What’s up with The Jockey’s Prayer?

Halt right there.

This may surprise a few folks. I’m all for prayer. I love the idea of jockeys praying. I’ve often prayed for jockeys – both those I know personally and those I do not. I’ve prayed for their horses too, particularly when they’ve run into tight spots.

But “The Jockey’s Prayer” has me snorting with righteous indignation. Maybe I’m just having a “bad mare day,” but I think it’s more than that.

Ready? I'm fixing to stir up some trouble here. Or maybe I'm just horsing around. You decide.

 See for yourself.

Antique horse racing prints are popular among equine enthusiasts, track wagerers, and other horse lovers. “The Jockey’s Prayer” is one such item. This 19th Century artwork appears on everything from framed images to tea trays and coffee mugs.

Racetrack chaplains customarily pray with jockeys before big races. Maybe we like the sound of that. Who would object to a group of the fittest athletes, pound for pound, dropping to their knees to plead for divine favor and protection before laying their lives out on snorting, sprinting steeds on the track?

Sure, the idea of jockeys praying may be most meritorious.

But have you ever examined the words of “The Jockey’s Prayer” closely?

This missive has been attributed to Rae Smith, who apparently produced the 1868 lithograph. Read closely, and you may find that “The Jockey’s Prayer” has little to do with actual racing.

“O! Mighty Nimrod, as it is not my nature to run the race set before me alone, to Thee I pray for a helpmate. Send me, I beseech Thee, a wife such as will suit a lover of the turf and chase; and as I am to be saddled to her for life, let her be gentle in her disposition.

“I desire her to have a clear, full eye, a finely put up head and neck, in every particular a good forehand, and go well upon her pasterns; not too long in the reach, neither may she have too much stride for her gather.

“In build and bottom may she prove herself a star, and when it comes to the homestretch may she ever be equal to any task. Although I should wish her handsome, and a filly well bred, yet I beseech Thee, let not her beauties prove as blinkers to my understanding, nor her extravagance gallop me to destruction.

“ I am not easily spurred to passion, but should she endeavor to get the whiphand of me, I probably might be led to jostle and cross, which might ultimately end in some terrible rearing, plunging, and kicking up.

“Let her not, I pray Thee, be tainted with the flinders of pride, not the farcy of self-will, causing her, when I attempt to curb her for lugging heavily on the rein, to toss her head and bridle at my instructions, lest I should be compelled to put on the martingale of restraint, and force her to chew the bit of sober reflection.

“May it please Thee, Great Leader, so to direct my judgment that I may select a wife without spot or blemish, and always proud of my bargain, as I journey on neck and neck with her in our matrimonial road.

“May she be competent to take the reins at times as we glide smoothly along together, and by that means better equalize our burden.

“Could I meet with such an article, that had never been broke – not too large in the girth, and who would come easily to collar – I should look upon her with that degree of satisfaction and admiration with which the Bedouin of the Desert feasts his eyes upon his favorite mare. Honest Harry Kemble would be more than pleased to hitch up and gaily prance with her to the Circle us Hymen, sign and seal the necessary nuptial bonds with many kisses and embraces, and cheerfully run with her the generous race of mutual affection, ever the uneven course of life.”

Whoa! Who’s the nimrod now?

Alright, ladies. What’s your response to “The Jockey’s Prayer”? Who’s bristling at these old-fashioned sentiments?

Yeah, I get that "The Jockey's Prayer" was intended as fun. It's clearly an "Old Boys' Network" joke of some sort. I've sat in the modern-day media rooms at big races and seen the network still in play.

Still, the pet prayer has been passed through generations. And it raises some serious questions that merit pondering, particularly for those who have not yet been reined in and taken a trip down the bridal path to be hitched.

How is marriage like a horse race? How is it not?

OK, besides the nearly inevitable turf wars and the occasional leave-‘em-in-the-dust breakups, does wedded bliss or bedlam have much to do with horses and jockeys on the track?

