Monday, August 08, 2016

The Look of Eagles


I've been following, albeit reluctantly, stories of the protests against horse racing in Saratoga. Activists want the sport banned because they consider it cruel. Horses have died at the track, perhaps more than usual this year, and they are simply horrified. I get that.

Of course it is sad when a horse dies. If you think you as a spectator are troubled, imagine how the horse's connections feel. They care for these animals day and night, often giving better care than the most cosseted of house pets would expect.

And as one commenter on a local news story pointed out, when human athletes die in competition, no one suggests banning football or baseball. However, horses are animals and so must be elevated to a higher plane. They must hate to be made to run so fast all the time, right?

They couldn't possibly actually like racing as much as any youngster likes T-ball, could they?

Nah, of course not. Why would an animal born to run want to? Horses, even horses without an iota of Thoroughbred blood, don't race each other in their pastures do they? And sometimes get hurt?

Not possible. Except that it is. Horses run by nature. Horses race by nature. They like it or they wouldn't do it. You can't really make them, as was demonstrated by some Amish fellows trying to get a drafter out of the road up west of here. It didn't want to get out of the road and so it didn't. It just stood there blocking two lanes of traffic until it got good and ready to move. It was way too much bigger than the human pests trying to influence it for them to make it do anything.

I will leave you with this little tale of my days walking hots at that selfsame race course.

I worked one summer, much to my infinite delight, for Henry Clark's stable at Saratoga (check him out, he's in the hall of fame).

One day late in the season the stable claimed an older chestnut gelding. I really liked him, even though he was so tall I could barely reach his head. Many of the horses in the yard were "hot", so high strung, full of giddy-up go, that it was hard for a neophyte such as myself to keep them politely walking in a circle when they needed to cool out or stretch their legs a bit.

This guy, however, was as gentle as a kitten. Truly kind. With his head about a half a mile above mine he always walked quietly beside me, whenever he was in my charge. 

Normally most of the horse walking takes place early in the morning. On a normal day, unless one of the horses that I walked was racing, I went home by noon.

However, one afternoon someone was racing...can't remember who...but I think it was Sweet Sop, another gentle chestnut, a little filly that I simply loved, so I stayed to work while actual racing was going on.

For some reason I was tasked with walking the old fellow, while we waited for the other horse to get back from the track.

The call to the post sounded as we paced around the walking ring. 

I still get chills when I remember how he raised his magnificent head upon hearing it, pricked his long red ears, and, with flaring nostrils, bugled his own call to the contest. He was utterly alight with eagerness.

As much of an old veteran as he was, as far as he was concerned that bugle rang for him.

That was over thirty years ago,  yet I will never forget that moment.

The look of eagles. 

Don't tell me that horses don't love racing and live to race. I've been there and seen that. If you want to be cruel, take that away from them, and break their generous hearts.


6 comments:

Cathy said...

"I still get chills when I remember how he raised his magnificent head upon hearing it, pricked his long red ears, and, with flaring nostrils, bugled his own call to the contest. He was utterly alight with eagerness.

As much of an old veteran as he was, as far as he was concerned that bugle rang for him."

Wow! Beautiful. Beautiful,

Jan said...

The animal rights crackpots must have time on their hands until they can start protesting the Iditarod again. Sled dogs live to run.

Denny Gross said...

Very insightful, a different point of view I hadn't heard before.

threecollie said...

Cathy, it is a time I will never forget....although, unfortunately I have forgotten his name.
Thanks

Jan, they simply have no clue, but they sure think that they do. And of course the local media covers them like they were a visit from the Pope or something

Denny, thanks

The Furry Gnome said...

Well said!

threecollie said...

Thanks TFG, it is something I feel very strongly about, having worked with working animals all my life. People who have never experienced same simply don't know what they are missing.