[ears to hear, eyes to see, hearts to understand]
The Parable of “the Flying Troika”
by R Brown
Vlad was born in 1861 on his father’s horse ranch. His father owned and bred many horses for many purposes, among these types of horses were; draft horses, warmbloods, light horses, gaited racers, and ponies. Vlad’s favorites were the gaited horses and his favorite among the gaiteds were the Orlov trotters.
From the time—as an infant—that his father had laid him across the hard leather saddle in front of him and had taken him on long loping rides across the cold Russian steppe—to the first time that he was big enough to straddle one of magnificent beasts on his own—to now, Vlad could eat, breathe, talk, or think of nothing else.
His grandest dream was to one day, become the best “master” driver of the Troika, the steppes had ever seen.
The Orlovs were a breed, indeed worthy of Vlad’s worship and admiration. They were splendid animals. Considered the supreme troika horse, they were known for their sturdy conformation, long strides, stamina, and an inherently, speedy trot. The Orlov breed is the most famous breed in Russian history. Vlad’s own Orlov trotters—when grown— were tall, muscular horses, standing 5 feet tall at the withers (shoulders).
Vlad, stood only 5 feet 6 inches, so, when they raised their large heads to the full length of their long, arched necks, they dwarfed Vlad significantly.
Although all Orlov trotters are born dark, their color lightens as they mature. Those born grey, eventually become all white as they mature. Vlad had chosen three of these greys when they were but colts and had raised—groomed, nurtured, and trained—them to race. Now, in their prime, they were a big, strong, fast, team of pure white horses which had—under the Masterful driving of Vlad—already won several small but competitive troikas.
For the under-initiated, “troika is the traditional Russian carriage drawn by a team of three horses harnessed abreast. It has become a symbol of Russia and is widely employed in folkloric scenes, movies (such as Doctor Zhivago), paintings and literature” (Russiapedia, para. 1). These Orlov-drawn carriages can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, giving cause for some to compare them to “flying birds”.
Vlad, and most other successful troika drivers knew that the key to this speed was in the gait of the—uniquely harnessed—Orlovs. Although the horses were aligned “three-abreast”, they did not move at the same gait. “The horse in the middle, called the shaft horse, trotted and acted like a locomotive, while the tracers—the horses on the outside—maintained a brisk gallop.
“This method of arranging the horses became popular not only for speed, but also for endurance, good cargo capacity, maneuverability and safety; a three-horse carriage was much more stable than the two-horse carriage widely used in Europe” (Russiapedia, para. 3). To achieve this miracle of horsemanship, both the driver and the horses had to be exceptionally well-trained. Vlad and his white horses were definitely that.
Finally, the day Vlad and his Orlovs had trained for arrived—the annual Troika. Vlad and his horses, stood alongside the best teams in the land, but Vlad had no fear. He was confident that the training and time he and has horses had put in would win the day.
Somewhere, a pistol fired. With a rumbling snort—as if to say to the other two Orlovs, “Let’s go boys”—the shaft horse leaped into his powerful trot. The tracers dutifully obeyed, shooting into identical gallops—each, in march-step, with the other—like two well-trained soldiers.
They ran like wildfire—the three horses of the apocalypse, and Vlad, the fourth. Vlad focused so intently on his horses, that the competition faded—figuratively and literally—from view. Galloping and trotting in a complex synchrony which defied logic, the four horsemen dealt defeat unto the other competitors like a Tarot dealer dealing deathly fortunes; and it was over.
At the celebration—which typically followed the annual Troika—Vlad was approached by a dark man wearing a cleanly pressed white Achkan and matching churidars. Atop his head sat a red Pheta. The man was leading a beautiful black Marwari by the reigns. Vlad studied the man, and even before the man spoke, Vlad knew him to be a horse-trader.
The man approached Vlad and his horse-team as they rested from the race, in the shade of a large birch tree. In a heavy accent, the man introduced himself as the horse-trader, Vlad had figured him to be. After a few niceties, mostly complimenting Vlad on his victory and, of course, his fine trio of horses, he began his sales pitch.
He stated that he’d noted—being the expert on horse flesh that he was—that one of Vlad’s tracers seemed to tire faster than the other two; a condition owing to advancing years, he’d suggested.
Vlad too, had noticed that his right tracer was aging a little faster than the other two, as well he should because, his position on Vlad’s right and dominant side made him the Orlov Vlad most depended on when the others seemed to falter. However, Vlad felt that the horse still had a few good years left. But, now, here was this horse-trader with a fine, young, strong, albeit untested Marwari, which if Vlad was not mistaken, he was offering to trade for Vlad’s right-sided tracer, and he did.
Well, Vlad being a pretty astute judge of horses himself, wasted no time rebuffing the salesman’s offer, for he knew the Marwari to be an ambling gaited horse. As stated before, the key to the speed of the troika configuration, lies in the fact that the outer two horses—the tracers—gallop while the middle horse—the shaft horse—trots, and as anyone who knows anything about horses can tell you, an ambling gate is slower than a gallop. Therefore, even though the ambling gated Marwari was a beautiful horse, his presence in the troika would have caused a mismatch which would have been an unmitigated disaster, as racing-teams go.
Vlad and his team of Orlovs went on to win many more races. The team was so successful that Vlad vowed that when it DID become necessary to replace his tracer, he would do so, only with another Orlov.
Vlad is you!
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Agricultural Communications, Texas A&M University System (5 September 2012). “‘Gaited’ Gene Mutation and Related Motion Examined”. The Horse. Blood-Horse Publications. Retrieved 8 May 2018
Of Russian origin: Troika. (n.d.). Retrieved 8 May 2018 from https://russiapedia.rt.com/of- russian-origin/troika/
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