal name for this pat­tern is “pan­garé.” Bright white, sharply-de­lin­eated mark­ings on the face, body or legs are, how­ever, never present.

I men­tion coat color be­cause dun color and pat­tern­ing with leg stripes is of­ten con­sid­ered to be “prim­i­tive.” In ac­tual fact, there is not a sin­gle thing about the Prze­wal­ski’s horse that is prim­i­tive, and it is a mis­take to think of any horse as be­ing prim­i­tive sim­ply on the ba­sis of coat color. Buck­skin­col­ored do­mes­tic horses such as the Sor­raia of Por­tu­gal and some mus­tangs in the United States are no more prim­i­tive than any other do­mes­tic horses. The Prze­wal­ski’s horse is not the an­ces­tor of do­mes­tic horses; it has a chro­mo­some com­pli­ment of 66, and the do­mes­tic horse has 64. While it is pos­si­ble for Prze­wal­ski’s horses to in­ter­breed with do­mes­tic horses, the two sub­species also have sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in DNA.

Prze­wal­ski’s horses have not been part of the long his­tory of do­mes­ti­ca­tion, and their breed­ing has not been di­rected for hu­man pur­poses. Be­cause of this, there are many con­for­ma­tion dif­fer­ences be­tween do­mes­tic and Prze­wal­ski’s horses. While the skele­tal frame dif­fers, their mus­cu­lar anatomy is al­most iden­ti­cal. From a photo I took of one of Rolf’s mares in the 1980s, and from notes I made dur­ing my study

of Rolf’s car­cass, it has been pos­si­ble to pro­duce the im­age of the mus­cu­lar anatomy of a typ­i­cal Prze­wal­ski horse on page 58.

Black Hawk— Un­for­tu­nately, the mounted skele­ton of Black Hawk has suf­fered dam­age in the 160 years since it was col­lected and mounted at the be­hest of med­i­cal doc­tor and vet­eri­nary sur­geon Ge­orge Dadd. My in­spec­tion re­vealed sev­eral episodes of dam­age, in­clud­ing break­age, clumsy at­tempts at re­pair and clean­ing, warp­ing of the ar­ma­ture, in­cor­rect re-ar­tic­u­la­tion of some of the bones, and mis­di­rected ef­forts to de­form the mount to force it to con­form to cer­tain mod­ern “show horse” ideals. Taxi­der­mists and os­te­ol­o­gists of the 19th cen­tury took pride, rather, in pro­duc­ing skele­tal mounts so balanced, so well ar­tic­u­lated, and so re­al­is­tic in pose that they seemed to come alive be­fore the viewer’s very eyes. In this tra­di­tion, and in hopes that they will serve as a model for needed restora­tion of the ac­tual skele­ton, I present a dig­i­tal restora­tion of Black Hawk’s skele­ton. I pre­sented the dig­i­tally re­stored skull for close-up study in our last in­stall­ment; in the full skele­ton I have “re­paired” bones that were bro­ken by ac­ci­dent or van­dal­ism, and I have repo­si­tioned the neck, back, pelvis and hind limbs to re­flect a nat­u­ral stance.

From this dig­i­tal re-mount­ing it has been pos­si­ble to de­rive a re­al­is­tic draw­ing of the life ap­pear­ance of this grand old horse. Two qual­ity en­grav­ings were made of Black Hawk dur­ing his life­time, but both suf­fer from the artis­tic con­ven­tions of the day, which called for the artist to shrink the size of the head, muz­zle, ears and dis­tal parts of the limbs, while length­en­ing the neck and en­larg­ing the hindquar­ters. My draw­ing, made from the dig­i­tally re­stored skele­ton, is closer to Black Hawk’s ac­tual ap­pear­ance, cor­rob­o­rated by pho­to­graphs of three of Black Hawk’s sons. I think He­men­way’s horse, Farmer, was par­tic­u­larly like his sire and a very beau­ti­ful an­i­mal in­deed. As we will see in the con­for­ma­tion anal­y­sis on page 51, Black Hawk was a su­pe­rior in­di­vid­ual and it is not sur­pris­ing that he was the most pop­u­lar breed­ing sire of his day.

Ethan Allen— This son of Black Hawk was un­like his sire in many ways: Pro­por­tion­ally longer in back, body and limbs and less cor­rect in hav­ing some­what crooked or “over-an­gu­lated” hind limbs, he was over­all more “framey” and less broad-bod­ied. None­the­less

Ethan Allen shows his sire’s long neck, big pow­er­ful hindquar­ters, mag­nif­i­cent shoul­der, sub­stan­tial bone, broad hocks and knees, good hooves and un­du­lat­ing nasal pro­file. Ethan Allen’s pro­por­tions are lovely and har­mo­nious, and he was an elas­tic, longstrid­ing, “clean” mover in har­ness who was ca­pa­ble of rac­ing speed at the trot.

We have good pho­to­graphs of two of Ethan Allen’s sons, both of them founders of Mor­gan breed­ing dy­nas­ties in their own right. Daniel Lam­bert, who was as good-minded and kind a horse as his sire, in many ways harks back to Black Hawk: Note the long, cresty neck, short, wide back and spec­tac­u­lar shoul­der. He has wide, sub­stan­tial hocks and cor­rectly an­gu­lated hind limbs but is a lit­tle light of bone and tied in un­der the knee in front. Hon­est Allen (1855) is about as solid a horse as any­body could wish for: He presents the same har­mo­nious build as his sire while adding more bone sub­stance. The pop­u­lar­ity of th­ese horses in their day is a tes­ta­ment to the com­mon­sense con­sumerism of our fore­fa­thers, who de­pended upon horses to help them in al­most ev­ery as­pect of life. Farm­ers, ranch­ers, mer­chants and towns­men all wanted sound horses, easy to break in and train, who were both ef­fi­cient in move­ment and beau­ti­ful to look at.

It is not nec­es­sary to re­store Ethan Allen's life ap­pear­ance, since we hae an ex­cel­lent pho­to­graph taken by the noted stere­og­ra­phers Schereiber and Sons when the horse was 10 years old and at the peak of his ath­letic ca­reer. I have there­fore taken thee op­por­tu­nity to work the usual mu­seum restora­tion process in re­verse, and have used the pho­to­graph as a guide to dig­i­tally re-ar­tic­u­late the skele­ton, which is in too frag­ile a con­di­tion to mount.

Lex­ing­ton— Lex­ing­ton died in 1875 and spent three years un­der­ground, at which point his owner, R.A. Alexan­der, do­nated his re­mains to the U.S. Na­tional Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory, Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion. The mu­seum con­tracted with Ward’s Nat­u­ral Sci­ence Es­tab­lish­ment to mount the skele­ton. I present pho­tos of it taken from both sides: one taken re­cently by me, and the other taken in 1879, soon af­ter com­ple­tion of the mount­ing job but be­fore the skele­ton was put on ex­hibit. A full right­side view of Lex­ing­ton’s skele­ton has not been avail­able (due to the po­si­tion­ing of the mount in its glass case) for over a cen­tury.

Ward’s tech­ni­cians prob­a­bly had ac­cess to the one ex­ist­ing pho­to­graph of Lex­ing­ton, and I be­lieve that this in­flu­enced them in choos­ing the pose for the mount, with the horse’s neck and head pro­jected some­what stiffly to the front. It is al­ways in­ter­est­ing to look at con­tem­po­rary art­work, and in this case we can demon­strate a cas­cade of in­flu­ence. The fa­mous paint­ing of Lex­ing­ton “from life” by Ed­ward Troye, com­pleted in about 1860, re­stores nor­mal eyes to “the blind hero of Wood­burn” (the globes of Lex­ing­ton’s eyes had de­te­ri­o­rated by the time the pho­to­graph was taken of him, which was at about the same time that Troye vis­ited the horse for the pur­pose of mak­ing sketches). Troye’s paint­ing, like the artis­tic ren­di­tions of Black Hawk, con­forms to the artis­tic fash­ion of the mid-19th cen­tury in por­tray­ing the horse’s neck longer, the head smaller, the muz­zle finer and the dis­tal parts of the limbs tinier than they were in real life. The pho­to­graph con­firms that Troye’s ren­di­tion is ac­cu­rate in por­tray­ing a smoothly-con­formed and well­bal­anced horse who had ex­cep­tion­ally big, pow­er­ful haunches; high, sharp withers; a well-cou­pled back; shapely neck; and a long and el­e­gant but more up­right shoul­der than the Mor­gan horses pre­vi­ously ex­am­ined. While Troye’s paint­ing de­picts un­re­al­is­ti­cally thin limbs and small hooves, study of the skele­ton con­firms that Lex­ing­ton re­ally had finer limbs and longer fore­arms, can­nons and pasterns than the Mor­gans while not sac­ri­fic­ing any­thing

in the way of breadth of hock or knee.

