Saturday, June 14, 2008

Racing perspective

Devon (Bar's first mom) saw my post about Big Brown and sent me an email with some really important perspective from inside the world of Thoroughbred racing.

From Devon:
"I read your recent blog and I want you to know that most race horse owners, trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, grooms all love their horses. Now there are some jerks out there that don’t give a rat’s fart what happens to their horse but most do. You will see that in many other competitive horse sports not just racing. The fact that Big Brown had a quarter crack or didn’t get his steroids, I believe I’m right and so do others including the jockey, is not the reason he ran so poorly. I noticed as they were loading into the gate that the track looked really dry and deep. The way Brownie was traveling by the half mile pole he wasn’t getting a good hold of the racetrack and was tiring really quickly."

She is very passionate about what she does and about the horses she works with, and she understands - and accepts - the sport, the breed, and the industry.

"These horses and I’m around them every single day, love to train, love to race, love to run. Calabar was one of them. He thrived on it. He would have still tried to run on a broken leg because his heart was so big. We aren’t making them do anything they don’t want to do. When they don’t want to anymore we find homes for them or send them out to breed, make sure they have a happy life. I hope you don’t take offense to this letter; I just want to tell you that lots of racetrack people love this sport, spoil their horses and hardly make a dime off of them. They do it because they love it and their animals. The media likes to make us out to be greedy, money grubbing people and I can’t tell you how untrue a lot of that is. I cannot say everyone is good but most are. Sure making money and being successful is great but it is not why a lot of us do this. I wanted to tell you this from someone who is in the business and not from people on the outside looking in."

I told her I wasn't offended at all, that I really welcome her perspective and input. What I didn't tell her is how much her dedication to her horses comes through. There are tragedies and weird things that happen in every sport, and with horses it can seem even more dramatic -- 1,200 pounds writhing on the ground is heart-wrenching for sure. But I do believe her that most of the folks really do love the animals, and I know the horses love to do what they are built to do. Just like any industry, software included, there are people who are only in it for the money, not the craft of the experience of being part of something bigger than themselves. She's also right that it's not just in racing that bizarre owner behavior and desires can injure horses.

The thing is, we should all be trying our best to put good energy into the horses (and people for that matter) in our lives. Devon and Howie do that, and so do most of the people at my barn. Not everyone does, but it is not specific to any one discipline and, while more visible, I'm not sure horse racing is any worse than other events. That is not to justify anything, just to balance the equation a little bit.

I'm hoping for a follow-up on this later this year when Devon and Howie bring their horses up to Santa Rosa for some racing and I can take a backseat and just watch and learn some more about this world Bar came from.

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