Frank T. Hopkins
and his show horse Hidalgo
(Image - Richard Cartwright)
"This little spotted horse was always willing to obey and in return I treated him kindly; after every performance he would rub his pink nose against my cheek and the white glass eyes of his showed friendship. Even to his last days he was willing to learn new tricks."
  19. "Hidalgo"

By Gertrude Hopkins

Born on the ranch in Wyoming. The colt's father had been caught from a wild herd of Indian ponies that roamed the Shoshone Valley: their ancestors were the true Arab horses imported to this country by Cortez and other Conquistatores in the 16th century. Hidalgo was a pretty colt, color seal brown - small white spots spread all over his body: his nose and face white up to the eyes: this queer marking attracted attention of anyone seeing the colt.

The young plainsman once saw the many good points in this colt - the perfect smooth lips, very intelligent looking head, clear prominent eyes, there were many other young colts on the ranch but the young plainsman spent all of his leisure hours with this spotted colt. As he watched over the herd he often saw Hidalgo run and play and Frank dreamed of the day when he could saddle and ride that spotted colt. One day he rode out on the ranch and on the horn of his saddle hung a small halter. As the rider circled the herd he swung his lariat in a large circle above his head. Hidalgo was curious, the loop fell, true to form from that experienced hand - the colt felt the rope tighten about his neck, too tired to free himself from the rope. The rider did not want to hurt his prize so every time the colt lugged at the rope the skilled hand played out and as the rope got slack the rope was taken in and in a short time the rider was out of the saddle and fondling the ____ ____ ____ colts and ridden horses of all kinds in his short life but to him Hidalgo was finest of them all. The colt took kindly to being handled and soon he was led to the home ranch. Hidalgo's Albino mother was indeed a beautiful horse. Frank had admired her beauty from the day he first saw her running wild and had spent some weary hours in the saddle riding in rough country to catch her. She was still wild and feared the riders. As her colt was led away she followed, unwillingly, watching every move of the riders. The colt was tied in a large corral. Frank watched the Albino mare as she circled the outside of the corral and it was late in the night when the mother ventured thru the gateway. Then Frank hurried from his hiding place to close the gate. It took months to make friends with the mare but Hidalgo was a real companion to the young plainsman. Often the colt followed him into the large ranch house - he would leave his mother to follow Frank who had always been kind and friendly. When Hidalgo was 4 months old he made his first and only mistake. His master lay sleeping on a bed of hay in one of the box stalls. The stable had been left open. Hidalgo wandered about the corrals and stables in search of Frank when he walked into the stable he got the scent and finding Frank prone on the stable floor. The colt tried to awaken him by first rubbing his nose against Frank1s face, but the tired rider didn't move. Then Hidalgo began pawing the hay about Frank and one sharp hoof struck Frank's face, Frank sprung to his feet. Seeing the colt he smiled and said, "You little rascal you must learn not to use your hoofs on me when I take a nap." The colt never made that mistake again even though there were many times that he could have.

When Hidalgo was two years old, Frank began to train him. Many of the things taught to the colt were very dangerous to the trainer but the colt was always careful not to hurt his master. Frank had been dispatch rider for Cavalry during the Indian uprising - now the main trouble was ended. Frank was known to be one of the best riders on the plains and Colonel Cody came to the ranch to ask him to ride with his show, only the best riders were hired. The following Spring Frank was a drawing card in the B.B. Show. Hidalgo ran the range with the other horses: the riders did not notice the spotted colt any more than the rest of the stock. When the Show season was over, Frank found the colt to be a strong horse with all the style and beauty a horse could have and a few days later he was riding him the prize of all horses in his life. Following spring, Hidalgo made his first appearance to the world as a great show horse and his bow was a graceful as that of any stage actor. There are people living who clearly recall his acts.

(Frank on Hidalgo): "I have spent 32 seasons in the Show Ring riding Hidalgo and he was the greatest show horse that ever acted under the Big Top. He really liked to perform and I shall long remember the spring of 1889 when I performed with him in the first Madison Square Garden, which was built on the same site where the 2nd garden stood in New York. The first evening Hidalgo took the house. The audience was surprised when Hidalgo lay down on me by stretching himself inch by inch until his body covered me, then he got to his feet in the same manner and then he stood over me and bowed to the audience. And that was only one of the many things he did so well. One of his best tricks was to rear and place his forefeet on my shoulders. Hidalgo weighed in at 900 lbs. He never made the mistake of putting his weight on me nor did he hurt me with his hoofs.

"Besides being a show horse, Hidalgo was one of the best endurance horses I rode. Sixty miles a day was not a hard task for him. When Show toured Europe, Hidalgo gained many friends and also won a number of endurance races against Cavalry riders. In Arabia he won a race from Aden to Syria. At Jubilee in Rome, horsemen from different parts of the world marveled at his perfect acts, his stature and intelligence. It seemed like the horse understood every word I spoke to him. If I threw my hat into the ring he would walk to it and bring it back to me without damaging it. If there was a horse in the ring without a rider, I'd say, "lead that horse into the horse top" and Hidalgo would walk over to the horse, take the dropped rein in his teeth and lead the horse into the horse top. Hidalgo was not taught to do these out of fear for he never knew the sting of a spur or whip of the quirt. This little spotted horse was always willing to obey and in return I treated him kindly; after every performance he would rub his pink nose against my cheek and the white glass eyes of his showed friendship. Even to his last days he was willing to learn new tricks."
 
 
19. "Hidalgo"
Hopkins, Gertrude. Date unknown.
 

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