An im­por­tant fact that should be borne in mind is that, al­though Lex­ing­ton has usu­ally been re­ported to have stood 15:1 hands or taller, mea­sure­ment of the skele­tal mount proves that he could not have stood more than 14:2 hands.

We have good pho­to­graphs of two of Lex­ing­ton’s sons, both foaled in 1861 and both out of daugh­ters of Glen­coe (al­most 70 per­cent of Lex­ing­ton’s foals were out of Glen­coe daugh­ters, and R.A. Alexan­der man­aged to round up a spec­tac­u­lar brood­mare band con­tain­ing al­most 50 of th­ese, as well as daugh­ters of Stock­well, Wood­pecker, Al­bion, Van­dal, American Eclipse and a dozen other very fa­mous Thor­ough­bred sires. There is no ques­tion that Lex­ing­ton was given the op­por­tu­nity to cover the very best). Nor­folk is light in build and rather high in the knees but car­ries his sire’s pow­er­ful hindquar­ters, near-level body bal­ance, long slash­ing shoul­der, and long neck.

Of the two colts, As­teroid is the more beau­ti­ful, pre­sent­ing all of the above­men­tioned good qual­i­ties while adding more sub­stance. Be­cause of the dan­ger posed by Con­fed­er­ate raiders--Ken­tucky never se­ceded from the Union and was not of­fi­cially a part of the Con­fed­er­acy---Alexan­der moved Lex­ing­ton and many valu­able brood­mares to Illi­nois for the du­ra­tion of the Civil War. In 1864, As­teroid---only 3 years old at the time---was kid­napped from Wood­burn by a band of Con­fed­er­ate gueril­las. Alexan­der im­me­di­ately sent a Union mili­tia cap­tain, out of uni­form and incog­nito, to find the rustlers and re­cover the horse. Catch­ing up to them, the cap­tain made up a sob story about the colt be­ing the Alexan­der fam­ily’s beloved pet. The gueril­las, un­aware of the horse’s true value, agreed to ran­som him for $250. What I think most sig­nif­i­cant about this story is that out of all the horses at Wood­burn, the

raiders went for As­teroid, the best and most beau­ti­ful colt of the lot.


Black Hawk vs. Ethan Allen— It’s in­ter­est­ing to be­gin this sec­tion by com­par­ing sire and son. Black Hawk is in all but one way the bet­ter of the two horses---but I say this with­out tak­ing any­thing away from Ethan Allen, who was a very good horse in his own right. Re­view­ing the ta­ble of mea­sured body pro­por­tions and an­gles (see “Com­par­a­tive Con­for­ma­tion Anal­y­sis,” page 40), Black Hawk is, to be­gin with, a rar­ity in pos­sess­ing a level or even “up­hill” body bal­ance. He also has the shorter, broader and stronger back and the more sub­stan­tial and cor­rectly ar­tic­u­lated limbs. Th­ese three fac­tors are very re­li­able pre­dic­tors of ath­letic ca­pa­bil­ity and po­ten­tial sound­ness.

De­spite con­tem­po­rary art­work that makes his head look dainty, Black Hawk had the kind of mas­sive, well-carved and noble head which we to­day as­so­ci­ate with the An­dalu­sian and the Lip­iz­zan---in my opin­ion, the best and most de­sir­able of all head types. De­spite its sub­stance and depth, Black Hawk’s head was not overly large for his body but in good pro­por­tion. The head sat atop a won­der­ful neck of ex­cep­tional length yet nor­mal shape, at once strong and flex­i­ble. The shoul­derbed from which it sprang was wellde­fined, the shoul­der it­self laid back some 52 de­grees, guar­an­tee­ing that the fore­limb ac­tion would be car­ried well to the front.

Black Hawk’s haunches were shapely and of good size but of course do not match the ex­ag­ger­a­tions of con­tem­po­rary art­work; the pelvis mea­sures just shy of 30 per­cent of the body length, about av­er­age for do­mes­tic horses. Black Hawk had the kind of rounded haunch which is typ­i­cal of Mor­gan horses, with a fairly steep croup and only about six de­grees of dif­fer­ence in slope be­tween the croup and pelvis.

Black Hawk’s can­non bones and gaskins were short and stout, a fac­tor that gen­er­ally pre­dicts good breadth through the knee and hock joints. At the same time, his fe­mur is pro­por­tion­ally long, a fac­tor help­ing to guar­an­tee a long stride al­though not a rapid one. As we will see in the sec­tion on style of move­ment (page 55), Black Hawk was what to­day we call a “road­ster”---in­deed, the most ideal road­ster horse of all time.

