Like many Chromies, I was quite upset regarding the news that our beloved Chrome had been sold to interests in Japan. I thought I'd join the band of fans paying tribute to this one-of-a-kind horse.
I am one of probably hundreds, if not thousands, whose interest in horse racing (and horses in general) was rekindled because of that beautiful chestnut colt who began his humble life quietly but grew into the mighty California Chrome.
I was late to the Chrome party as he was already a star on the track, so the beginning of my "Chrome Experience" was his run in the Kentucky Derby. I had not watched the Derby on TV since my childhood. I believe it was my wife that happened to be flipping channels and stumbled upon the NBC coverage of race day. The coverage of Chrome and his entire story sucked me in. I could relate to him and his background. Plus, I couldn't get over how stunning he looked. I have followed Chrome and racing ever since.
I liken Chrome to the Hot Wheels track set I received one Christmas from the local Toys for Tots program. It came when our family really needed a morale boost. I played with that track for a long time, helping me forget my reality.
Chrome came at the right time for me that first Saturday in May 2014, just like that track set. He was an escape from my life as I knew it, a light in my darkness, a joy amidst the pain.
Of all the great horses that have come and gone, to my knowledge, none have been compared to the great Secretariat and how he unified a nation like California Chrome. Both horses appeared to know their true importance and purpose and played their roles valiantly as super-crowds gathered to get a glimpse (and a photo) of such greatness; touching the heart and overwhelming the soul, bringing children and adults to tears with each appearance. His connections obviously recognized his gift and public draw and they benefited greatly. To them, he was a business opportunity, but through that opportunity, we were given great access to witness the king in majestic fashion. For that, I am thankful.
Will there be another horse that stirs up the nation like California Chrome? Yes, I have this feeling that at least one of his offspring will carry the full "Chrome Effect" to continue his legacy and his life’s purpose. I truly believe God created Chrome for more than racing and breeding and I believe that we have not seen the last of his greatness.
In the past, when I'd try to put into words what Chrome means to me, I was basically at a loss. In preparation for the inaugural Pegasus Cup, featuring our boy's final run before beginning stud duty, I attempted to put my thoughts about Chrome to music in my original song "California Chrome (Heart of a Champion)." In the song, I tried to capture the essence of how Chrome had captured the hearts of many. Watch the video of the song below.
Disappointingly, I was not able to see Chrome in person on the track or at Taylor Made. I had set a goal to partake in the Chrome Experience this next spring but I guess that won’t happen now. Because of this lovable horse, I have cyber-met so many wonderful fans and photographers. I am eternally grateful for all the conversations and photos of our People’s Horse to keep me inspired. I pray that we will continue to have access to Chrome’s journey through photos and videos.
Chrome may soon be gone from our soil, but the way he has inspired us, he will never be forgotten. No matter where he is, Chrome will always be home with me.
Please leave a comment about your journey with Chrome!
It’s been 28 years since I was voted homecoming king at Augustana College (now Augustana University). I was definitely surprised by the result of that vote. As I think about it years later, I wonder if I have seen any benefit from that title. It didn’t benefit me professionally. It definitely didn’t help me improve my study habits or GPA. And, I certainly didn’t have any added responsibility during that last year of school because of the title. But I have realized that I did learn something from my year as Augustana royalty.
You don’t have to be the best to make a difference. I was definitely not the most popular guy at school. I wasn’t a football player or any other type of collegiate athlete; I was just a regular student. I had served in some leadership roles but wasn’t a great leader by any means. I suppose I was a bit of a flirt, which may have helped my vote because of the 4:1 girl to guy ratio. But, I hope that the result was because I just tried my best to be kind. I wanted everyone to know that they were important to me.
Remember this. You don’t have to be charismatic, popular, or wealthy to make a difference in someone else’s life. Be sure that your loved ones, coworkers, or people you meet throughout the day, know that they are important to you; that they are loved. Say it to them through your words and actions. This is one of many important characteristics of a great leader.
