Monday, April 15, 2013

Nautical, the Horse With the Flying Tail

Nautical is probably the most famous palomino horse, other than maybe Mr. Ed.  Hugh Wiley's famous mount was bred in New Mexico and stood only 15'3 hands and was instantly recognizable with his color and his western brand on his jaw.  He was born in 1944 and was called Injun Joe.  Nautical began his career in western pleasure but his owners saw that he had jumping talent when he started jumping out of his corrals and it put to good use, thankfully.

Nautical was brilliant but could be difficult and it took horsemen Bert de Nemethy and Wiley to channel it and make him great.  He was first ridden by Hall of Famers Pat Dixon, Joe Green and Cappy Smith but Wiley got the ride in 1955 when Nautical was 11.  Wiley renamed the horse once he took the reins. When he was on he could win anything in any company.  In 1959 he helped the USET win the Nations Cup at Rome and London.  In London he won four classes, including the George V Cup.  He later became the inspiration for the 1960 Disney documentary film The Horse with Flying Tail.  In 1959, he helped the USET win the Pan Am Games gold medal in Chicago where he turned in the only perfect score of the day and later won four more individual classes on the fall circuit.

Unfortunately, a bought with pneumonia kept Nautical out of the 1960 Olympics but he went on to win the International Stake Class at the National Horse Show that same fall.  He was retired at 17 after that season as it appeared that his illness affected him.  He lived at Gladstone (NJ) and was later retired to Hugh Wiley's farm in Monkton, Maryland where he died six years later from natural causes.

Hugh Wiley commented on Nautical:

Nautical was highly intelligent, very gentle horse when not being ridden, but he could certainly be a problem under saddle; what made him so challenging was that he had overwhelming power and maneuverability and could jump enormous fences with hardly any preparation.  Few horses combine great strength and great speed, but Nautical had a good chance to win any class you chose to enter him in, from the Parcours de Chasse or straight speed class over small fences to the Puissance over the big wall.  Actually, 6'6" or 6'7" was about his limit in the Puissance but he would jump everything very cleanly until then, so he often won such competitions when the course was rather flimsily constructed.

If you have not seen the movie, it's great to see.  He was surely a great one, unexpectedly great.  And quirky too!



  1. Some of the true greats come from the places you least expect to find them... so interesting isn't it?

  2. I enjoyed the movie as a child. It was one of my favorites....thank you for posting this as it has brought back fond memories for me of both the horse, his equally famous rider :) and Bert's peers.



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