Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Guilty Pleasure

My husband, ( not a horse type guy) likes to joke that if something has the word "Horse" or a picture of a horse on it (or in it), I'll watch it. I always disagree- but secretly I think he is right. I love horses, and always have. I live horses too, breathe them like air, need them to be happy etc. etc...
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.....


5 comments:

Lil Mama said...

Ditto.

Adventures of a Horse Crazed Mind said...

Ditto. My brain wont shut up the whole time I am watching but I cant help fall in love with some of the great horses that run each year...It is hard to screw my nose up at horse racing when I see the abuse going on behind the scenes in reining and other horse sports...

Stephanie said...

Oh yes I would say I count Horse Racing as a guilty pleasure of mine too. Ever watch the QHs?

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

I couldn't have said it better!

There is something so regal and so mouthwatering about looking at race horses and watching them run. They are poetry in motion.

The harsh reality is that there is abusive tactics and the disposable commodity mentality in every equine event there is available these days. So it really seems unfair that horse racing should bear the brunt of criticisms.

Vaquerogirl said...

It is unfair that the horse racing takes the brunt of the media criticism- more cruelty lies in the Back-yard horse breeding industry than in all the other disciplines combined!
And though I forgot to mention it- health care for race horses reaches into the millions of dollars. Research and development of beneficial drugs and better veterinary practices helps all of us equine owners.