Monday, November 09, 2009

Horses and humans and competition

Saturday's Breeder's Cup race was awesome. Great horse, incredible riding by the jockey Mike Smith, and a truly, truly, historic race. Her ears are the best part of the whole video. (If you want a great view between the ears, check out this 7+ minute video of a workout.)

But on the flip side of the racing industry, we have Phoenix. A horse that had raced, had to have raced to have the tattoo that was too worn to identify him, and ended up nearly starved to death before he was rescued by NorCal Equine Rescue.

But it's not just the Thoroughbred racing industry that is hard on horses. All, and I do mean ALL, competitive horse disciplines have their dark side. They are all drugging horses to perform better. They are all treating horses as lesser creatures just to win the big prize. Thoroughbred racing has a lot of money behind it and is much more public, but that just means they will be brought up short faster by the outrage of the general public.

Humans are generally not moved to act until extreme emotions come to play, it's just the way we are. Horse racing is big and that makes it an easy target. But if you talk to people in the cutting world, the Quarter Horse world, you'll get the same story. It's just better hidden.

It's not that competition is bad. Horses themselves are naturally competitive. It's tossing humans in the mix that makes it get wonky.

Zenyatta is a horse made to do what she does, and a horse that loves what she does. To deny her that would be to cut her heart out--a sin above nearly all others.

What we need to ask ourselves is what we can do, all of us, to make it better. Really make it better. Not deny the horses their nature, not regulate it to make ourselves feel better, but strike some balance in between.

Because I can't watch a horse like Zenyatta, or Rachel Alexandra, or my own two Man O' War descendants, love them like I do, and not embrace that wild, powerful part of their being. Not just embrace, but honor and revel in it.

Otherwise, what's the point of sharing the planet with creatures like horses?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Our Dawn is a Man O'War descendent too, through War Relic. And you're right - humans putting the needs of the horse last in order to win happens in every discipline. Making such stuff visible to the world can change what's acceptable. And getting out there and competing and winning without using those methods also makes change happen.