John Henry: Let a Horse Teach You How to Be a Winner

John Henry, the steel-driving racehorse.

The most ornery, obnoxious, difficult horse to ever race.

He was known for:

–biting his groom,

–throwing jockeys off his back,

–kicking stable doors open if someone wasn’t there promptly at 4:30 a.m. to let him out to pasture,

–stubbornly walking to the Winner’s Circle (despite his jockey’s, groom’s, and three other people’s attempts to dissuade him) after a race that he THOUGHT he had won (he had come in a close second, by a nose). This race is still hotly contested: some witnesses, who were not betting on John Henry, still say he actually won it.

Terrible disposition, but that was because no one believed in him when he was just a foal. Mistreated, ignored, and having changed hands multiple times over, he became extremely difficult to handle, and no one wanted him.

So he almost ended at a slaughterhouse. While in line to be slaughtered (and he knew he was going to be slaughtered), he set off such a terrible tantrum (there was human blood everywhere; some people ended up taking morphine for their injuries), that he was led away by a compassionate bystander, who got the horse for FREE.

He didn’t come from a famous lineage–like Citation, War Admiral, Ruffian, or Secretariat–and he was nothing to look at: some people described him as “donkey-looking” while others were concerned that he had been born “back at the knees” (a conformation fault wherein a horse’s front legs bend slightly back toward the hind legs, causing additional strain when walking or running).

Despite all of this, John Henry did things HIS way, regardless of his seemingly insurmountable circumstances. And he succeeded 100 times over…and then some. He set world records. He became Horse of the Year…TWICE, an accomplishment that only very few greats, like Secretariat, have ever achieved. And he continues to be the only horse to have made the most money at the racetrack.

What a role model. I wish I could have met him. Love you John and thank you for existing.