What happens when non-horse people write about the horse industry?
Bad things, that’s what. If you don’t know horses (and here by “know”, we mean you’ve been tossed off at least 5 times!) then you sure as shit shouldn’t be writing about them.
And with that introduction, we give thee “Should Horse Racing Be Considered A Sport”.
This piece was published on sympatico.ca, written by one Katharine Watts. First of all, we would like to know what experience she has with horses, racehorses to be specific, that allows her to write on the subject with such authoriteh (Cartman reference!).
After reading that article, we’d like to expand our definition of knowing horses. If you haven’t seen a track injury (we feel that having a 1000+ pound quadruped convert your ribcage to jelly is comparable to “the thrill of a crushing body check”), haven’t researched bute (slightly harder-core than Tylenol, but significantly less than a T3 – neither of which, by the way, enhance athletic prowess), and back all that up with absolutely no knowledge of breeding and/or genetics (We’re fairly confident Ms. Watts got “breeding” confused with “cloning” in her article. Hey, it happens. Those are two very similar terms.), then perhaps your calling lies elsewhere!
“If an inexperienced jockey was given a talented horse, it’s almost certain he would win over an experienced jockey with a lousy horse.” Any jockeys out there want to comment on that one? Obviously neither of us are jockeys (although it was JG’s dream as a kid!), but from our layman’s perspective, we feel racing is kind of like doing chess while running a sprint, not that horses have individual lanes to run in… It’s up to the jockey to steer through openings and guide the horse – taking advantage of that particular horse’s running style (field leader or closer?), the conditions of the field (hard, packed dirt vs. mud, if the footing is different at the rail, etc.) and known tendencies/styles of other jockeys. All the while utilizing core strength rivaling that of gymnasts to stay on a horse moving at speeds upward of 30mph – some over 40mph.
In the same paragraph, Ms. Watts goes on to say that she got her information on the “jockey’s duties” from an online magazine which advertises itself as a source for politics, business, technology, and the arts – see for yourself at slate.com – oh sure, it has a sports section, but if the magazine itself doesn’t feel the need to advertise that fact, it’s clearly not their forté.
On performance enhancing drugs: “Drugs that, although legal, can also mask pain or make a horse run faster.” Really? Let’s wiki this shit, shall we? Lasix is used to prevent racehorses from bleeding through their noses – it’s a bit controversial and could be contrary to the horse’s health so we’ll let you have this one Katharine. Phenylbutazone, as wiki tells us, is used for “short-term treatment of pain and fever in animals.” Bute is actually one of the seven NSAID’s approved for use by the USEF (that’s United States Equestrian Foundation for those who can’t be bothered to do even passable research). And lastly, we have corticosteroids. An article from The Horse, published in 2008, gives a good overview of the use of these intra-articular steroids vs. anabolic steroids; basically medicinal vs. performance enhancing. Not sure where the idea that any of these three can make a horse run faster came from?
And lastly, there’s the issue of racehorses going to slaughter. What does that have to do with whether or not horse racing should be considered a sport? Because people treat the horses who have worked most of their lives for them like crap means racing isn’t a sport? What does she think will happen to the Thoroughbreds if there’s no horse racing? Can you even conceive of the immediate jump in horses that would go to slaughter by ending the racing industry? We do have many issues with horse industries that only value an animal while it’s young, but it’s hardly a relevant arguement in regards to whether racing is a sport!
Ms. Watts concludes her article (using that term quite loosely these days) by posing the question “Is horse racing a sport, or just animal cruelty?” Which is kind of misleading because she clearly doesn’t want an answer from you; she goes on to say, among other things, that “athletes choose to be there, animals don’t—and they definitely don’t choose to be mistreated.” Hey, we agree with that last part! Buuuuut have you ever seen a Thoroughbred run? Most of them love it. Actually most horses love it. Think about it. Put a bunch of horses out in a field together and what is typically one of the first things they do? Ok, aside from rolling! They run!
So, with all that in mind, we say to Ms. Katharine Watts, please do us all a favor and don’t write about horses until you’ve at least sat on one, or have found a horse-related website you use for your research rather than an online magazine dedicated to a politics, business, technology, and the arts.