Sitting at my desk, iPod plugged into my groggy noggin, I clicked on that which I believed to be “Desert Rose”(C) by Sting.
I cannot hear “You’re So Vain” without acting out the line about Saratoga. When Carly Simon gets there, she sings,
original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are
representations or copies : prototype; also : a
inherited idea or mode of thought in the psychology of C. G. Jung that is
derived from the experience of the race and is present in the unconscious of
So an archetype first is the original pattern, or ideal of a thing. (This definition was that of Plato, and his theory of the Land of the Forms.) A couple of thousand years later, Karl Jung came along to help us understand our shared spiritual experience at the finish line.
While I’m pretty sure that Dr. Jung didn’t write extensively about archetypes in order to explain “the funnest part of horse racing”–it’s the universality of human experience to which his theory speaks. The notion that 30,000 people are united as one during the last seconds of a horse race is not wishful thinking, or My Little Pony theology: Jung explains it in his writings on the Collective Unconscious.
The archetype that unifies our experience is The Horse. And the fact is that The
Horse represents so much, to so many people–people in virtually every culture on Earth–is a phenomenon, indeed. And yet, in whatever language we attempt to express it, all language is ultimately useless to define the animal who shows us our humanity–or our cruelty–who convicts us, and makes us inspect our own souls. Because of The Horse, we can know the archetype of pure spirit, absolute loyalty, fidelity, honesty and intelligence. Through The Horse, we get a glimpse into the creative Mind of God, and ultimately, to ourselves.
There’s a single reason why a photo of a random horse, anywhere on Earth, moves most human hearts to a place of warmth, longing and joy. Ask yourself why these animals have this ability, to move us so deeply. The universality of experience, as Plato explained, helps us identify them. But the fact that they’re embedded in our Collective Unconscious wasn’t an idea of Jung’s–he merely recognized the fact, and wrote about it. It’s our universal concept of The Horse–placed there by God–is why we know connection with them.
And then there’s Saratoga. If ever there’s a place on this green Earth that is the archetype of a race track–of all the souls, both equine and human, who haunt a place–a place so rich in history, tradition and beauty–it’s Saratoga. Myriad tomes have been written about the place–I can add nothing to the accolades, from the perspective of a mere human visitor. But as a soul–as a horse-obsessed, racing-fanatic insider–I can report in full confidence that Saratoga represents all that’s beautiful and good about horse racing.
Saratoga is the place where horses get off a van after a 16-hour ride, and exhale. They smell the clean Adirondack air. They feel the breeze, fanned by 200-year-old trees, their Tree Friends. The horses can relax, but not simply because they’re in a beautiful environment, or because they’re at summer camp.
The horses, as ultimately intuitive beings, know that Saratoga is the place that is more than a visual, physical representation of American or world horse racing. Saratoga is a place that was home to Native Americans back to the 14th Century, a place of pilgrimage and encampment.
This is the town that serves as the intersection of profound spirituality and otherworldly beauty. The beauty here is far more than skin-deep: this is a place so rare, so indefinable that we mere mortals are compelled to keep writing about it in our efforts to understand it.
Whatever it is–however it is–the eternal horses begin their trek to Saratoga in April, and they thank God. This is the dirt on which their hooves are as close to perfect connection as they’ve been for four million years. When the very first equus ferus caballus first trod on Mother Earth, she felt what the horses experience today in Saratoga. The archetype of The Horse, pounding those hooves into the rich archetypal dirt, is the very definition of original beauty. Nothing is more real, more sober or elegant or perfect as a horse running on the dirt at Saratoga.
Horse and Earth, in communion with each other.
Humans, souls and hearts joined with The Horses in the eternal song.
For six glorious weeks in July, August and September, the city of Saratoga Springs, New York, USA, again will host a monstrous party. This year, the party began on May 1, when the Saratoga150 celebration kicked off.
And the reason for Saratoga150, for the city and the county to welcome the world into the tiny Adirondack place really is all about just one thing: the deep, ancient connection between The Horse and this building, this oval of dirt. If an archetype is the representation of the very essence of something–and Jung’s expansion of the definition includes the individual joining with the collective spirit/mind community–then this is the place you want to be, to free your soul.
Come to Saratoga for the Saratoga150 celebration. Come for the shopping, dining or golf.
But if you come here and the opportunity to become one with 30,000 other humans and 3,000 horses passes by you, I pity you.
If The Horses and their daily High Mass on the track is “just another sports event” to you–you’ve missed the whole point. Go to the races in Saratoga–and Arapahoe Park–and Ascot, Meydan, Del Mar, Arlington, Happy Valley or Taby Galopp.
Go anywhere on Earth that horses are racing, and join in their spiritual song.
But whatever you do, wherever you go, don’t miss the very reason for being there. Scream, dance, laugh, sing, pound the air with your fists–express the joy in your soul, as your horse
<——-or, horses!–crosses the finish line.
Join in the archetypal dance with the horses and we humans who hear their siren song.
You who hear the song and respond will ride the back of a wild horse, all the way Home.
* “You’re So Vain”(C) 1972, Carly Simon
PHOTO, LOGO CREDITS:
* Wild Horse Running, courtesy of Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. Please visit their ‘site, and contribute if you can to their wonderful work of great love. Thank you.
* Wild Horses, Running, courtesy of Frank Staub and Wild Horse Photography by Frank Staub. Please visit his ‘site, and patronize him if you are able. Thank you.
* Saratoga Race Course logo, courtesy of NYRA. (New York Racing Association)
* Rachel Alexandra wins the Woodward, Saratoga, 2009: courtesy of NYRA/Susie Raisher.
* Alpha and Golden Ticket Dead Heat, Travers, 2012: courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese.