3 Results Found For: December 2014

18th December 2014

A very wet, windy, and miserable day today in Middleham as I watched my string of just six horses canter by. This is always the quietest time of year for us in terms of horses in full work but, on this day last year there were 40 horses cantering. Of today’s six, one is destined for Dubai and one is to go home after it runs tomorrow. So, if you have been wondering why we are having such a quiet time on the All-Weather, that is the reason.

Our other older horses will start cantering again early in the New Year and I’m sure some will be ready to run before the turf begins in March but there will be nothing like the numbers that we have had in recent years.

17th December 2014

The debate about small fields rages on and today in the Racing Post Julian Muscatt reminds us of the simple arithmetic. There are far fewer horses in training than in 2008 and far more races for them to run in.

I haven’t seen any serious proposals on how we are going to get the number of horses in training back up and it seems that most of the measures which will be introduced are aimed at increasing the number of runs per horse. Who will pay for that? There will be a small increase in prize money and prizes in most class 2-6 races will go down to sixth place but, in the vast majority of cases, those prizes won’t even cover costs for the day, never mind the cost of keeping the horses in training.

One Irish owner who sent me a horse, already fit to run, on 24th September, has just informed me that she will return home after running on Friday, win or lose. He, quite rightly, points out that it makes no economic sense. Friday’s race will be her seventh run in that period and she has been ‘in the money’ in five of the six runs to date. Sadly, all that does is remind the owner of the economics of British racing and that every run adds significantly to the cost even when she gets placed.

12th December 2014

Last night Deirdre and I attended the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) in Las Vegas for the second time. Having been last year and been so taken by it, we just had to come again.

It is something that everyone who works with horses, in any capacity, should see. Even more so, anyone who works in what is now trendily called ‘Human Resources’ should see this too.

At one point a bull rider is tossed forward onto the head of the bull and thrown back and forward several times like a rag doll before being dumped and trampled by this huge animal. He is immediately attended by the ‘clowns’ – the brave men who draw the bulls attention away from fallen riders must have an official title but they behave like clowns – and others who are working around the chutes but no stretcher appears and nobody that would be recognisable in other sports as a paramedic. He is eventually helped to his feet and supported on either side as he shuffles, unceremoniously, with the legs torn out of his jeans, out of the arena. I never heard how badly he was injured – it looked serious – but, from what I saw last year, it is not inconceivable that he might be back there tonight and about to do it again. It is noticeable that the majority of bull and bronc riders walk with a limp.

I don’t actually know how dangerous this sport is and I would hesitate to suggest that these cowboys are any braver than our own National Hunt jockeys but their apparent disregard for their own safety – few bull riders and no bronc riders wear helmets – and the lack of obvious safety precautions is unusual, to say the least, in modern day sport.

I’m not saying that it is right and I’m certainly not saying that the safety precautions in other sports are wrong but I have to admit that the rawness and primitive nature of rodeo is a large part of the attraction. Other sports all seem very sanitised when compared to this. It is so easy to imagine how each discipline evolved from unregulated ‘games’ between working cowboys.

All the rodeo disciplines are tough, contact, sports and they are tough for the people and the animals that take part. I know that many will object to the fact that calves are roped, head and ‘tail’ (both hind legs), or roped and then wrestled to the ground and bound by a cord round three legs, with no other purpose than to test the skill of the cowboys but the risks to the animals are minimal indeed. For me it is a joy to see the skills of the working cowboy honed to this level and to watch man and horse working together as they have done for centuries. I’ll be back again.