I wish Nicanor could read. He’d really get into this post. A post all about Nicanor! Not that he’s the least bit like Little Silver Charm. Nicanor doesn’t claim to be debonair or have savoir faire. He doesn’t claim to be more expert at anything. After all, he’s only 12 years old. Nicanor’s world is wide, wonderful, and full of the amazing and unexpected. In fact, the amazingness of the world seems to be Nicanor’s favorite thing about it.
Granted, his world has been enviably benign. From the moment he was foaled, on March 15, 2006 while his full brother Barbaro was on the Kentucky Derby trail, Nicanor has been loved. By his breeders-racing owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson. By the Mill Ridge Farm staff who cared for his Mom, La Ville Rouge (now retired to the Jacksons’ Pennsylvania farm) and him. By his trainers Michael Matz, then Leigh Delacour, and their staffs. By Shamrock Farm in Maryland where he briefly stood at stud. And now, by everybody at Old Friends in Georgetown. Some show up each day just to take care of him. Others (horses in the neighboring paddocks) do many fun and interesting things just to entertain him. Best of all, so many nice visitors flock to the farm just to admire him.
Nicanor returns their attention with abounding exuberance. Or should I say, with bounding exuberance? When he spots a tour coming, he doesn’t just mosey over to say hi. Unless he’s daydreaming about something else, he comes cantering over, breeze in his mane, happy expression on his face. Never mind the dignity of those retirees with championship reputations to maintain, Nicanor is so secure in himself that he’ll gladly go the extra mile to entertain. I never thought I’d say this, but he’s even upstaging those consummate comedians, Popcorn Deelites and Special Ring.
For one thing, Pops and Ringy have developed a fine script and they like to stick to it. They’re like a long-running Broadway musical. Nicanor is all about ad lib. You never know what any given tour will feature. Will he want petting and carrots? Will he stand aloof as a statue, posing for photos? Or will he forget even the treats and demand a group back scratch? The more hands scratching his back the merrier! When that’s over, maybe he’ll follow his new friends along the fence line. Or will he suddenly whirl around his paddock? Standing still he shows such class, but in motion, enthusiasm takes over. The noble statue becomes a frolicking goofyball.
There’s no question he loves his new job. As soon as he sees cars park, he’s on the case, ready and waiting for a new day and new friends who’ve come to the farm just to fall in love with him. And do they ever. From Nicanor’s point of view, there’s only one thing wrong with this job. The tours don’t spend the full hour and a half with him! Whyever not? Those other horses aren’t nearly as fun, they don’t put themselves to nearly as much trouble to be inventive, amusing, and engaging. The tour guides just don’t get it, leading people away like that before the hour and a half of the tour is done!
But hey, look on a bright side. What goes up the hill must come back down. Whichever route the tours take, they have to pass his paddock again at the end. And—unless he’s gotten interested in something else—he’ll be waiting for a double-dip of love: “Hey, hello, remember me? My name’s Nicanor, I’m the one you came to see.”
Watching people, I think that for many of his new friends, he’s absolutely right. He’s the one they’ll remember. He’s the one who met them the most open-heartedly and gave of himself the most personally. I notice this happening again and again, people who loved his famous brother, and people who scarcely recognize his brother’s name, falling in love with Nicanor, entirely for himself.
I think that for the first time in his life, Nicanor is carving his own trail. He’s making his own reputation, who he is. Impressive, and kind, and fun, and silly at times, with even more than usual of a horse’s instinctive gift to be in the present, to experience each experience, and to live with bursting abundance. Nicanor may not have earned a million dollars or competed for pecking order with the horses in the surrounding paddocks, but I’d say this horse knows a thing or two.
photos by Laura