Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Icelandics in The Great American Horse Race

In 1976, 91 riders (there is some disagreement as to exact number of riders) and
a 450 support team participated in the Great American Horse Race. The race was
for 3,000 miles from Frankfort, NY, to Sacramento, CA and was scheduled to last
over 100 days. Each rider had two mounts. Vet checks were done 4 times a day.  Icelandic horses had a spectacular showing in this extreme long distance race.


Riders in the race originated from all over the US, Canada, Germany, Austria,
France, Switzerland, Iceland and Australia. Horsebreeds represented
were:"Spanish Mustang, Arabian, Morgan, Saddlebred, Standardbred, Pony of
America, Pinto, Icelandic pony, half Orlov trotter, Mule, Appaloosa, Palomino,
Thoroughbred, an Albino, Quarter Horse, Connemara pony, Paso Fino."


The winner of the race was Virl Norton, riding the mules Lord Fauntlerroy and
Lady Eloise. At the beginning of the race, Virl cautioned, "Watch the mules.
They're tougher and can take the tough terrain better than a horse," he said. He
felt his mules could match the Arabian horses at endurance because this was
going to be a long race, not a fast one.


All of the remaining top 22 places went to Arabs or Arab crosses except for :

7th Appaloossa
9th Conamarra ponies
10th mules
13th Icelandics (Johannas Hoyos)
16th Pinto/Thoroughbred
21st Icelandic (Walter Feldman)
22nd Appaloosa

Per Robyn Hood, TTouch trainer and a Canadian breeder and trainer of Icelandics http://www.icefarm.com/ ,participated as support crew during the race. As Robyn commented, "During the GAHR the organizers liked to put the Icelandics near the entry to our camping site because our horses looked so good. We fed them as much hay as they could eat and about 6 pounds of grain a day. They were very fit but not thin."


There is a book available on Amazon about the Race:

The Great American Horse Race of 1976: A Photographic Documentary by Curtis Lewis

What an interesting bit of history!

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