Black Hawk’s son Ethan Allen is more of a race­horse than his papa; he is nar­rower-bod­ied over­all, pro­por­tion­ally a lit­tle longer in the limbs and higher in the croup, with an over­all body bal­ance that goes a cou­ple of de­grees down­hill. Ethan Allen’s to­tal hind limb length is greater than his sire’s and per­haps a lit­tle greater than it should have been; horse fanciers of his day no­ticed Ethan Allen’s “crooked” hind

limbs, the term “crooked” mean­ing over-an­gu­lated or a lit­tle too “Z”-shaped. But over-an­gu­la­tion is re­ally noth­ing more than ex­tra to­tal hind limb length packed un­der the croup. A hind limb with a lit­tle ex­tra length will, of course, add to the length of the hind step---the dis­tance a horse can reach for­ward with the hind hooves dur­ing move­ment. It is a mis­take to con­fuse this, how­ever, with stride length---the dis­tance the horse’s body flies for­ward through the air dur­ing the pe­riod when no hooves are upon the ground. Long stride is cre­ated by pow­er­ful ef­fort of the mus­cles that orig­i­nate on the pelvis and in­sert upon the fe­mur, gaskin and point of hock.

In­deed, the one ma­jor area where Ethan Allen bests his sire is in the length and struc­ture of the pelvis and sacrum. His pelvis is a smidge longer and a few de­grees more hor­i­zon­tal in car­riage, with a much larger dif­fer­ence be­tween the croup slope, which is nearly level, and the pelvic slope. This dif­fer­ence---a pre­dic­tor of speed--is called an “Ara­bian tri­an­gle” and is al­most ex­clu­sively found in Arabians and Thor­ough­breds (see “The Source of Power,” EQUUS 402). Ethan Allen de­scends from no close-up Ara­bian an­ces­tor but does hark back to Thor­ough­breds on both sides of the pedi­gree. As we will see in the move­ment as­sess­ment, while Black Hawk is the epit­ome of the road­ster---stylish in move­ment but not fast by mod­ern stan­dards---Ethan Allen is built to be the cham­pion har­ness racer that he ac­tu­ally was.

The Mor­gans vs. Lex­ing­ton— Both Ethan Allen and Lex­ing­ton are “racier” horses than Black Hawk, and they share a list of con­for­ma­tional fea­tures that con­duce to speed: rel­a­tively flat body, pro­por­tion­ally long pelvis and long limbs. Both have down­hill over­all body bal­ance, though Lex­ing­ton is balanced about four de­grees more down­hill than Ethan Allen. We have noted that Ethan Allen’s hind limbs are a bit over-an­gu­lated, but Lex­ing­ton’s are cor­rectly built, like Black Hawk’s. Whereas a lit­tle ex­tra to­tal hind limb length can help a har­ness horse, a straighter hind limb is usu­ally pre­ferred in a flat-track gal­loper.

In over­all pro­por­tions, the great­est dif­fer­ence Lex­ing­ton presents is in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween withers height and body length: He is taller than long, whereas both Mor­gans stand over more ground. In­ter­est­ingly, Lex­ing­ton’s body is not shorter be­cause his back is shorter but be­cause his shoul­der is sig­nif­i­cantly steeper. This, too, is typ­i­cal of the flat-track racer. There is a ninede­gree dif­fer­ence in shoul­der an­gle be­tween Lex­ing­ton and Black Hawk, which as any far­rier will tell you, makes a big dif­fer­ence in the “style” of fore­limb move­ment---ei­ther long, flat and ef­fi­cient as in the race­horse, or rounder and higher as in the har­ness horse. In har­mony with a more up­right shoul­der are Lex­ing­ton’s rel­a­tively steep and some­what short pasterns.

Lex­ing­ton’s build is also taller than long be­cause he has pro­por­tion­ally long legs. This is par­tic­u­larly ev­i­dent in the fore­quar­ter, with the lengths of shoul­der, arm, fore­arm and fore can­non

all longer than in the Mor­gans. This kind of build gives the gal­loper tremen­dous “reach” and, be­cause dur­ing the gal­lop the horse pushes off from the fore­limbs as well as from the hind limbs, it is a sig­nif­i­cant help to speed. The pri­mary en­gine for speed is, how­ever, the horse’s hindquar­ter. As we might ex­pect, Lex­ing­ton’s pelvis at 32.5 per­cent of the body length is the largest of the horses an­a­lyzed, giv­ing the most po­ten­tial power.

Lex­ing­ton’s head is no­tice­ably wedge-shaped with big jowls ta­per­ing to a fine muz­zle. It is pro­por­tion­ally smaller than in ei­ther Mor­gan, while his neck is even longer than Black Hawk’s.

