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aderbyhorseThis may sound a bit crass to some who expect a reflection on the Good Shepherd today, but I just read an article about yesterday’s annual Kentucky Derby and made a connection that I want to share. It’s not about sheep, obviously, but rather horses and the fact that even really rich people can share dreams that start in childhood.

It seems that the two owners of the winner, Always Dreaming, grew up in Brooklyn and came to love horses and horse racing when their fathers brought them to the track as young boys. The one being interviewed, Anthony Bonomo, spoke of his neighborhood and the fact that after the race he had 267 messages on his phone from those folks he had known all his life. He said they would have to have a meal at a big restaurant in Brooklyn to share the joy of all those people whose support they cherish. He recounted – before the race – how their beloved horse would run the race, responding exactly as planned to the jockey’s body commands that were so familiar. It happened just as he predicted, even to the 2 1/2 lengths of the lead at the finish line.

This is the first time I have considered that, for owners, this race is not just about competition or money that most of them certainly don’t need. Rather, in addition to the thrill of the game, it is love for the animal itself that resounds in the joy of accomplishment. I understand in a very small way this “thrill of victory,” having gone on a few family outings to the race track and seeing the beautiful animals pass by on their way to the starting gate. I would choose the winner by looks and by their names rather than their statistical promise and rarely picked a winner so it was good that I was not rich enough to bet on them! Riding a horse in the hills around Taos, New Mexico, is also a great memory for me. There is no fear, even on narrow trails, as the horse knows where to walk and can read the simple cues from the rider’s knees and gentle pulls on the reigns.

This reverie may seem far-fetched – and I will stop here – but having experienced the connection between humans and their animals gives me a peaceful feeling that is always the result of such a relationship. Cats and dogs and even gerbils, I guess, can teach us a little of what Jesus was talking about today – about care given and fidelity received. And I, for one, am happy to have known that joy.