Churchill on Horses

Churchill on Horses

H-lodef“We need a horse­man for our next pres­i­dent,” writes Gary Hodg­son in the Fort Mor­gan Times, who then goes on to quote “the famous rein­ing cham­pi­on, team rop­er and all around cowboy…Sir Win­ston Churchill,” who alleged­ly said: “There is some­thing about the out­side of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

Unless Mr. Hodg­son has found a new attri­bu­tion, that charmer is not Churchill’s. It’s list­ed in the “Red Her­rings” appen­dix in Churchill by Him­self, page 575, with this note:

​​Repeat­ed­ly attrib­uted to every­one from Woodrow Wilson’s physi­cian to Ronald Rea­gan. “Cler­gy­man Hen­ry Ward Beech­er (1813–87) is one per­son to whom the thought was attrib­uted in his time. Oliv­er Wen­dell Holmes is another…Verdict: ​Long-time male eques­tri­an wis­dom.” –Ralph Keyes, The Quote Ver­i­fi­er, 91.

​Mr. Hodg­son men­tions anoth­er line of Churchill’s about hors­es (from Churchill’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, My Ear­ly Life), which read­ers might enjoy in its entirety:

​And here I say to par­ents, espe­cial­ly to​ wealthy par­ents, “Don’t give your son mon­ey. As far as you can afford it, give him hors­es.” No one ever came to grief—except hon­ourable grief—through rid­ing hors­es. No hour of life is lost that is spent in the sad­dle. Young men have often been ruined through own­ing hors­es, or through back­ing hors­es, but nev­er through rid­ing them; unless of course they break their necks, which, tak­en at a gal­lop, is a very good death to die.

Although Churchill cracked that he took his exer­cise act­ing as a pall­bear­er for friends who had exer­cised all their lives, he played polo into his fifties, was still “rid­ing to hounds” in his late sev­en­ties, and kept a thor­ough­bred rac­ing sta­ble into his eight­ies. In the House of Com­mons, 24 June 1952 he said: “I have always con­sid­ered that the sub­sti­tu­tion of the inter­nal com­bus­tion engine for the horse marked a very gloomy mile­stone in the progress of mankind.”


A nice note from Mr. Hodg­son, who cor­rect­ed his quo­ta­tion, adding:  “I hope that if you feel the need to quote me again on your web site it might read, ‘When a horse wins the Ken­tucky Der­by, every­one wants to be seen stand­ing beside him, much like those who would have their name print­ed below a great quote.'” See also “Church­ll­lian (or Yogi Berra) Drift” on this site.

—Which reminds me of anoth­er thing Churchill wrote (also in My Ear­ly Life, about the cav­al­ry charge at Omdur­man in 1898)

In one respect a cav­al­ry charge is very like ordi­nary life. So long as you are all right, firm­ly in your sad­dle, your horse in hand, and well armed, lots of ene­mies will give you a wide berth. But as soon as you have lost a stir­rup, have a rein cut, have dropped your weapon, are wound­ed, or your horse is wound­ed, then is the moment when from all quar­ters ene­mies rush upon you. Such was the fate of not a few of my comrades….”

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