Many times people see their life reflected in the life of another person, some times because they have the same experiences or even because they are similar physically or they have some aspects in common; as it could be behavior, the way of life, or decisions that could change their lives.
In the book Seabiscuit an American legend she illustrates one of the most difficult moments in the United States, the great depression, and how people adopted the dream of a horse and jockey as they own dream to be successful and continue with their lives fighting against every single problem no matter how long or how far away the goal was.
To understand how close Seabiscuit and “red” pollard were, we must know their lives, which were really hard in both cases.
“Red” Pollard was born in 1909, he was son of an Irish immigrant couple who came to the united states in 1850, “Red” Pollard was the second child of 7 children in the family: Jim, Bill, Edie, Betty, Norah and Bubbles. Pollard’s family was not rich but they had almost everything they wanted because they worked really hard in order to have a better future. They opened a brick factory, but in 1915 a natural disaster destroyed everything from machines to materials to work. Pollard’s house was even devastated, that is why Johnny’s father made the decision for Bill and Johnny to become boxers in order to make some money to feed and dress the entire family at a very young age.
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Both of them were good boxers but “Red” never had the power that his brother had, but “Red” had other skills, “Johnny smaller and leaner, became a proficient and scrappy fighter but never achieved his brother’s success”( Hillenbrand,2004,p.61), he was really smart and intellectual. He was a great reader and he wanted to be a prepared person. He really loved learning but at the school, the class room smothered him and that was the reason he got poor grades, he was disappointed with himself and everything he liked and he transformed into a different person “His anger was a wild rage, his pleasure jubiltion, his humor biting his sorrow empty a bottomless abyss”(Hillenbrand,2004,p.62).
When Johnny’s father saw “Red’s” behavior he tried to help him and bought a horse in order to remind him who he was and what he really wanted. At the beginning Johnny used the horse to make delivers to the town and make extra money for the family, but when Johnny realized that he felt good on a horse and that he had a high-quality body to race, it was the moment when he discovered he wanted to be a jockey. His mother refused the decision because he was really young, but his father supported him and when he was fifteen he went to Montana to race in a real racetrack. The only condition was that he had to go with a friend of the family to take care of him, but the family friend disappeared when the race ended leaving “Red” alone and far away from home. Since this moment “Red” suffered bad treatments, blows, he was even blind in one eye as a consequence of a little stone when he was in a race. He changed his behavior and become a rude person as when he was in the school or even worse because he realized that life wasn’t a fairy tale and he must be strong to survive. But something that he never changed in John, even with the blows, was his goal and his dreams. That’s why he fight for them every single day because he was a free spirit and he just wanted to be himself and do everything he loved, which was racing and to winning.
Seabiscuit was born in 1933, his father was a good racehorse and because of that, it was assumed that he and his brother would be too. But Seabiscuit was a different horse, he enjoyed doing different things than did the other horses in the stable, “the average stable horse spends just five minutes at a time lying down to sleep ,almost always at nigh” (Hillenbrand,2004,p.45) he was a real exception, “sleeping was his favorite pass time” (Hillenbrand, 2004, p.45) “he slept long and late” (Hillenbrand, 2004, p.45) and for his owner this behavior was not good because when he has a horse race, he always lost and for this reason Seabiscuit was a load, apart from being lazy he ate more than other horses even thought he was smaller than them. That is why the owner of Seabiscuit told the trainer to give Seabiscuit a hard routine to teach him how to work and also because they needed money and Seabiscuit was useless if he didn’t win a horse race, in addition to the hard work the rider was told to beat the horse with the intention of create a strong character “he told Seabiscuit’s exercise rider to find a stick to use as a whip.” (Hillenbrand, 2004, p.46) “Just see how many times you can hit him going a quarter of a mile” (Hillenbrand, 2004, p.46).
But it didn’t work because Seabiscuit after all these treatments refused to be a “real” racehorse and continued being lazy because it was the way he knew his life and also because he just wanted to be happy, not mattering how many beats he received he continued in that way. Trying to change Seabiscuit was so difficult that his owner thought that if he was lazy he would continue being lazy all his life until his death, but something that the owner didn’t realized was that Seabiscuit had changed the way to be. He changed his favorite past time and his behavior, he passed from being a quiet and cute animal to an edgy, rude and aggressive horse that rejected people next to him and all of this thanks to the bad treatments he received in the training. Seabiscuit was now afraid of people and the only way to maintain them away was being a danger to receive respect of fear.