Rolf and other Prze­wal­ski’s horses— The Prze­wal­ski’s horse presents many sig­nif­i­cant con­for­ma­tional dif­fer­ences when com­pared to any do­mes­tic horse of Ara­bian, Turkmene or Thor­ough­bred ex­trac­tion and is dif­fer­ent even from such su­per­fi­cially sim­i­lar do­mes­tic breeds as the Ice­landic, Got­land or Nor­we­gian Fjord. One of the most im­por­tant dif­fer­ences---and one that does not show up di­rectly in the ta­ble of mea­sure­ments---is in the height and def­i­ni­tion of the withers. All of the lighter and smaller do­mes­tic horse breeds have, at some his­tor­i­cal pe­riod, been rid­den, and many are pri­mar­ily in­tended for rid­ing. One of the first ef­fects that mankind had in shap­ing the do­mes­tic horse was to se­lect for higher, sharper withers, for the very prac­ti­cal rea­son that this ma­te­ri­ally as­sists a rider in stay­ing on and is es­pe­cially handy to keep the sad­dle from rolling. Com­pare the height of the dor­sal pro­cesses that struc­ture the withers in the Prze­wal­ski’s horse skele­tal mount with their height in ei­ther of the Mor­gans or, es­pe­cially, in Lex­ing­ton. High withers have the dou­ble ben­e­fit of

as­sist­ing neck func­tion, es­pe­cially im­por­tant in rac­ing and jump­ing; but the Prze­wal­ski's horse has never ex­pe­ri­enced se­lec­tion for a longer, finer neck.

Rid­ing horses ben­e­fit in terms of both sound­ness and style when the fore­arm is long but the fore can­non bone is short; the Prze­wal­ski’s horse presents the op­po­site. The hind can­nons are longer than in most do­mes­tic horses as well, even though the to­tal hind limb length is sig­nif­i­cantly shorter: The Prze­wal­ski’s horse has some­what open hind an­gles, which as­sists speed. The pelvis is of about av­er­age length for do­mes­tic horses and has more slope than we find in Lex­ing­ton or the Mor­gans, with a sig­nif­i­cantly big­ger “Ara­bian tri­an­gle.” Speed is, of course, cru­cial to a wild an­i­mal whose life de­pends upon flee­ing preda­tors.

One can­not look at a Prze­wal­ski’s horse and not be struck by how large and heavy the an­i­mal’s head is: about 5 per­cent longer than do­mes­tic horses com­pared to body length and a whop­ping 30 per­cent longer com­pared to the length of the neck. The muz­zle is very deep, giv­ing the head a boxy rather than a wedge shape. The Prze­wal­ski’s heavy head is an adap­ta­tion to sur­viv­ing ex­tremes of cold and heat---it has large si­nuses and nasal cav­i­ties that serve to warm in­spired air dur­ing the frigid win­ter and to hu­mid­ify dry air dur­ing the heat of the Gobi sum­mer. A deep head also al­lows longer re­serve crowns to the teeth and thus a po­ten­tially longer life­span---an an­i­mal in the wild can­not sur­vive af­ter its teeth wear out. Deep heads that have a straight or slightly arched fa­cial pro­file tend to be the most prob­lem-free in terms of den­tal mal­oc­clu­sions. Peo­ple of all cul­tures have spent thou­sands of years se­lect­ing for greater re­fine­ment in the heads of do­mes­tic horses, and that’s fine---to a point. But the Prze­wal­ski’s horse teaches us that breed­ers who can’t see past an “ex­treme” head with a sharply con­cave fa­cial pro­file and tiny muz­zle do no ser­vice to their breed or to the horse species as a whole.

An­other very sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence is in over­all body bal­ance---the Prze­wal­ski’s horse is balanced steeply down­hill. While this is no im­ped­i­ment to speed, it makes the horse un­com­fort­able for a rider to sit on while si­mul­ta­ne­ously mak­ing the task of car­ry­ing the rider and achiev­ing collection more dif­fi­cult for the horse. Even the Quar­ter Horse and al­lied breeds that are typ­i­cally built “down­hill” rarely are as for­wardtilted as the Prze­wal­ski’s horse.

