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Hidalgo: Not What You Think

A Horse, Of Course
by Don Blazer

I made a boo boo. I blew it. I’ve been snookered. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. I dropped off the turnip truck this morning.
But I’m not alone. Disney Studios is just as gullible as I. (And when Disney bought into the story, they used cash.)
We two great story tellers, Disney and I, believed and then repeated the story of Hidalgo, a cream and white Pinto Indian pony who supposedly went to Arabia where he won a 3,000 mile race, and then stayed to sire many pure white foals. (Even though I know there isn’t such a thing as a pure white horse, I let it go in my column because it made the story so good. Besides, there are white horses.)
Disney thought the story of Hidalgo was so terrific, they turned it into a feature film.
And then the Long Riders’ Guild said neither Disney nor I are half as good at telling stories as Frank ‘Buff’ Hopkins, whom the guild claims made up Hidalgo and all his accomplishments and a few of his own.
Now you want to know what is the guild and how can it be so sure the Hidalgo story is all a (here come some harsh words) ‘lie,’ made up by Hopkins, whom some say is a ‘fraud.’
The Long Riders’ Guild is an association of equestrian explorers formed in 1994, all of whom have ridden more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single equestrian journey. The long riders have collectively written more than 50 books on equestrian travel. Members have studied the history, stories, and legends of those who undertook horseback journeys.
The guild’s goal is ‘to search together for collective freedom and individual wisdom. The organization seeks to ensure that the lost inheritance of equestrian travel knowledge will be available to future generations.’
And in addition, the Guild doesn’t want me telling stories which ain’t necessarily so!
So, here’s what the Guild disputes about Hidalgo and Hopkins.
Hopkins says he was born at Fort Laramie in 1865. Louise Samson, curator of Fort Laramie National Historic Site, says there is no documentation, written or oral, to substantiate Hopkins’ claim. In fact, she says, he was not born at, lived anywhere near, or ever returned to Fort Laramie.
Hopkins says his mother was a Sioux. Dr. Vine Deloria, Jr., lending Native American scholar, historian and author, says Hopkins should be awarded the title of World’s Greatest Liar. “The problem is such distortions of Indian history, slandering of famous chiefs and leaders, cannot easily be erased once they are promulgated as fact.” I never did see a direct quote that Hopkins’ mother wasn’t a Sioux.
Hopkins says he won a race from Galveston, Texas, to Rutland, Vermont, in 1886. Casey Greene, head of special collections, Rosenberg Library, Galveston, says there is “absolutely no mention of Frank Hopkins or such a race” in any newspaper between 1880 and 1890. James Davidson, Vermont Historical Society: “There is nothing in the local papers about a race ending here in Rutland.”
Hopkins claimed he was a ‘star and ringmaster’ in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show for 32 years.
Dr. Juti Winchester, curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center says, “We are unable to find any Frank T. Hopkins in our database of known cast members, acquaintances, employees, or friends of Colonel Cody.”
Finally, about winning the 3,000 mile race in Arabia, Dr. Awd Al-Badi, director of research, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies says, “There is absolutely no record or reference to Hopkins, with or without his mustangs, ever having set foot on Arabian soil. The idea of a historic long distance Arab horse race is pure nonsense.”
Now you can go to the movie and disturb all the viewers as you tell your friends how everything they are seeing is pure bunk.
I got fooled into repeating this ‘funderful’ story about Hidalgo.
Ah, but then how can you ignore good stories about good horses?

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