Saratoga Horse Racing

Horse Sense: The Cult of Celebrity, and the Fact that Horses Don't Care.


I had coffee one day this year with an acquaintance, a businesswoman who's very good at Coffee!.bmpwhat she does.  Educated, smart, sharp and seemingly in control of her emotions (not necessarily a good thing, mind you)--her outer veneer bespoke a woman who has no time for drivel.

And certainly not for the obsession with the lives of others with whom she is not acquainted.

And yet, this woman who might not cross the street to save a dying kitten was very upset about the pending divorce of two friends.  Or so I thought.

"Isn't it sad?  About John and Kate?" she implored.

"John and Kate."  "John and Kate."  I wracked my brain and my intercranial Rolodex for the names, scouring to conjur faces of people whom this lady thought we knew in common.

"You know.  From the TV show.  "Jon and Kate Plus 8!"

I had no idea about whom she was speaking.  I must have had the look of someone who just landed on Earth from another planet, earnestly trying to figure out how to use a pepper grinder, for she kept at it until she realized that I was clueless, and could not therefore share her grave concern for this couple and their children.  (Apparently I misspelled John's first name in my ignorance and mental scrambling, also.)

My coffee companion was angered by the fact that I neither knew nor cared about this couple and their current angst.  I mean, she was sincerely upset with me.  Maybe she knew them as friends who just happened to get a TV show?

Nope.  The smart businesswoman had never met the two; she lived some 3,000 miles away from their drama and yet she was extraordinarily disturbed because apparently they were going through the throes of divorce.

For the record, I responded by telling her that I didn't give a tiny rat's patootie:  if Jon and Kate--or any other celebrity--doesn't care about the status of my Life, why should I be obsessed with theirs?  Not a satisfactory response, from the lecture I received about my "hardness of heart."   (Her extreme reaction may have been the result of the gallons of caffeine she'd consumed during our klatch.  She'd inhaled lattes like a man on Death Row....)

Cult of Celebrity Daily Mail UK.jpgAt first I was amazed by her emotional storm, but then again, not-so-much.  Many people--Americans, at least--are overly concerned about the lives and loves of people they don't know.  Remarkable.  It occurred to me that this might be good fodder for a column somewhere, sometime in the future..  I stored the information and decided to revisit the idea somewhere down the line.

Apparently that time has arrived.  The recent sad events in the life of golfer Tiger Woods have invaded my life in the form of media drama.  It's impossible to turn on the TV or computer, or pick up a newspaper, without reading or hearing someone's take on the fact that Mr. Woods is going through a rough time. 

Now, I won't pretend that some celebrities don't fascinate me.  My friends all know that I'm hot for Johnny Depp.  Karen says that he's my boyfriend--he just doesn't know it yet.  I've always loved his acting, the wide range of roles of which he's capable.  Not typecast as are so many other actors:  Johnny isn't confined to playing a drug dealer, gangster or fatherly type.  He can play anything thrown at him.  And the weirder the character, the better.  Johnny can take an oddball, plumb the depths of that character's psyche and make him even more-odd, if that's possible.  I've been a fan of Herr Depp since I first saw him in Platoon, in 1986.  (I don't do horror films, so Nightmare on Elm Street wasn't gonna happen for me.)

But of course the real reason why I'm wild about Johnny Depp--the reason Karen buys me little tote bags and stickers with his image on them, and why my girlfriends know better than to even fancy the notion that they could steal him from me, for fear of a Medusa-like full-throttle assault--is because of that gold tooth.  And the dredlocks.  Tall leather boots, tri-corn hat, index-finger ring and--yes, the piece de resistence--the black eyeliner.  Johnny Depp as Cap'n Jack Sparrow in any Pirates of the Caribbean movie--is Da Bomb. 

And every man on the planet should be required to wear black eyeliner, at the very least, if not a gold tooth and dreds.

(Hmmm.  It may be that it's Cap'n Jack Sparrow with whom I am infatuated.  I'll have to investigate this further.)

