Saratoga Horse Racing

Equus: America's Forgotten Veterans.

Sweat pouring down her face from exertion and long hours without respite, the soldier moved one arduous step at a time.  She'd been on this exhausting journey for five days now:  back and forth, back and forth, from the munitions station to the front.  By the end of the week, she had carried 386 rounds of ammo (9,000 pounds) to her comrades, sharing the uber-real danger of bullets whizzing over her head.  But still she carried on, until the battle was over and her troops were back at their frozen unit.   Sgt. Reckless was there for her brothers-in-arms:  the Battle of Outpost Vegas was one of the most savage in the "police action" at the 38th Parallel.  

The Korean War often is called, The Forgotten War, with good reason.  This non-war war began less than five years after the end of World War II--and not many average people supported the war effort.  

The soldier in the scenario above, with strong back, keen eye and gentle, loyal heart was named Sgt. Reckless, and she was a horse.  A small Mongolian mare, she also could have been named, "Sgt. Fearless," because there was nowhere that her soldiers went, without her.  Sometimes, even in the aforementioned five-day battle--she trod her journey alone, but never turned back, never went AWOL.

Had it not been for Robin Hutton, a writer who brought Sgt. Reckless to my attention, I'd not have known about the brave little mare.  (Robin is writing a screenplay, BTW, so hopefully the whole world will know of this magnificent steed in the near future.)

But not all war horses are the subject of movies:  most, like the Korean War, have gone unnoticed--or at least, unappreciated--by the public, after their human-designated "usefulness" is over.

From the beginning of time, horses have been in the trenches, literally, with their humans.  Whether in battle as a knight/soldier/warrior--or as an unwilling potential victim, taking their people on wild-eyed rides through the woods, away from harm's way...

Horses evolved originally in what is now North America, but somehow they disappeared between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, not to arrive back on this continent until the 16th Century, when they crossed the Atlantic Ocean with the Spanish invaders.

Once here, the horse quickly found favor (again) with the indigenous people, the Native Americans.  The horse and human were reunited in a way that would serve both of them well:  the horse had found the human community that would appreciate and nurture her--and the aboriginal Americans had their perfect colleague.  Whether in war or peace, the horse and Native Americans were side-by-side, for the next 400 years.

The role of the horse in America always has been as builder, companion traveler and warrior.  Sgt. Reckless was not the first of her species to come to the aid of her fellow soldiers: the noble equine has accompanied American soldiers in virtually every war that has taken place on this land--and where Americans fought, elsewhere--until recently.  The French and Indian War; American Revolution; War of 1812; the Texas Revolution; the War Between the States; Spanish-American War--the list goes on.  Whether the cause was right or wrong, when the administrators sent soldiers into battle--the horse, without judging or rejection of the assignment--accompanied their human counterparts without flinching.   They fought and died at Ticonderoga, Saratoga, Gettysburg, the Alamo, Pusan and the Philippiines.

Even today, a police horse, walking city streets anywhere in America--with their uniformed rider, ready to take down the bad guys--is a reminder of the storied past, of the shared toil,  bravery and possible death faced by those equines who did not volunteer, but who served without faltering.

It goes without saying that, without horses, America, itself, might not exist.  When not performing military duty, they helped create this country in ways that no other species--including human--could.  On their backs, the west was forged.  Farms from New England to California were plowed because of raw, original horsepower.  The strength of the mighty equine was the envy of every strong man, and his savior on many occasions.   Their role even played out in the creation of American English language, itself:  the steam train was referred to as the "iron horse."  And "horsepower" still is used to measure the sheer force of an automotive engine.

It should be argued that the horse was the single-most valuable tool in the creation of the United States--and the fighting of her wars.  If the phrase, "no hoof, no horse" is true (and it is)--then we might also coin the phrase, "no horse, no country."

And yet, like the Korean War, the vital role of America's horses has become all-but forgotten--or at least, ignored by those who stand to profit by the species' destruction in various venues.  This most-valuable of animals, who, because of their very nature, become beloved members of families, combat units, work crews and athletic contests--should be revered, loved and treasured.

