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A Horse,
of Course

with Don Blazer

A Horse of Course

There are some horsemen-heroes I just can’t accept.

Francois Xavier Aubry is one of them.

They’ve named cliffs after him, and a valley in Arizona and a fort in Kansas. He did some miraculous things. And yes, he was a hard little critter, without fear and he got tougher as the going got rougher.

But for my money, they gave him credit which belongs elsewhere. And the names of the real heroes are mostly forgotten.

Aubry set an endurance speed record that was unbelievable when he did it, and is unbelievable now. He rode from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Independence, Missouri, a distance of 832 miles, in five days and sixteen hours.

That’s impossible, you say. That’s also what those who bet against him said.

To accomplish the fantastic feat he had to ride an average of 140 miles per day for nearly six consecutive days. He had to ride through hostile Indian country, during storms, and across swollen rivers.

He made his ride and set his record in September of 1848.

Aubry was a trader who packed goods from Santa Fe to Independence. He made many trips, was nearly killed by Indians several time and he gained quite a reputation. He was, without question, the hero of the day.

Aubry was 24 years old, stood 5 foot 2 inches and weighed about 100 pounds. He bet Kit Carson and some other friends $1,000 he could make the ride in under six days. The bet, a whole lot of money in those days, nonetheless, was quickly accepted.

At the time, Aubry was riding a Palomino mare named Dolly. His plan was to rider Dolly the first 75 miles out of Santa Fe. At that point he expected to overtake a wagon train with which he had already send a number of fresh horses. He would ride the fresh horses to other points along the trail where he had remount horses waiting.

But things went wrong almost immediately. Dolly raced the first 75 miles, but the wagon train was long gone. Dolly had to race another 75 miles before they overtook the wagons. The mare traveled 150 miles in under 24 hours.

Dolly saved Aubry then, and later she would die to save him again.

With fresh horses, Aubry pushed on day and night. He broke down all the horses before he reached his remounts. Two of the horses ran themselves to death.

The names of the horses aren’t known.

Aubry walked 20 miles to his next horse.

Late on Sunday, September 17, Aubry rode a sweating, panting horse into Independence. He won his race for fame with eight hours to spare.

The celebrations were wild, and the praise for Aubry was great.

But no one seemed to care, mention or give credit to the horses Aubry rode.

Dolly, who somehow survived that famous ride, was Aubry’s favorite mount for the next five years as he scouted new trails to the west coast.

On one of the scouting trips Aubry and his followers were attacked by Indians. Aubry suffered seven wounds in one battle; Dolly was also wounded.

In his diary of the trip, Aubry wrote: "We are on half rations of horse meat; and I have the misfortune to know that it is the flesh of my inestimable mare, Dolly, who had so often, by her speed, saved me from death at the hands of Indians."

Aubry was stabbed to death by a Major Richard H. Weightman in a bar brawl in 1854. The major was later acquitted by a verdict of "self-defense."

Yeah, Aubry was a rider. I’ll be among the first to say he was.

I won’t say he was a horseman.

And I’ll reserve the word "hero" for the horses he rode.

Don Blazer
Visit Don Blazer's Web Site

And Read
"A Horse, Of Course"
Monthly Column
by Don Blazer

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