At any rate, I have a girlcrush on an actor as a pirate.  A non-relationship/relationship that harkens directly back to my childhood, when, as a little girl, I was crushed on swashbucklers in the black-and-white movies that were shown in re-run on our 13" TV screen.  The raw sexuality of it, cleverly disguised as romance, perceived correctly by a girl who wasn't sure what it was, but to paraphrase--she knew it when she saw it.  The notion that the pirates--bad guys, mind you--were the heroes.  The idiotic notion that pirates don't actually kill people and do horrible things--pirates are objects of emulation.  Any man who wants to get lucky knows to show up as a pirate at a costume party.  Any woman, as a pirate, also--or as a saucy wench.

Thumbnail image for Brian T. Fox Pirates of the Caribbean Johnny Depp 1.jpgThe current resurgence of Pirate Cool began with Caribbean-based singer/songwriter, Bertie Higgins, who keeps the lore and the fun alive.  Then along came Cap'n Jack, and now even Facebook offers the option of sporting all pirate language on one's profile.  I, too, speak fluent Pirate on Facebook.  Arrrrrr.  Pirates are cool.

And I am crushed on the big honcho, himself.  Not any of the swabbies who accompany Cap'n Sparrow on his journeys and misdeeds--my rich fantasy life, were I a woman to indulge myself in such things, would fly my heart straight to the lair of the big cheese, the lead character, himself.

BUT--and this is where this piece turns from being a self-indulgent confession of my middle-aged exploits to the part about Horses and Reality--the difference between me being the object of gentle ribbing by friends because I recognize an object of desire when I see him, and Tiger Woods' current, sad situation, is that I am aware that Johnny Depp's business is none of mine.  That he doesn't know me, and never will.  That his relationship with his girlfriend, their children--all not my business.

I have neatly, compactly, and in a grown-up fashion been able to take a childhood fantasy (the pirate lore that contributed to the awakening of my sexual self)--and kept it in its compartment.  I'll go see the next Pirates movie.  I'll play soundtrack music on YouTube for a while afterwards.  I may even allow a recurring dream about the nasty Cap'n Sparrow and myself, deckside, for a week or two.

Brian T. Fox Pirates of the Caribbean Johnny Depp 2.jpgBut at no point in this non-relationship/relationship will I think that anything the actor does in his real life is any of my business.  I will not discuss with earnest intent the state of Johnny Depp's marriage (or girlfriend situation, whatever it is).  See?  I don't even know if he's married in real life.  The key reason being that--I don't care.

And that's cool.  I don't know or care about Johnny Depp's marital status, and he doesn't care about mine.

Too many people get entirely too caught up in the lives of people who don't matter.  Who don't know them, and might not care about them if they did.  It's perfectly fine to admire, even crush on, an actor or musician.  To follow their careers, and buy their products.  To dream about characters they've played, and to allow that fantasy life to enrich our waking hours--maybe even add some spice.  (I'm sure that, when I'm 80 and in the proverbial home, I'll sport a tricorn hat and black eyeliner as I sit tied into my chair.  I may even growl, "Arrrrr!" at passing orderlies, just for the sake of letting them think that I'm senile.)

But I don't think that I have any right to know the state of Johnny Depp's private life.  Or Tiger Woods', either.  The only thing that can be said about Mr. Woods is that it's sad that so many people have had access to an intensely private situation.  And that those people--in the name of making money--have chosen to exploit someone else's life.  To take a private matter, such as a trial within a sacred marriage, and exploit it via the media is wrong.  It's immoral on the part of those media wonks who keep the fire alive--and it's sad on the part of those who aren't in the media who feel the urgent need to know every dirty detail of Mr. Woods' alleged indiscretions.  Whether or not he did what they say he did; with whom; where, why and how--none of our business.  This situation involves two people, and two people, alone:  Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin.  Period.  Everyone outside of that small circle, please step aside and let in some fresh air so these two can breathe.

Exceller God Rest His Soul.jpgAnd this is precisely why I love horses.  I respect them tremendously, and one key reason is that they don't care about the marriage of humans.  They don't care about pirate movies, or the pro golf circuit or the dramas of actors and athletes.  Horses aren't devastated when a very-public marriage falls apart on a "reality" show.  They don't spend one single second talking with their friends along the shedrow about famous people.

I'm pretty sure that, to horses, famous people are the same as we who aren't famous:  we pass or we fail with a horse according to how we treat said equine.  That's it.   A celebrity who treats a horse badly is a bad person.  A common person, like you or me, who lavishes love and genuine affection on a horse is a good person.  End of story.

Horses are God's Great Equalizers.  Make no mistake--it's not because they're stupid, orBrian T. Fox Ghostzapper 2.jpg unaware, or because you believe that they don't understand human English and can't read it.  We who know horses know that all that is untrue:  horses are not only beautiful, strong, powerful, majestic--they are intellectually brilliant; socially aware; cognizant of their surroundings; sentient and wise. 

The least-aware horse I've ever met was more wise than the smartest human I've ever known.

Horses accept humans right where we are at the time.  If we're sad, they feel empathy for us--for they know what it's like to feel badly.  If we're up and joyous, they share that joy, with a gleam in the eye that informs us that they drink in deeply of our happiness.

If you approach a horse with malice in your heart--they know that, too.  It's not for nothing that the species has survived for four million years--even though they're prey animals.  Loaded with instinct and insight, horses know a great deal more about human nature than do we humans.  We would do well to sit at the knee of a horse, day after day, and wordlessly learn from the depths of their knowledge (which they graciously, generously share without charge).

I don't know why humans are so rabidly interested--to the point of distraction--in the affairs of celebrities.  It may speak of disappointment in one's own Life.  Maybe we haven't (yet) achieved to our full potential.  Perhaps we look at our own existences, and see a long road of Mundane stretching out ahead, a road which was paved by Ordinary, and shows no sign of improving over the next 40 years.

Whatever it is that compels humans to spend inordinate amounts of time, energy and money to pry into the lives of famous people--we should look at our equine friends for Wisdom.  The majority of famous people are famous simply because someone with a great deal of public relations savvy was paid too-much money to get their names in the paper.  Famous for being famous.  That's sad, actually, to have no verifiable skills, and yet make gobs of cash simply for exhaling and taking up space on the planet.

But many celebrities are famous because they've achieved much.  They create movies, music, books and other arts that fill our lives with reasons to think. They provide vehicles via which we may feel joy, or to remember a pain that must resurface if it is to be exorcised.  Their art may express precisely what we're feeling at that exact moment in time.  This is a grand gift to give the world. 

But the art, science or other achievement is important not because a famous person did it, but because it is an example for the rest of us, the non-famous, to emulate.  Rather than spending our hard-earned cash on trash tabloids that lie about the extramarital affairs of celebrities, perhaps we might look at the work of those whose example we can use to enrich our own lives and vocations.  We may in fact grow our lives into something glorious by stopping to watch how someone else did it--stop only long enough to take note, and to be inspired--then, packing that information, we must move on and create our own beautiful story.  Paint our own pictures.  Direct the film that is our life, not that of anyone else.

Thumbnail image for Easy Street Horse Rescue Deheya.bmpEach horse has a path, and they faithfully follow it to the best of their ability.  They don't envy the horse next door, nor do they judge a human based on anything other than intimate contact, one-on-one, with that human.  If we can look at our equine friends and strip away the glitter--look at people and evaluate them according to their actual merits as human souls--then we can get down to the business of successfully living our own lives.

Living vicariously through a celeb only serves a purpose if we are inspired to create our own art; discover new medicines and technologies or otherwise soften the world for others who dwell on the orb.  Pirates of the Caribbean serves a purpose in my Life--and not that of feeding a middle-aged woman's wild dreams about a man she'll never meet.  No, whenever I watch a great film (or one that just touches me, for whatever reason), I am inspired to write my own screenplays, to get my work onto the proverbial Silver Screen.  (The screen adaptation of The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez:  The Voice of Santa Anita by Rudolph Valier Alvarado, and, after that, my own story, Trippin'.)  To strive, to write, to see the contents of my soul go from deep within to the outside world, my gift to the rest of you.  To breathe life into characters based on real humans, whom you can embrace and emulate.  Characters who endure, and who give us all the will to do the same.

Consider taking your own celebrity fondness--whether that hunger is mild or obsessive--and turning that fascination into finding your own path. 

Johnny Depp knows his path. So does the fictional Cap'n Jack Sparrow.  The private life of the actor is none of my concern, and the reverse.   But his work, and the words and directions, scribbled on a script for him to act--that, that is the stuff of which my own dreams are made.  To hear my words uttered by an actor who can do justice to my writing talents, and to bring the characters to Life.  This is the true Lesson of Celebrity:  to be inspired to go above and beyond;  to reach for stars--the ones in the heavens, not those at Hollywood and Vine; and to achieve as much as we can during our brief stay on this rotating rock.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Marion Photo Cakes with Show Me the Cash!.JPGI hope that, as you go for your goals, you have a horse nearby, to give you a reality check at every step along the way.  Horses, in their kindness, will not judge you if you never become famous--that is not the realm of their concern.  Like all ascended beings, they care not for the silly nonsense of human society.  Whether or not I ever become famous is of no concern to my equine friends.

Whether I stay the course; am faithful to my path; treat horses well and leave a legacy of kindness--those are the arenae of expertise of my horse friends.  Horses are the barometer, those higher beings who read human souls and know immediately what we lack, and what we need.  Spend some time this week with a horse, and let her help you find your way.  The fact that your name is omitted from Entertainment Tonight won't matter to your equine mentor.  The fact that you showed up--all of you, body, mind and spirit--that's what will count. 

Your equine Yoda will reward you, carrying your soul as the two of you soar toward your own destiny, and  into that place where all spirits are equal, and none are thrown out, unnoticed, for lack of fame--but where goodness, sincerity and honesty are acknowledged and genuinely valued.  The horses can carry us to a place that is far-more real than any location which a "reality" show can conjur--the place where you're loved, just for existing.  Sweet deal.

And as always--May the Horse be with you.

[Image credits,  many thanks to:
Coffee, courtesy of
Cult of Celebrity, courtesy of Daily Mail UK
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean I, courtesy of  Brian T. Fox
Johnnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean II, courtesy of Brian T. Fox
Exceller, courtesy of The Exceller Fund
Ghostzapper, courtesy of Brian T. Fox
Deheya, courtesy of Easy Street Horse Rescue
Karen with Show Me the Cash, courtesy of, well, me.]




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M.E. Altieri

Marion Altieri is a horse racing
life-long fan
radio show- and TV-show hostinista and
Her website, will bring together URLs for this blog with her radio, TV and online magazine publishing endeavors. The 'site also will feature a Marketplace, Community and opps to exchange ideas about women in racing; equine welfare and rights and ways to make the sport both more nurturing for horses and more egalitarian for females.

First a wordsmith, Marion is acutely aware of the power of language: as we speak and write, so we live. If language has the power to start and end wars, so too it has the power to save the lives of horses

A f!lly is not a little grrrl horse: a f!lly is a Force of Nature, and through her work, Marion hopes to help reinforce this powerful Truth.


Thoroughbred Racing in Saratoga

The Thoroughbred is a distinct, created breed of horse. Saratoga Springs, New York is a unique, pristine city in Upstate New York.

Put the two together, Thoroughbreds and Saratoga, and you have America's most prestigious, lushly beautiful and important racing meet. For six weeks every summer, the world's best horses, jockeys and trainers come together to compete for trophies, cash and fame.

In this blog, we'll discover All Things Thoroughbred and the lovely international community of horsepeople, both professionals and fans, alike who set up camp in this city. Some come for six weeks, only. Others are here from April through November every year, when the Oklahoma's open. Yet others trek to town to race their mighty steeds—then fall in love with the place; buy a home and move here.

The Saratoga racing family of humans and horses is a year-round endeavour. You think that all the horses all go elsewhere after Labor Day? Then this blog is for you, too.

(Is the reference, "the Oklahoma" lost on you? Stay tuned, you'll feel like a pro in no time.)

Welcome to the only experience on Earth that can boast of such otherworldly beauty and heart-stopping thrills, all in the same breath: Thoroughbred racing in Saratoga.