Horses have a special place in American lore: Barbaro, Champion, Man o’ War, Seabiscuit, Silver, Secretariat and countless others have captured the nation’s attention and imagination. There’s something noble in their demeanor and intriguing in their power. But it’s still rare that a horse would be so loved by so many people that they practically demand a memorial service when the horse passes on. That’s what happened with Bay, a Morgan horse who lived and “worked” at Lincoln’s New Salem for nearly 23 years. Bay died on Dec. 28, but the state-run historic site will hold a memorial service for him on March 2.
Jane Carrington, who works as a historic site interpreter at Lincoln’s New Salem, says Bay was always the first “person” to greet visitors at the site. He was friendly and loved to be petted, Carrington said, especially when visitors had treats like apples, carrots or even mints. Bay lived to be 29, which in horse years is about 85 – in other words, extremely old for a horse, Carrington said, adding that there are likely millions of photos of Bay around the world because nearly every visitor to the site wanted their picture taken with him.
“I promised him we would remember him well and he’d never be forgotten,” Carrington said. “He wasn’t just any horse. For horse lovers, every horse is special, but everyone has asked me if there would be a memorial when he passed. The public has pretty much demanded it.”
Bay was a Morgan horse, which refers to a specific breed dating back to 1789. The original Morgan horse, named Figure, belonged to businessman Justin Morgan of Vermont. Figure’s strength, stamina, poise and friendliness made him legendary and much sought after for breeding, and his descendants today tend to share his positive traits. As of 2005, there were estimated to be about 180,000 Morgan horses worldwide.
Bay’s memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. March 2 at Lincoln’s New Salem, 15588 History Lane, Petersburg. The service is free to the public and will feature a eulogy for Bay, a poem and music about him, and photos of his time at the site, as well as refreshments.
“I’ll miss his good-natured company,” Carrington said. “There were many times it was just me and him in the village before the visitors came. I talked to him all the time, and he never criticized me or told me I was doing anything wrong. He was just always encouraging, always whinnying and always there.”
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