I just returned from the seeing the movie, Penny and Red at the BIFF film festival. What a wonderful documentary full of historic footage, untold stories and a wonderful interview with Penny, her son and daughter-in-law. I ran into Hildy Armour there and wanted to apologize for calling her Heidi twice! If you missed this showing it is worth seeing. The historic race footage brought tears to my eyes and memories that I had forgotten of watching the races in the 70s of the two great horses, Riva Ridge and Secretariat. I also learned from the post showing interviews that Secretariat, who was euthanized at the age of 19 due to severe laminitis, sired over 500 colts and fillies.
Before his burial in Paris, Kentucky he was necropsied at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Thomas Swerczek, the veterinarian who performed the necropsy, claims that he found that Secretariat’s heart was the largest he had ever seen in a horse—approximately twice the size of a normal horse’s heart.
A normal heart size for a thoroughbred is 8½ pounds. Secretariat’s test results indicated a heart of unusual dimension weighing at least 1.65 times to twice the weight of the average Thoroughbred heart.
This information on heart size led the way for new research to be conducted on factors leading up to great thoroughbreds and the size of their hearts. The hypothesis known as the Circulatory system of the horse (“X factor”) claims that an enlarged heart size is given by the dam to her foal, even as she acquired it from her sire.
Penny chuckled about the sexism of the times—early on the stallion was only given credit for the breeding of a champion. And now science is finding that the mare is just as important!