I watch the Kentucky Derby nearly every year.
Not for the fashion — or the revelry.
I watch (in complete awe), because I am transfixed by the sublime majesty of the horses and the story that exists behind each one of them. I’ve always hoped that after the pinnacle of their career had passed — which might be on that very day — they might live out their years respected, happy and healthy. (You can give to a foundation for retired race horses here. Read how Secretariat’s half-brother Straight Flush was saved here.)
Many are convinced that the greatest race horse of all time was Secretariat. When he passed away at age 18 in 1989, it was revealed that he possessed a heart more than double in size, when compared to other horses. It served as a powerful engine, oxygenating his blood and catapulting him to break records at every turn, in the quest for the 1973 Triple Crown. (Those records stand to this day.) But, everyone with proximity to this horse saw that he was more than an unusually fit specimen. He was special, loving, playful. He enjoyed both people and the cameras — and was said to perk up when he heard the click of the camera.
On the day of the Kentucky Derby, he had just come off a surprising prep loss. Doubts were planted. Some were shaken, thinking that he wouldn’t or couldn’t, fulfill his potential. (It was later revealed that he was suffering from a mouth abscess.) However, he would win that first leg of the Triple Crown, from behind — in an unusual display of speed and fortitude.
When his jockey, Ron Turcotte, allowed Secretariat to follow his own “beat” once again, in the last leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont — most experts in watching in the stands believed that the jockey had completely lost control of his horse. That if he had continued ran at such speed, for too long, it would prove to be a disastrous race. But they were wrong. Secretariat’s owners knew this. Secretariat was running his own race. To his own tune. His own way.
Secretariat had a destiny to fulfill. (Turcotte admitted that he felt compelled took a peak backward, even if his horse was sure and steady.) Secretariat was emblazoned to be himself.
It was his destiny. Alone. Powerful.
Running to the beat of his own, amazing, full heart.
We all must walk alone at times. With only the beat of our own drummer as a guide. This is sometimes necessary to fulfill our own destiny. This can be misunderstood — and painful. If only that process could unfold, sure-footed, as it was for this remarkable horse.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist and HR strategist. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum