There is one type of discipline I don't know too much about- but it is my secret guilty pleasure. I am torn about the excitement I get from this too- but I know I can tell you all- you guys will understand- won't you?
It is, of course, Horse Racing, Sport of Kings.
When I was little I read about King of the Wind, Black Gold, Seabiscut, Little Vic, Phar Lapp... anything about racehorses. I used to go to the track when the Fair rolled around, and my friends mother would let us choose a race horse to bet on from the papers that day. We poured over those names, trying to decide which name held the most power, would be the horse that would win! We played the Fair game that had all the horses names on one board, and pinballs advanced the players across the board in a pretend horse race. From that I heard about Whirlaway,War Admiral,Man O'War, Seabiscut,and others.
When I moved out of my mothers home I moved into a dumpy apartment near the backside of the Fair Grounds. Junkies,Whores,Bikers lived next door, but it was within walking distance of the Backside, and the racehorses. I was able to board my horse there on the off season, and from that I learned some of the grim realities of Horse Racing- thus my guilt.
The Fairgrounds would board Racehorse in the off season too. The track was busy in the mornings with riders, trainers, jockeys. They would breeze on the track or in the big indoor arena. I met jockeys there- most of them on drugs. There were hardly any women and they were hard cases to be sure. The trainers hit on me incessantly, using their horses as enticements- luckily I was a lot smarter than that. (But I did have to chase a few of them off with a pitchfork.)
I witnessed cruelty there as well as apathy. If the horses wouldn't run- they were not there very long. There happened to be a slaughterhouse in town in that era- I bet more than a few made their last run there.
But in spite of all that- there is something so wonderful about a thoroughbred in full stride, hide glistening, muscles rippling that brings tears to my eyes, and a cry to my throat.
I watch the Animal Planet show JOCKEYS. It facinates me- even though I KNOW that these horses are just a commodity, that they sell them to slaughter, that they run babies that have no business at full gallop, that those horses break down in various ways. And being a horseman I hate myself for wanting to watch it, for supporting the sport, and thus the cruelty that it spawns.
There are a few Trainers out there that don't have cruel methods, I wish there were more. I wish I knew more about the sport. The Racing Commission says it protects the horses as well as it can, and because of very public breakdowns on the track newer safety methods are being introduced. But check the rescue boards and just see- the horses sold to KB's are appalling.
And yet- Friday night- horses are running.....