Saratoga Horse Racing

Say it with Me, Slowly: Cooperation, not Domination

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In the next few days, I'll post several articles.  I hope you like them all. But tonight I have to dash off a little something, inspired by a video I just saw on Facebook.  Don't worry, it won't be long, just pointed. 

People who love horses should work with them, or at least get to be around them, somehow.  

People who do not love horses should not be allowed to be near them, ever.  There's something about the kindness and innocence of the horse that pushes the buttons of people who have the need to dominate another living being.  I don't know why:  maybe they can't get away with that behavior at home.  Maybe they hate their bosses.  Whatever the inspiration, some people just plain need to be cruel to a living being.

The natural human response to a horse is the strong desire to defend her or him, to become the horse's protector.  People lacking this response should steer clear of equines, or face the wrath of those of us who DO feel compelled to protect and defend...


You see, I saw this video.  I won't describe the vid; who was in it or any of the details.  In this case, the guilty are being protected only because I want to avoid any communication with the offenders who starred in the film.  Even exchanging emails with them would make me feel dirty.

In the video, a series of horses were being, well, in my opinion--abused.  In the name of "training," horses were being whipped, shanked, yanked.

Unacceptable.  Absolutely, positively--unacceptable.

Let's think about this like reasonable, supposedly-thinking, sentient beings.  I don't know about you, but if someone had a chain, rope or bit of any kind in my mouth--and was yanking it, or whipping me--I'd rebel.  I'd kick, scratch--I would respond, strongly.  

And you can be certain that, when I was free of the equipment in my mouth--I'd do some serious booty-kicking.  Shrapnel, everywhere--and not mine.

Now, put a horse in this situation.  Horses have no thumbs:  if they did, they could use their hooves to remove the offending equipment, turn around and kick the daylights out of the people who are whipping them.

But they're stuck, and--being that they're being yanked and whipped--they are frightened.  And confused:  they didn't do anything wrong, so why are they being hit?

Let's apply a little good, old-fashioned logic to this problem:  

A)  A prey animal--the horse--is being whipped by a human.  In this scenario, the human is playing the role of predator.
B)  The horse is scared.
C)  The horse responds as her instincts dictate:  to try to get away from the predator.
D)  The predator keeps whipping the (by-now) insanely-frightened horse, and

ERGO -- The human expects, somehow, that the horse will cooperate, to "calm down."

THIS, my thinking friends--doesn't even make common sense.  The horse's instinct is to get as far away from the source of danger as possible.  In order to do that, the horse must run, using all four strong legs and hooves.  The shaking head is the first indicator that the horse is fixin' to flee.

There's an adage, "If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you always got."

Interestingly enough, this is also the working definition of insanity:  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over--and expecting different results.

Domesticated horses want to get along with humans.  There's no soul more loving, cooperative and gentle than that of a horse.  The fact that the horse is willing to share its magical, mystical, spiritual world with we, mere humans--is a miracle, in itself, and a heavenly gift.  Horses are on loan from The Almighty,  a glimpse of Heaven, right here on Earth.

One need not beat a horse into submission--in fact, it may be possible, but not until the horse   has acquiesced sadly, and realized that she is in a relationship with someone who does not love her in return.  

Having no thumbs, the horse is a hostage, and will cooperate after a good beating only because her spirit is defeated.

How much more joyful is a task--whether that is work, or a sport--when we humans work as partners with the horse, rather than Master and Slave? 

And how much more successful will we be in the end, when both parties are happy in the relationship?

It blew my mind to see this video--the people kept shanking, yanking and whipping their horses--and somehow, they were surprised that the horses acted up!  Does that make any sense to you, at all??  

They were trying to get a frightened horse to become UNfrightened long enough to perform her/his sport--and darned, they couldn't figure out why the horses kept looking wild-eyed, and trying to run away.  That's a real head-scratcher, eh?  

Hmmmm...pretty smart, horses.  Trying to run away from a whip.  

Even humans are that intelligent.

So let's try a new thing, shall we?  There are many of us in the world who realize that cooperation with our horses leads not only to winning races; earning ribbons and generally coming-in-first--but also to a loving, warm, fulfilling relationship with these magnificent animals who want so much to to be our partners.  

