A ray of hope can appear when you least expect it. For the past four weekends, it has come to Boothbay Harbor in the form of a big, black horse named Hercules. He was brought here by owner Gerry Scott, a retired military veteran and commander of a U.S. Army horse unit. Scott now runs a horse farm and yoga retreat in Saco.
Cancellations of the students for his summer yoga sessions prompted Scott to conduct a “soldiers for life” mission with Hercules instead. Stops at a number of towns from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Boothbay Harbor were planned to inspire hope for a happier future when the country recovers from the pandemic.
Following months of people sheltering in place, the image of Hercules, ridden by Scott with his yellow lab Molly in tow, was like seeing a mirage walking down Commercial Street. The radiant black Friesian from the Netherlands stands 17.3 hands high, so the sight did not go unnoticed. Scott said locals and visitors were thrilled to have a close-up look. Sometimes, whole neighborhoods would come out to applaud as horse and rider passed by.
Betty Maddocks of Janson's Clothing first witnessed them on Memorial Day weekend and encouraged Scott to make return appearances with the promise of free lodging/stabling and meals. Maddocks said, “With all the bad things that we've been going through, the town desperately needed something to lift their spirits.” Brady's, Spruce Point Inn, Lafayette Group and Shannon's Unshelled, along with Maddocks, became sponsors to enable the multiple visits. Burke's Island Farm provided the stable.
According to Scott, Whale Park was a good place to talk to people. He figured he spoke to about 50 groups per day there. Hercules is used to crowds. He regularly leads the Marine Corps marching band in Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade. Besides time spent downtown, Scott made a number of visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities where the residents could see Hercules from their windows, along with family and friends.
Scott said, "Horses, like dogs, are therapeutic. I like to think of a quote from Winston Churchill, 'There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.’”