Horsepower vs. horse power

Horsepower vs. horse power
Just as I grew up with a love of cars, I also grew up with another love: horses. My mother lived on a farm in England when she was younger and always had horses and donkeys, and when she came to Canada, she passed on that love of four-legged creatures to me. We spent weekends at stables riding whenever we could, and I grew to appreciate, respect and love these beautiful, strong beasts.

2008 Ferrari
Photo: Philippe Champoux

And I often wonder if that helped mould my love of cars. As I couldn't really get behind the wheel when I was 5, my first experience with horsepower was on the back of my very own pony (yes, I was one of those lucky little girls).

The thrill of going fast and truly letting go – feeling free – was first felt on the back of a horse, powering across an open field, hair and mane flapping, a grin so wide across my face it was impossible to hide. I love the power beneath me, I love the vantage point and I love the speed.

And then I discovered cars and fell in love for the same reasons; the speed, the freedom the joy of all that power beneath my fingers and right foot.

It seems I wouldn't be the only auto journalist who's made this connection. Over the years I've met many a journo who I've learned either owns a few four-legged beasties or who at least rides occasionally on the weekends. Is it so bizarre to think that there really may be a connection?

Since I've grown up and moved away to start my own family, my parents have acquired a new brood of children: three horses (all rescues from the TO race track) and four adorable miniature donkeys. One of the ex racehorses is mine, his name is Ben. I love him like I love my Subaru WRX, and I take great pleasure in being able to drive up to my parents’ place on fantastic twisty, open, smooth country roads to then jump on Ben's back and careen through open fields at full throttle, both of us loving the freedom and the speed. What a thrill, what an escape.

I recently enjoyed a local theatrical event, Cavalia, with my mother. Basically, it's like Cirque de Soleil meets Spruce Meadows: lots of acrobats and lots of horses together under a huge, white tent. The combination is incredible and the end result is both breathtaking and impressive. Twenty-five free-running, white and dapple-grey Arabian horses at full throttle just a few feet from where you sit is awe-inspiring and tear-jerking all at once, and I was left quite breathless by the end of the performance. And I was once again reminded of how strong and incredible these equine creatures are and of the connection they have with the automobile.

We do, after all, call it “horsepower,” so it's rather impossible not to make that connection. If you've never looked at a well-cared-for horse closely, I recommend you do. They ripple with muscles, they twitch with strength, and their lines are so fluid and smooth when they run, it's rather like a droplet of water flowing down the lines of a Ferrari 458 while it's speeding down a racetrack – poetry in motion, some would say.

Horses may intimidate some people, scare them even, and some of those people willingly get into cars and do 200+ km/h on pavement. Driving a high-powered car is like piloting a powerful horse. Both take confidence, practice and a real connection. However, most wouldn't dare pick up a pair of reigns and jump on the back of a 1-tonne animal, but would gladly mash their right foot to the floor of a 500+ hp ride with rear-wheel drive. I find that bizarre. I wonder if I'm the only one?

2011 Ford Mustand logo
Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com

By Miranda Lightstone,

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