Shrink your circles to do more good. It boils down to this. In my attempt to make as many friends as possible throughout high school and college, I turned my back on some pretty amazing people. My friendships only scratched the surface. I spend much of that time being fake so I wouldn’t have to be vulnerable to people.
Unfortunately, that was a lesson that took way too long to learn. Now that my circles are smaller, I have the opportunity to be real. It allows me to truly connect with people so I can benefit from a support group as well as be a real support to my friends.
Remember this. It only takes one drop of water to create a ripple that reaches far and wide.
Here today, gone tomorrow. Five years following graduation, I was invited to ride in the homecoming parade as an alumni royalty. I thought it would be fun to relive my “glory days” and see old friends and acquaintances. As I rode the parade route, I waved to a crowd of faces that seemed to kindly smile or wave back but were actually quite indifferent to my royalty status. It was then that I realized that we will all be insignificant at some point. I had this idea in my head that my good works and accomplishments in my past, present, and future would be my ticket to eternal recognition as a world changer.
Remember this. In this day of short-term memory, eventually, all movers and shakers will fade out of the public eye. Only in extreme circumstances will our accomplishments or failures change the lives of others forever. So, the lesson here is to never stop trying to grow, improve, or change the world, but don’t dwell on fame or recognition. Live for the moment of personal defeat so you can learn, or live for the success to experience that joy. And then move on. Life keeps moving, don’t get stuck in the past. Be grateful for those memories and accolades, but always move forward. Keep reinventing yourself; always striving to be a better version of yourself.
Listen to my song, "Only You" that takes a look at my struggle with significance and purpose.
As we approach the presidential election season, I am bracing myself for the mudslinging to begin from both sides of the aisle, highlighted through news outlets and hypersensitive social media commenters.
Like many, I’m going to tune out the news coverage and social posting the best I can. I have been known to share my opinions in the past and joined the ensuing heated discussion that followed. I realized two things from participating in those discussions. One, there is nothing that I can say that will change someone’s mind. Two, the more I engaged, the higher my anxiety rose, lighting a fire inside that had the potential to burn through filters and diplomacy. Thankfully, I contained my emotions and remained calm and open to the opinions of others in the debate.
Recently, my family was involved in a slightly tragic event, causing me to face that demon again. The hurt and anger in me wanted revenge. I looked for ways to throw the injustice back the other way; hurting people in my path. Fortunately, I didn’t act on this demon.
Prayer created calm. Calm brought me back to my senses. My faith took away the hurt and replaced it with as much compassion as my humanness could muster. I prayed for forgiveness of myself and for the source of the pain.
Through that prayer and reflection, I was able to make a 180 turn with a song I was writing and created a faith-filled work of grace and love. This song was a challenge for me to “keep my cool”, but it was a challenge for those creating the pain to find peace in turning hate into forgiveness, grace, and love.
I hope this post finds its way into hearts that need refuge from the darkness. And for all of us, remember to speak with love, with the heart of Jesus, in disagreements as well as agreements!
Love Song to You - Proverbs 18:21, Psalm 19:14
Copyright 2017 Justin Ehrman
My heart beats a rhythm
Of hopelessness and pain
Sin seems the only way
To push it all away
I raise a prayer for answers
Spirit have your way
Fill my heart with freedom
To lift my hands in praise
Let the words from my mouth sing a love song to you
May I honor you, Jesus. My life be your truth
When evil overwhelms me, your light reveals the way
To the path of grace and mercy
Love's the only way
My words can be hurtful
When I’m avoiding you
For never trusting you
No matter what I say or what I do
Your blood takes my sin away
Grace calls me to love like Jesus
With hands extended always
Love’s the only way ______
Let the words from my mouth sing a love song
Let the words from my mouth sing a love song
Jesus, you’re my love song
Jesus, you’re my love song
Let the words from my mouth
Sing a love song to you
Justin Ehrman is a husband, father, author and singer/songwriter.