Happy Independence Day!
It really wasn't very hard to find a tie to the celebration of American independence, Virginia and horses! As it turns out, the horse George Washington (who was born in Virginia) is most commonly portrayed riding is said to be a grey Half Arabian named Blueskin. That much information is easy to find from any internet search. You can find lots of pictures of George Washington on a handsome grey horse, but none of these portraits were contemporary to the time. This means no artist actually painted a portrait of Washington and Blueskin from life. The images we have today all rely on the artists imagination of what kind of horse a war hero would ride!
You can also find out that Blueskin was a gift to Washington from Colonel Benjamin Tasker Dulany of Maryland and he was sired by an Arabian stallion named Ranger also known as Lindsay's Arabian. So who was this Arabian stallion in colonial America? It's hard to sort out fact from fiction. Legend has it that the Emperor of Morocco gave a pure Arabian stallion to the Captain of a British frigate for some unknown service to the Emperor's son. The frigate Captain planned to take him to England where he expected to sell him for a hefty price. (That's believable! The world is full of optimistic types thinking that turning a profit on a horse is easy to do).
For some reason, this frigate called at one of the ports in the West Indies. The frigate Captain, wanting to give the horse some exercise, let him run loose in a lumber yard (we'll just call this guy Nitwit Frigate Captain) where the horse broke three of his legs. Actually, the idea of a super valuable horse...that you hope to make a profit on...being damaged in transport is also completely believable! At the same time there was, in this harbor, a ship's captain from New England who was a friend of the Nitwit Frigate Captain that now had a horse with three broken legs. Faced with a horse with three broken legs (and no profit potential), the frigate captain offered the horse to his New England friend to see if he could cure him. The New Englander accepted the offer and put the horse aboard his vessel. He rigged up a sling and carefully set and bound the horse's legs. When the ship reached Connecticut, the horse's legs had been mended and he was ready to breed some mares! Or so the legend goes!
It is believed that Lindsey's Arabian reached Connecticut in 1766. He was described as a "white horse of the most perfect form and symmetry, rather above 15 hands high, and gallant temper, which gave him a lofty and commanding carriage and appearance. "In 1777 or 1778, Continental Army cavalry commander, "Light Horse Harry" Lee, became aware of some exceptionally fine horses that were being used as cavalry mounts in New England. Lee sent one of his officers, a certain Captain Lindsey, to look into the matter and purchase the sire of these horses, if possible. Lindsey was successful, purchased this horse, named "Ranger", and shipped him to Virginia. Evidently Ranger was immediately in demand.
Because he was a full blooded Arabian, he commanded an exceptionally high stud fee and produced exceptional foals. Ranger later stood at stud at Piscataway, MD. While no longer famous today, at one time his blood line was as famous as any in the history of horses in the United States!
Happy Independence Day!