The first edition of Weird Stuff in Gina’s Office
Ritual horse burial is nothing new. Mankind has shown their reverence for horses by trying to take them into the afterlife with them for centuries. Horse burial sites exist all across Europe. In North American First Nations culture, horses were sometimes buried with their owner. Today, horses aren’t part of a sacrificial burial rite. But we still bury horses. Done correctly, it’s one way to dispose of a dead horse’s body. Many burials are more than just a convenient way to dispose of a body, however. They are an effort to memorialize the greatness of the horse. Some of the most elaborate practices come from the race horse community.
It’s not the usual practice to bury a whole horse when a Thoroughbred comes to the end of its life. Most often the tradition is to save and bury the hooves, heart, and head of the horse. The head signifies the horse’s intelligence, the heart its spirit and its hooves its speed. The rest of the body is usually cremated or sent to the knackers. ~ source
Shown here is a hoof that apparently escaped being buried. It’s that of Macaroni, an English Thoroughbred who won the Derby in 1863 (according to the engraved silver plate on the front), It’s fashioned into an ashtray, and my husband Rob found it languishing in the back of an Anderson, Indiana antique store years ago when he was recuperating from back surgery. As a young married couple – money was tight – especially with the farrier husband off work, hoping to patch his back up good enough to resume shoeing in spring – spending money on weird stuff like long-dead horse hooves seemed pretty dumb. It wasn’t a lot of money (about $60), but that could have went toward groceries or gas. However, in subsequent years the interesting paths it’s lead us down have been priceless. Much more fun than a tank of gas or a cart of groceries…
I’d had pictures of Macaroni’s hoof on HoofPrints website for a while and as a result I was contacted by a descendant of the horse’s owner – Richard Christopher Naylor. Richard Christopher Miles told me that years ago the family estate’s office was broken into and many artifacts stolen, and that another relative who lived in Ireland had at least one hoof from the same horse. His was lost also. So we don’t know how this made it’s way to Indiana, USA – but it sure was a fun find for us.
I also posted an album Macaroni hoof pictures on our HoofPrints Facebook page. Because I’d tagged Fran Jurga in the post, she saw it and shared it with her Facebook friends. One of which is a farrier Mark Aikens from the UK – Mark’s great- great- grandfather Tom Challoner was the jockey who rode Macaroni to his derby win!
It turns out that Macaroni is still found in the pedigrees of modern thoroughbreds today, details here. Here’s an interesting comparison of our hoof’s former owner (1863 Derby Winner Macaroni) to a photo of a modern Thoroughbred taken by Sarah K. Andrew.
Records tell us that Macaroni was bred by the Marquis of Westminster, in 1860, and sold to Richard Christopher Naylor, Esq., of Hooton
Hall, Cheshire. Macaroni was a dark bay, and stood fifteen hands and three inches high. He had a small white star on his forehead, and a curious saddle-mark on his near side. His head was plain, but full of character, his neck thick and muscular, which became still more so when a stallion. He had magnificent sloping shoulders, with great depth of girth. His back was short and strong, and he looked every inch of him, the thorough workman he was. His defects were his upright pasterns, inherited by his famous son, Macgregor, and length of cannon bone; but his action was exceedingly free and fine. He was purchased in 1875, for the widow of the late Baron Meyer de Rothschild, for the sum of 7100 gs., and located at Mentmore, where he reigned supreme. ~source
This is an image of a little sketch of Macaroni I found somewhere online. I wish it were higher resolution – I bet the original is beautiful…
Stay tuned for the next edition of Weird Stuff.
For now you can read more posts about horses here
Farrier stories are here