Domination never, ever led to a partnership, never mind to a life-long relationship that's worth having.  The one doing the dominating may have lousy self-esteem, or other issues that scream inside their heads.  The voices are telling them that they will only be seen as strong, smart, "in charge"--if they can make someone tow the line.

Some miserable souls hurt cats, dogs--anything smaller than themselves.  That's called sociopathy.  And then there are those who need to dominate something much larger than themselves:  buffalo won't put up with it.  Try it with a tiger.   (Be sure to write out your will before you try to beat a tiger into doing your bidding.)

But a horse--a-ha!  A horse is considerably larger than a human being--but, being that it is a vegetarian--ergo, a prey animal--and gentle of spirit, it can be dominated easily.

Bingo, we have a winner--that is, if you're a soul in desperate need to control.

But those people have no right to be around horses, precisely because the horse is a prey animal.  It doesn't take much to frighten a horse--but a loving heart can earn cooperation with a stroke of the hand; sincere eye contact and--get this--by listening to what the horse has to say.

I'm one of those people who thinks that those who abuse animals should be imprisoned, for an indefinite period of time.  I wonder how the boys in prison treat a kitten-killer.  Not well, I bet.

So it should be no surprise to anyone that, if I see a video of horses being yanked and whipped into submission--I have to say something.  We all should say something, to whatever governing body is appropriate.  Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens with every breed of horse, every sport and endeavour.

Every day of the year.

Coopration, not domination, is the way to win a horse's heart--and to win medals, ribbons or your race.  The next time you see a horse being yanked, whipped or otherwise beaten--say something.  

The horse can only neigh loudly--and unfortunately, that neigh will earn her another lash across the face.

But they won't--they can't--physically beat us for speaking out, 'cause we're predators, too. We have big mouths to speak, and hands to write.  And those hands...unlike our equine friends...have thumbs.







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M.E. Altieri

THE ALPHA MARE, commonly known as M.E. Altieri, is a writer/editor/activist who lives and breathes the art and sport of horse racing—both Arabian and Thoroughbred.
At the tender age of six months, her Grandmother plopped her on the back of a pony. (See photo.) Three years later, Mare first rode a horse—an American Quarter Horse—on her cousin's farm in Stephentown, New York. That same year her Mother and Grandma took her to Green Mountain Park, a now- (sadly) defunct Thoroughbred track in Pownal, Vermont. Next stop, Saratoga Race Course. The seed was planted, and a passion, born.
While she does have other interests (Medieval languages and theology, cats, tigers, etc.) none hold a candle to her passion for horses. She finds that horses are far-more intelligent, compassionate and kind than 99% of the people she meets. Mare's career is fascinating, if nothing else: in 2011, she served as Editor of a beautiful history book, The Purebred Arabian Horses of Iraq: Myths and Realities by Dr. Mohammad bin 'Abdul-'Aziz Al Nujaifi. She's contributed to several international horse racing publications, including Al Badia, Arabian Finish Line, Desert Mirage and Galopp Magasinet.
She's the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of f!lly Magazine-- the magazine by, for and about women in horse racing. f!lly will debut in 2013. Both Thoroughbred and Arabian racing--and women, f!llies and mare from all around the world--will be featured in the full-color, beautiful, historic publication. Magazines are the first of the media M.E. wishes to tackle: she's also writing a screenplay, and seeks the perfect venue and producer for her horse racing radio show. She's got the voice; God knows, she has opinions--she feels led to put them together and broadcast to the 51% of the racing fan base that's too-often been overlooked. (Hint: 51%...could it be, women?)
An Alumna of Mount Holyoke College, Mare hopes to use these media, including her blog here at Saratoga.com, to encourage women and girls to find their vocations in horse racing and to help make the world a more loving and nurturing place for all equines. When asked to identify her Mentor, the woman who encouraged her to follow her bliss, Mare names the great Penny Chenery. Through these various media projects, Mare hopes to do for other females what Ms. Chenery did for her--open doors, encourage and bless.


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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.