On this day in 1962, Pakistan’s governor, Ayub Khan, in a gesture of goodwill, gives first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy a horse named Sardar. Governor Khan and President Kennedy cultivated a close diplomatic relationship between their two countries. When the Pakistani governor first visited the White House, he and Jackie discovered a common interest in horses. In her memoirs, the first lady referred to Sardar as her “favorite treasure.” She nicknamed the jet gelding “Black Jack.”
An avid and fearless horsewoman, Jackie Kennedy competed as a child in New York horse shows. While attending college at Georgetown University in 1951, she met her future husband, John F. Kennedy, who was severely allergic to animal hair of any kind. She later remarked to a friend that she could not imagine dating someone who was allergic to horses.
In spite of his allergy, JFK encouraged his wife and, later, his daughter Caroline to ride and indulged his children’s love for animals. The Kennedy White House menagerie included a number of dogs, cats, birds and a rabbit named Zsa Zsa. When Caroline was five years old, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson gave her a pony that she named Macaroni. He also gave Kennedy’s son John Jr. a pony named Leprechaun, but John Jr.’s allergies, which were even worse than his father’s, prevented him from sharing his sister’s hobby. Caroline, JFK and Macaroni were often photographed together on the White House grounds (though the Kennedy horses lived on a farm in Virginia most of the time).
Jackie chose “Black Jack” to serve as the ceremonial rider-less horse during JFK’s funeral. The horse’s nervous capering once caused the procession to come to a halt while everyone waited for him to settle down.
After JFK’s death, Jackie and Caroline found comfort in their horses. Even in her later years, the former first lady could often be found on horseback fox-hunting or riding at break-neck speed in the Virginia countryside.