Prob­a­bly the sin­gle most sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­tween the Prze­wal­ski sub­species and do­mes­tic horses is in bone sub­stance: The Mon­go­lian wild horse mea­sures nine to 14 inches of bone-ten­don cir­cum­fer­ence per 1,000 pounds of weight, while the av­er­age for do­mes­tic horses is just over seven inches. Loss of bone sub­stance has been noted in ev­ery hoofed do­mes­ti­cate. Anal­y­sis of re­mains of do­mes­tic vs. wild sheep, goats and cat­tle re­cov­ered from ar­chae­o­log­i­cal digs dat­ing to the be­gin­ning of an­i­mal do­mes­ti­ca­tion shows that loss of bone sub­stance oc­curred al­most as soon as the species came into do­mes­ti­ca­tion. In short, peo­ple’s first pri­or­ity af­ter cap­tur­ing an­i­mals from the wild for the pur­pose of breed­ing them was to cre­ate smaller, slighter and weaker ver­sions of their wild an­ces­tors, prob­a­bly to make them

eas­ier to han­dle. How­ever, we do not keep most breeds of horses to shear them, slaugh­ter them for meat, or milk them, but rather value them pri­mar­ily for strength, sound­ness and ca­pac­ity for work.

I have of­ten on this ba­sis en­cour­aged do­mes­tic breed­ers not to fall in love with ex­ag­ger­ated “ideals” of re­fine­ment, such as is de­picted in 19th cen­tury art­work. We al­ready have plenty of re­fine­ment; what horse breed­ers mainly need to do nowa­days is guard the sound­ness of do­mes­tic horses of all breeds. That is best done by en­sur­ing that race­horses have at least 7.5 inches of bone-ten­don cir­cum­fer­ence per 1,000 pounds of weight, and eight inches in horses in­tended for rid­ing (see “A Sense of Pro­por­tion,” EQUUS 388).


One of the most hotly de­bated ques­tions dur­ing the 19th cen­tury was whether or not a gal­lop­ing horse ever “flew thro’ the air” with no foot in con­tact with the ground. Artists of the time al­most al­ways showed horses in this pose, both at trot and gal­lop, but this was rec­og­nized even then as be­ing a draughts­man’s con­ven­tion. Not un­til just af­ter Lex­ing­ton’s death was the con­tro­versy put to rest by Ead­weard Muy­bridge, who pi­o­neered mo­tion­cap­ture by us­ing mul­ti­ple cam­eras and pro­jected the re­sult­ing im­ages with his in­ven­tion, the ro­tat­ing zooprax­is­cope.

It turns out that both fac­tions in the con­tro­versy were wrong. Al­though Muy­bridge’s work con­firmed that there is in­deed a pe­riod of sus­pen­sion dur­ing which all four of the horse’s feet are off the ground in trot, can­ter and gal­lop, the artis­tic con­ven­tion tended to rep­re­sent this in an ex­ag­ger­ated way. With re­spect to the gal­lop, there is ac­tu­ally a phase dur­ing a vari­ant of the gait, called the dou­ble-sus­pen­sion or ro­ta­tory gal­lop, in which the horse’s limbs as­sume a con­fig­u­ra­tion sim­i­lar to the “fly­ing” pose that 19th cen­tury artists were fond of de­pict­ing (see “Se­crets of Sec­re­tar­iat’s Speed,” EQUUS 434, and “American Pharoah and the Triple Crown,” EQUUS 458)---but only the great­est cham­pi­ons have proven ca­pa­ble of this form of the gal­lop. With re­spect to the trot, the 19th cen­tury ideal for both the road­ster and the har­ness racer was for an over-level fore­arm and very tightly folded hind limb---in other words, a lot of knee and hock “ac­tion.” But no film se­quence of an ac­tual har­ness horse, even the fastest or most stylish, has ever demon­strated as much of this as the old Cur­rier and Ives-style lith­o­graphs de­pict.

Form does in­deed pre­dict func­tion and it’s in­struc­tive to com­pare Prze­wal­ski’s horses, who have never been se­lected for el­e­gant mo­tion, with their do­mes­tic coun­ter­parts. While Rolf and his kin have not been mod­i­fied to suit mankind’s pur­poses, they cer­tainly ex­em­plify the kind of balanced and foursquare lo­co­mo­tion that it takes to sur­vive in the wild. The Prze­wal­ski trot­ting style is some­what round and high, sim­i­lar to that pro­duced by many do­mes­tic pony breeds. The gal­lop is com­par­a­tively short-strided but rapid and pow­er­ful.

