A Heart as Big as Phar Lap’s

By Jason Donaldson

There’s a saying down under: “…a heart as big as Phar Lap’s.”

Phar Lap was a New Zealand-born racehorse trained in Australia during the Great Depression of the 1930s. His heart weighed 6.35kgs. By comparison, the average thoroughbred racehorse’s heart weighs 3-4kgs. Anatomically he had a massive heart! But it was his courage, strength and staying power that led to his massive popularity.

In the very tough years of Depression Australia, Phar Lap’s rise from humble beginnings spoke strongly to the hopes and dreams of ordinary Aussies. He didn’t have the looks, the obvious racing talent and he was leased very cheaply by an unknown horse trainer

By Andrew (Flickr: The MURDER of Phar Lap.)

By Andrew (Flickr: The MURDER of Phar Lap.) via Wikimedia Commons

He failed to even place in 8 of his first 9 starts. But he got off the canvas and won 36 of his next 41 races! He was so good that he often won by several lengths and at half pace! He was also heavily handicapped (had extra weight added to the saddle) in an attempt to even the field. Nothing could slow Phar Lap down. Debate still rages to this day that his death, in San Francisco in 1932, was the result of arsenic poisoning by jealous rival trainers. His heart is such a big part (literally) of Australian history that it’s actually on display at the National Museum of Australia!

To have a heart as big as Phar Lap’s is an indicator of great courage, generosity, guts and determination.

Guts and Determination (G ‘n D)
When I work with an athlete that has “Heart”, I see guts and determination. G n’ D for short.

To have G n’ D, to show heart, is to push forward in the face of adversity. When your back is against the ropes you can either give up or come out swinging. G n’ D is coming out swinging and continuing to swing until the fight is over.

I believe you either have it or you don’t. Some are born with it. Some develop it by getting knocked down and finding they don’t like to stay down. It’s dirty down there and you get trodden on.

Those who don’t have heart are often the people for whom everything comes easy. Life, career, money, athletic achievement. They have natural ability, they may have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth, they may have fortunate connections. We all know someone like that.

In contrast, those with heart have had to scrap, fight, hustle and hurt to get where they are. They may very well have talent, but they don’t leave their success up to talent alone. They take their talent, add heart and make the very most of it.

To develop guts and determination is to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. To recognise that failure is ok, giving up is not. To push beyond your comfort zone. Not in a risky, dangerous way, but in a measured, strategic manner. If you’re on the mat, your arm is being cranked on, you can feel your elbow separating… for god’s sake, tap. To not do so is not showing heart. That’s stupidity.

BUT, if you’re just tired, feeling beaten down, spent… yet there is still some remote chance of submitting your opponent, regardless of how small that chance is, keep fighting! While there is still a little light at the end of the tunnel, fight your way towards it. Grow that heart as big as Phar Lap’s.

Rachael Colacino


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