It is difficult to think that an animal could have the same life as a human being but in this particular case the similarities are really close between them. Both characters had had a difficult childhood; the experiences that they lived through had a strong influence on their adulthood such as being forced to stay away from home and family. They were beaten by people and they were forced to change in order to mature earlier. In Seabiscut’s case, he was punished in order to be a real racehorse. Both of them lost their childhoods as well the time to play so to be happy, and all of this because they needed make money to survive. “Red” needs money to eat and to have an almost good life by himself because he was alone, and Seabiscuit had to make money to be considered a more less good horse to race and have a place in the stable. For both of them the hard work they made wasn’t successful at all because “Red” Pollard was considered the worst rider even when he had a hard training, and Seabiscuit, not mattering the hard work his trainer adapted to him, was considered the laziest horse ever.
Since they have the same behavior, they were always fighting with people and that is another thing they have in common. Also no one believed in them, they were just nothing in comparison with other jockey’s an horses respectively. The only contrast I found in the book between these two characters was that Seabiscuit was too short to be a racehorse and “Red” Pollard was too tall , that why as I said before Seabiscuit was used just for cheap races because in comparison with other horses he didn’t have the skills and the complexion to be a winner, and “Red” Pollard was different too in comparison with other jockeys that were really short and thin. For these reasons his complexion was an extra work for him since jockey must have a special weight, “jockeys have to keep their weight no more than 114 pounds.” (Hillenbrand, 2004, p.80) He must to do extra things to maintain his weight and in consequence his job, and as many other jockeys, he suffered of special diets that were unhealthy.
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But when everything was bad for them, they were found almost at the same time by Charles Howard and Tom Smith and not mattering that they were considered a bad horse and jockey they decided to give both of them a second chance to demonstrate their real talents in a good environment and with a trainer who really knew how to train without punishment. Smith saw spirit in Seabiscuit from the first moment, when Smith met “Red” Pollard he had the same impression. Both of them had a spirit and they also were competitive and they had courage. For both of them since this time their lives changed course and they were adopted by a family as real members because they: Charles, Smith, Pollard and Seabiscuit were not just people who wanted to make money in horse races, they were a team in which everyone was important to keep going and to be successful. Also “Red”, for first time since he left Montana, was part of a family in which he can trust and was supported. Not to mention that Seabiscuit had a trainer who understood what he really wants and had the patience to help him, and saw him as a horse no just like a thing that helps to win a racehorses.
“Red” and Seabiscuit had changed since the moment they met each other, they were tormented souls that started a new life. They started to improve day by day not just as individuals but also as a team. They went from being unknown to being the sensation in society, but Seabiscuit was who changed the most, helped by Pollard and Smith. “Seabiscuit finally understood the game. Smith and pollard had unearthed in him, in Smith words “more natural inclination to run than any horse I have ever seen.”” (Hillenbrand, 2004, p.127) and that was the moment that they became a legend, at the very beginning Smith knew that he had an excellent jockey and the power to increase his abilities, “Smith knows he had the best horse in America” (Hillenbrand, 2004, p.141).
The love between the team grew and their goals were reached little by little and with strong steps. Society supported them no just because they won all the races but also they were the best example to follow and continue forward even in the worst moments. Seabiscuit and “Red” were there fighting against the best horses to win not mattering anything and they always won.
Something that really impresses me in the book was that they had an injury at almost the same time, “Red” had an accident racing a friend’s horse “Pollard chest had virtually caved in, he had several broken ribs, a collarbone shattered into countless fragments, several internal injuries, broken shoulder” (Hillenbrand, 2004, p.197) and time later Seabiscuit had an injury too, “he could see that it was the ankle that had gone wrong” (Hillenbrand, 2004, p.340) both were diagnosed by a doctor and they would not be able to race ever again. But beyond the diagnoses they, together, did the unbelievable. They worked hard, slowly but with strong feet, they recovered day by day even when almost all the people thought that their career was lost. They, as a phoenix, recovered out of the ashes. That really impresses me because if it had been another person or another horse, they would have just taken the easy way out that was to quit. With the honor that they had after the victory versus war admiral, but them, the team believed in each other and for “Red” his health didn’t matter or not racing again, “Red” just wanted to do what he loved and Seabiscuit wanted to feel free.
This book is based on a true story, the story of a little boy that never forgot his dreams; the story of a family that not only adopted a stranger but also his dreams of triumphing. The story of a gentleman that give second chances because all of us are deserving of it, the story of a nation that was fixated by a little horse named Seabiscuit. Throughout the book we can see how human and animal become no just best friends, but also they turn into part of one another helping each other in the good and bad moments.
As we can see, the similarities between these two real characters are really close; the life experiences, their childhoods, the hard work they had to do, the second chance they had and how they took advantage of this opportunity, how their career was considered, the injuries, and how they impressed the entire society once again when they returned to the careers just to win again and to become legends.
I think that when we feel alone, sometimes we need support, something or someone that give us hope to keep going using this as an example. In the case of Seabiscuit and “Red” they were the support for the other when they met, they were soul mates because they had had the same behavior and also they had the same dream the same goal in life. They were fighters and for them, nothing was impossible. That is why society saw in them the hope and the example to success in the most obscure moment of the nation.
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