Black Hawk and Ethan Allen make an in­ter­est­ing com­par­i­son be­cause, al­though they were both bred for har­ness use, they ex­em­plify dif­fer­ent styles. To­day, “road­ster to bike” and “road­ster

to wagon” classes are com­par­a­tively rare at horse shows, yet this is the only place you are likely to see this an­tique style on dis­play, a nod to the long-ago tra­di­tions of pre-Civil War Amer­ica. With a clas­sic weath­er­vane sil­hou­ette, Black Hawk rep­re­sents the ideal road­ster: fast yet beau­ti­ful and stylish.

hock, com­bined with a vig­or­ous, alert, ground-cov­er­ing stride. Amer­i­cans were pro­duc­ing beau­ti­ful, very ath­letic horses ca­pa­ble of dra­matic “length­ened stride at the trot"long be­fore dres­sage

com­pe­ti­tion even ex­isted. Ethan Allen is of­ten cred­ited as the model for the clas­sic weath­er­vane sil-hou­et­ter, and I think he was ca­pa­ble of go­ing in much the same style as his sire, es­pe­cially if the hoof an­gles were low­ered (see “Bones Speak

Vol­umes," EQUUS 482) and an over-check was used. How­ever, the scale model of him which mi­crosculp­tor Steven Wag­ner, DDS, and I col­lab­o­rated in cre­at­ing poses Ethan Allen as he would have looked dur­ing an ac­tual har­ness race, with the head and neck ex­tended more to the front, and steeper, more nat­u­ral hoof an­gles as they show in the 1859 Schreiber and Sons pho­to­graph.

Driven in this way, Ethan Allen pro­duced a very long, pow­er­ful stride, his elas­tic shoul­der al­low­ing tremen­dous for­ward reach with lit­tle knee “ac­tion.” Ethan Allen and Black Hawk have thou­sands of de­scen­dants, prov­ing that such spec­tac­u­lar movers were com­mon in Amer­ica 150 years ago. In my opin­ion, they still ought to be the pri­mary pop­u­la­tion from which American Olympic dres­sage horses are de­vel­oped and cho­sen.

Lex­ing­ton was a great race­horse and sire, and R.A. Alexan­der’s ex­tremely suc­cess­ful breed­ing pro­gram with him es­tab­lished Ken­tucky as the lead­ing state for race­horse pro­duc­tion. Lex­ing­ton be­longs in the com­pany of the great­est gal­lop­ers of all time. While the mod­ern flat-track racer must make an all-out, one-time ef­fort over a “clas­sic” dis­tance of not more than two miles, Lex­ing­ton func­tioned in an ear­lier rac­ing par­a­digm that called for horses to run sev­eral heats of about four miles each, all in a sin­gle day. The 10 most re­cent win­ners of the Bel­mont Stakes, a race of 1.5 miles, have gal­loped at an av­er­age rate of 36 mph. Mod­ern steeplecha­sers and point-to­point rac­ers av­er­age about 26 mph over a four-mile course; al­though they race only once per day, they are slowed down by the fences they have to jump.

One might rea­son­ably have ex­pected Lex­ing­ton to go no faster than a steeplecha­ser be­cause of the mul­ti­ple heats he had to run, but he was an amaz­ing ath­lete. As a 5-year-old

An 1856 litho­graph of Black Hawk’s most fa­mous son, Sher­man Black Hawk (A), by John H. Buf­ford, nicely con­veys the speed and el­e­gance of the horse’s way of go­ing, but no real horse folds his limbs so sharply. In this 1840 wa­ter­color by C.N. Newde­gate en­ti­tled “Sketches for the Wash­ing­ton Races in Oc­to­ber 1840” (B), jock­eys use the “back seat” and the horses are shown in the con­ven­tional “fly­ing” gal­lop pose. on April 2, 1855, Lex­ing­ton set a record in New Or­leans over the four-mile Me­tairie course of 7:19 3/4ths. His av­er­age speed of 32.7 mph would have made him a win­ner on any track, of any length, at any time. I think on this ba­sis that it is safe to con­clude that Lex­ing­ton, like Sec­re­tar­iat, Man o’ War, Phar Lap and other elite cham­pi­ons, used the dou­ble-sus­pen­sion ro­ta­tory gal­lop, and that this was part of the se­cret of his speed.


