Every Horseshoe Has A Story
Horseshoes are like slippers at our home. You can usually find one sitting in the garage or in the bed of my truck. When your wife is a horse trainer and your daughter rides competitively, horseshoes are kind of like J. Akuhead Pupule’s Chicken Man: “They’re everywhere; they’re everywhere!”
That said, you can understand why seeing a horseshoe is not something that usually excites me. But that changed this past Sunday at Iolani School.
I was killing time, waiting for my son’s basketball clinic to come to an end, when something shiny and silver caught my eye. It was a horseshoe sitting on a wall. When I took a step closer to get a better look, I realized it was a replica of a horseshoe of one of horseracing’s most famous thoroughbred stallions: the legendary Seabiscuit.
The story of how the real horseshoe landed on the campus has been shared at Iolani for more than seven decades. I recall reading about it in 2003, but to actually see it, albeit a replica, made me realize I was staring at history.
Seabiscuit gained international fame Nov. 1, 1938, when the undersized horse shocked the sports world by defeating heavily favored 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral in what was billed as the “Match of the Century.”
An estimated 40 million people listened to the race on the radio as Seabiscuit went on to win by an impressive four lengths. He would become a symbol of hope to many Americans during the Great Depression.
One of those fans was the founder of Iolani School’s athletic program, Father Kenneth A. Bray, who wrote a letter to Seabiscuit’s owner, Charles Howard, asking for one of Seabiscuit’s horseshoes. Bray said the shoe would be a symbol of inspiration for his undersized Iolani players.
“The best luck the shoe can bring me is a bunch of sincere, hardworking kids who will give all they’ve got all the time,” Bray wrote.
The letter moved Howard so much he sent Bray a horseshoe and a metal plaque with a special message inscribed: “Worn by Seabiscuit defeating War Admiral, Pimlico, Nov. 1, 1938. 1 3/16 M. Time: 1.56 3/5.”
The horseshoe would become a symbol of hope at Iolani. Bray’s players would even kiss the shoe before each game for inspiration.
“I was always impressed with the Seabiscuit story,” said the late Eddie Hamada, who played for Bray and later became a legendary coach at Iolani. “I liked the idea of the undersized horse beating the bigger one, the underdog who would rather die than be beaten.”
The real horseshoe was later placed in the school’s archives for safekeeping. It was out of sight but certainly not out of mind. The story of the inspirational piece of metal was still a part of Iolani’s rich history and would often surface during special events.
In 2003, when the school’s sports complex underwent renovations, a replica of the horseshoe was put on display near the gymnasium, along with Bray’s inspirational story for all to read. Sunday was the first time I had ever seen it. My wife and daughter, who work with horses every day, were equally impressed.
“It’s so small, but he was so fast,” my daughter said with keen interest as she read the story behind the famous horseshoe. “That’s pretty cool it’s here at Iolani.”
Pretty cool indeed, thanks to two men who believed in the underdog and understood the value of heart, drive and will to win. Horseshoes still don’t excite me, but this one made me realize every shoe has a story.
If you’ve never watched Seabiscuit’s stunning victory over War Admiral, go to: https://www.youtube.com/w atch?v=WVT2MPNCqgM.