Back in the 1950s and 60s, Cunard Line’s Media had the unusual responsibility of supplying American horse racing stables with regular imports of British thoroughbreds. In his highly enjoyable book, “Captain of the Queen,” the late Queen Elizabeth 2 captain Robert Harry Arnott told a story about a particularly rough crossing during a time when he was Media’s chief officer.
Cunard ships have done their share over the years to build up the bloodlines which have produced today’s multi-million-dollar racehorses. Media, for instance, regularly carried some of the best British breeding stock out to the United States to boost genetic strains at stud farms there.
But even with stabilisers, Media wasn’t the ideal ship for carrying horses. We quartered out emigrant sures and dams in specially built wood stables on the afterdeck, but they didn’t have things like rubber horse stall mats for the horses to keep their grip on back then, and in rough seas Media herself would rise and descend as sharply as a Grand National steeplechaser; immediately bringing on attacks of acute seasickness in our unfortunate horses. Once, a mid-Atlantic gale whipped the roof off their stables, and I went inside the roofless stalls to comfort the anguished animals, while the ship’s carpenters repaired the damage. And yet, in spite of all these traumas, Cunard never lost a horse through sickness.
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