The au­thor would like to thank Robert M. Timm, PhD, and Maria Ei­fler, PhD, cu­ra­tors of Rolf’s and Ethan Allen’s re­mains at the Univer­sity of Kansas Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum, for ac­cess to the skele­tons and on­go­ing sup­port. The Univer­sity of Ver­mont and the Internatio­nal Mu­seum of the Horse per­mit­ted spec­i­men pho­tog­ra­phy. Anna Smith of the Ver­mont Mor­gan Horse As­so­ci­a­tion con­trib­uted the Jewett en­grav­ing and as­sisted in pho­tog­ra­phy of the Black Hawk mount. Mon­ica Davis of the Dou­glas County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety/Watkins Mu­seum of His­tory helped greatly with ac­cess to old news­pa­per files. David Walls, MD, DDS, as­sisted with med­i­cal ter­mi­nol­ogy and Steven Wag­ner, DDS, col­lab­o­rated in cre­at­ing the scale model of Ethan Allen’s skele­ton.

A B Move­ment style of Ethan Allen, a cham­pion har­ness racer: The skele­tal model (A) was made by the au­thor in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Steven Wag­ner, DDS; the re­con­struc­tion of Ethan Allen’s ap­pear­ance in mo­tion (B) was done by the au­thor.

Move­ment style of Black Hawk, an ideal of the road­ster.

Move­ment style of the Prze­wal­ski’s horse: a stal­lion trot­ting (A) and a mare gal­lop­ing (B)

Con­for­ma­tion anal­y­sis of Lex­ing­ton Con­for­ma­tion anal­y­sis of a Prze­wal­ski’s horse mare.

Con­for­ma­tion anal­y­sis of Black Hawk Con­for­ma­tion anal­y­sis of Ethan Allen

B Pho­to­graphs of Lex­ing­ton’s sons Nor­folk (A) and As­teroid (B).

Two de­pic­tions of Lex­ing­ton’s ap­pear­ance in life: Ed­ward Troye’s fa­mous paint­ing, com­pleted in about 1860 (A) and a paint­ing done by Thomas J. Scott (B) in 1857. A B

This re­con­struc­tion of Lex­ing­ton’s ap­pear­ance in life was based on the skele­tal mount.

The an­gle of this pho­to­graph of Lex­ing­ton taken in about 1867 dis­guises the loss of the globes of his eyes, his swollen si­nuses and the pu­ru­lent in­fec­tion and con­se­quent loss of the skin on the right side of his face.

Here is a left side view of Lex­ing­ton’s skele­ton (A) as mounted by Ward’s Nat­u­ral Sci­ence Es­tab­lish­ment. The photo of the right side (B) was taken in 1879 im­me­di­ately af­ter com­ple­tion of the mount.


Com­pare the im­age of Black Hawk’s son Ethan Allen (A) made by Schreiber and Sons pho­tog­ra­phers when the horse was 10 years old with a “dig­i­tal mount­ing” of his skele­tal re­mains in­side the skin out­line (B). A B

B A Pho­to­graphs of Ethan Allen’s sons Daniel Lam­bert (A) and Hon­est Allen (B) from a Schreiber and Sons im­age.

Com­pare the vir­tual re­pair and re­mount­ing of the skele­ton of Black Hawk (A) with a re­con­struc­tion of the ap­pear­ance of Black Hawk in life, made di­rectly from the skele­ton. B A A B A B

Skele­tal mount of a Prze­wal­ski’s horse (Bri­tish Mu­seum), off­side limbs re­stored and repo­si­tioned by au­thor. Note rel­a­tively low height of withers and short neck. This Prze­wal­ski’s horse mare, part of the herd at Monarto Zoo in South Aus­tralia, has a...

“Kiss­ing spines” of tho­racics 12-13 in Lex­ing­ton (A) has pro­gressed to to­tal fu­sion (red bracket). Note ex­os­toses on the ac­ces­sory pro­cesses as well. Lex­ing­ton tho­racics 14-17 (B) show ex­os­to­sis of the points of at­tach­ment of the deep ver­te­bral...

Close-up stud­ies of four of Lex­ing­ton’s “becs de per­ro­quet” le­sions, which can pre­vent a horse from arch­ing his back.

In this im­age of Lex­ing­ton’s tho­racic and lum­bar ver­te­brae, red ar­rows des­ig­nate joints that are fused dor­sally; blue ar­rows point to “becs de per­ro­quet,” which are ven­tral fu­sions. Note how dor­sal and ven­tral fu­sions tend to al­ter­nate in the more...

Lex­ing­ton’s cer­vi­cal chain is en­tirely free of pathol­ogy. THO­RACIC LUM­BAR

Move­ment style of Lex­ing­ton per­form­ing a ro­ta­tory (“dou­ble­sus­pen­sion”) gal­lop. Note the col­lected phase sus­pen­sion pe­riod (A) and the ex­tended phase sus­pen­sion pe­riod (B), which re­sem­bles the old artis­tic con­ven­tion for a horse mov­ing at top speed. B



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