“The Jockey’s Prayer” begs a question of a different sort. Ladies: would you liken your ideal guy to a fast Thoroughbred, a flashy Arabian, a sturdy Quarter Horse, or another breed altogether?

Somebody stop me before I cast myself in my own office.
The Jockey’s Prayer
Horse Racing Litho
By Rae Smith
Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
Washington, DC
Public Domain Photo

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Ever been water-skiing with a miniature horse?

The American Midwest may be emerging from a long, dry heat wave, but a young horse lover in Arizona has had a bit of fun in the sun.

Jessie, of I Am Ranch in Waddell, grabbed a wake board and hitched a ride for some puddle-skiing in her flooded backyard with I AM Rhythms Classic Cameo, her four-year-old Miniature Horse.

The diminutive equine stands just 7.35 hands high, but she’s definitely packed with power from head to hoof and from nose to tail.

And the video went viral. (See it below.)

File this one under adorable.



Jessie is a game little cowgirl, who also has been known to ride the family cow.

This time, however, the Arizona equestrian teen has given “hang ten” a whole new meaning with her own version of summer ski-joring.
Jessie and Classic Cameo:
 Waterskiing with a Mini Horse
Video Screenshot
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A rearing horse is no great trick

Onscreen, the Lone Ranger’s famous Silver would go up, and audiences would cheer. Rodeo crowds still roar to see bucking broncos fly upright, trying to unseat their athletic riders.

In dancing horse shows and Classical Dressage performances, similar feats (though ideally much more controlled and rhythmic movements) are often called the “Courbette” and the “Levade.”

Onlookers seem to love seeing the underside of horses. A rearing horse may be exciting to spectators, but it’s certainly no joyride for the person aboard.


Have you ever sat on a rearing horse?

I have. My first rearing experience occurred towards the end of a leisurely trail ride through a nearby forest preserve. I was aboard my trainer’s pricey Holsteiner schoolmaster dressage mount.

The professional was riding my Westfalen mare, introducing the show horse and former eventer to riding out quietly for the first time.

She had insisted we swap horses for the jaunt, as her mare had been on the trails many times.

We completed the woodsy trail loop and followed the path along the county highway, returning to the stables. Just then, an eighteen-wheeler rumbled by. The driver honked his horn and waved.

And the schoolmaster went upright.

I stood up in the stirrups of the shiny Passier dressage saddle, grabbing as much of the 18-hand mare’s mane as I could. She landed on all four hooves before rearing a second time, and a third.

With each bounce, I somehow managed to stay on the horse. How could I not? If I bailed, the fancy imported equine would likely head for the highway. Who knows how that would have turned out?

Once the excitement was over, I realized my own maiden trail had not even flinched.

Rearing is not nearly as much fun as it may appear to those watching. Often, the experience does not end as well as ours did.

Here’s a scary example.

Take a look at this video (shot three years ago), in which Towns Ender (then eight years old) reared up and tumbled backwards, nearly crushing U.K. jockey John Kington. This took place while the trainer held a longe line for schooling the horse and rider.

The same horse, having injured jockey Tom Scudamore a week prior, was retired after the incident with Kington.

Horse vs. Rider - watch more funny videos     


Here’s another one, a whole lot closer to home.

Not long ago, I allowed a young horse trainer to borrow one of my horses, so he could show a student how to complete a trail obstacle pattern on her own horse. With a couple of free rides and the aggressive use of a pair of rowel spurs, this hotshot had taught my quiet pleasure horse to rear. What's more, my little horse (whom I'd raised since birth) had spur scars on both his sides.

I had to put my young mount into 60 days of paid training afterwards. Honestly, I wanted to send the hot-dogging trainer wannabee a bill for the damages.

Now, who wants to teach a horse to rear?
Rearing Bronco, by Erwin Evans
Die Corbette, by Von Ludwig Koch
Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons Photos

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