Saturday, March 04, 2017

Horses In D.C. Recall A Riding President

On Thursday, a sturdy horse clip-clopped down C Street NW in Washington, carrying new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to work for his first day on the job. Zinke, flanked by U.S. Park Police officers, wore a cowboy hat and boots. Tonto, his forelock tossing in the breeze, was a steady mount. The image was captivating — in part because it was so incongruous with the 21st century urban surroundings. But that commute once was routine. For Theodore Roosevelt, the horse-besotted president whom Zinke has said he admires, riding down Washington streets was an everyday affair. The 26th president once canceled a Cabinet meeting on a warm spring day so that he and his horse could be photographed jumping. Most days, he galloped through Rock Creek Park, mounted on Bleistein or Renown, sometimes rocketing over barriers he’d erected: a stone wall, a bank with a ditch, a 5-foot-7-inch hurdle. Roosevelt didn’t change clothes for his daily ride. He just walked out of the office, put on spurs, a hat and riding gloves, and mounted up. He fretted over how Washington was expanding, because urban growth meant fewer places to ride. And Roosevelt had lots of animals to ride: He kept the largest string of horses at the White House since Chester Arthur in the 1880s. As is well known, Roosevelt had a lifelong love for horses, from days on his childhood pony to life with his Rough Riders. And in his stable in Washington, in addition to Bleistein and Renown, were his old polo pony Black Diamond, carriage horses Judge and General, two saddle horses and young son Archie’s pony, Algonquin. For a while, the Roosevelts also had a horse named Wyoming, which had been a gift from the people of Cheyenne and Douglas, two cities in that state. Wyoming knew tricks; he could drop to his knees to salute the president. The stables for all of these were in a vine-covered brick building that stood just southwest of the White House, beside the Army and Navy Building and opposite the Corcoran Gallery. The Roosevelt horses ate hay grown on the grounds of the Washington Monument...more

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