The All American Equestrian
Thomas Jefferson once described the qualities that only a few Americans know about George Washington:
“His person, you know, was fine, his stature exactly what one would wish, his deportment easy, erect and noble; the best horseman of his age, and the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback...”1
George the Horseman
It all started at an early age. As a boy, George learned from his mother, Mary Washington, how to carefully manage and train horses.2 At the age of 17, he owned his first horse. Growing to be a proficient horseman, George’s methods of equine handling and training were later commended by Frenchman, Marquis de Chastellux:
“He was so attentive as to give me the horse he rode on the day of my arrival, which I had greatly commended. I found him as good as he is handsome, but above all, perfectly well broke and well trained having a good mouth, easy in hand, and stopping short in a gallop without bearing the bit. I mention these minute particulars, because it is the General himself who breaks all his own horses, and his is a very excellent and bold horseman, leaping the highest fences, and going extremely quick, without standing upon his stirrups, bearing on the bridle, or letting his horse run wild.”3
During the rigorous American Revolution, George Washington astride his warhorse was a symbol of courage to rally the troops. Like any horseman, George had a favorite horse to ride—one was named Nelson.
Galloping Toward the English Bible:
God’s Providence Traced to a Fateful Equestrian Accident
God’s providence has many details: would you have guessed that a horse played an important role in the providential “domino chain” events that led to the English translation of the Holy Bible?
Truth is often stranger than fiction, and the quest for an authorized English Bible includes an equestrian episode that is both unexpected andunforgettable. This multi-generational example of God’s providence is a series of events, collectively improbable.
The equestrian part of this epic adventure starts in the late AD800s, during the Viking Age. It was a fateful gallop over 1100 years ago, that causally catalyzed a chain of providential events, in Europe, that led to the most-published, most-studied, and best-loved English translation of the Holy Bible that the world has ever known.
So, saddle up for an adventure!
In the Right Hand: Horses of Medieval Europe
Much of medieval European society was built upon the steady shoulders of a noble horse. This creature played an important part in many aspects of life for all classes of people, from farmers to soldiers to royalty, shouldering tasks as diverse as carrying ladies, pulling ploughs, and charging into battle.
Of course, the same type of horse could hardly be used for everything, so horses were bred – then as now – for specific purposes. In that time, horses were not yet classified as breeds, but referred to as types, and each type had different uses.
Many obscure terms were used for the types of horses, sometimes interchangeably and frequently in contradiction with one another, in medieval texts. However, historians have uncovered three basic types of horse; namely, chargers, palfreys, and sumpters.1