Five-thousand years ago, Bedouins in the Middle East found it very easy to bring the horse right into their tents, their families and their communities.  They recognized the deep connection between our two species--their descendants today adhere to that philosophy of reverence.

We in the United States should not have to fight to protect our horses--both wild and domesticated.  The species has served us long and well, proving itself time and again to be far-more loyal than any dog; stronger of body than any human could fathom and more intelligent than the majority of the people with whom they live and work.

And yet...and yet this otherworldly gift, this friend, this loving animal, fighting for the right to live--just live--in 21st Century America.  

As cattle ranchers and the Ag Lobby require more and more land, the wild horse is labeled a pest.  The grasses that they eat, it is reasoned, should be reserved for the cattle who will be butchered and sold for a pretty penny.  The horses take up space, and so they must go.  This is not the opinion of 99% of the American people--but unfortunately that opinion is not acknowledged.  (A few enlightened politicians, listening to their hearts, try to help the wild horse--but they are crushed, time after time, by their colleagues who--I doubt not--are luncheon guests of lobbyists. And it's a dangerous thing when politicians get into bed with special interest groups, the goal of which are to destroy God's natural world.)

The wild horses are fighting for the right to exist, and American nobility such as Madeleine Pickens and Bo Derek are fighting tooth-and-nail to secure the safety of these most-precious of our natural resources.  If money, alone, could make the wild horses' plight "all better"--the horses would be safe.  But the issue at-hand is the politics of it:  Madeleine and Bo fly all over the country, speaking to politicians and citizens.  They go to the House of Representatives, itself.  God knows that their hearts are in the right place:  they're using their own resources--financial, spiritual and emotional--to save the wild horses.   They even offer to find and provide places for the horses to live out their natural lives.  

But if the politicians are dining with the enemy--and if the BLM (the government agency) is not made by Congress to toe the line and actually to do the job for which the Bureau was created--to protect America's wild resources--then the horses will continue to stampede each other to death as helicopters fly low over their frightened, exhausted herds.  Horses are the living embodiment of kindness, gentleness-of-heart and loyalty--running them off their land is tantamount to the destruction of Goodness, itself.

And then we have the slaughter issue.  I could describe the horror of horse slaughter, the inherent cruelty of the event.  The fact that only a sadist could carry out the exsanguination of a horse.

I could, but I don't have to--because you've seen it a hundred times via video.  Those who anesthetize themselves to sleep at night because they buy horses to sell to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses call themselves, "brokers."  That's what they have to put on their business cards, because the phrase, "Killer Buyer" doesn't look pretty when printed right there, for everyone to see.

The auction houses at which the Amish dump their horses, after  nearly driving them into the ground--the houses don't care whether you buy that filly for your daughter to ride, or to be shipped thousands of miles in obscenely illegal conditions, to face a fate that no living being ever should meet.

Horse slaughter has got to end in the United States.  Americans don't eat horsemeat.   We are not cannibals--we don't eat our companions.  

So for the Congress of the United States to allow language that waffles  just enough to allow the shipment of horses to the other two countries in North America where horse slaughter is legal--is nothing short of betrayal of the very constituents who voted those same politicians into office.

I wonder if the act of betraying your constituents can be considered to be an offense as severe as treason?  Someone check the Constitution, we may have precedence to impeach the lot of them.  If a Congressman or -woman (or anyone who actually has committed treason) is unnerved by  the thought of facing a firing squad because they've committed that crime against the People of the United States--I wonder if then, they might consider the terror in the heart of a horse who is about to be bolted in the forehead, throat slit and strung up by a rear hoof as their blood flows out of their bodies while they're still alive.

The picture of horse slaughter is an ugly thing.  
The people who slaughter horses have dirty souls.  

And those in Congress who vote in favor of slaughter, as it tries to sneak its way back into the United States--and takes horses, every single day, to the killing shed--those people should be ashamed of themselves.  They have betrayed not only the People of our country, they have betrayed the nation, itself.

For what is a nation, if not the collective history and contributors to that story?  If horses had not been here to fight, die, plow, forge--for humans whose ambitions saw one nation, under God--there would be no United States of America.  

American horses are the forgotten veterans of American wars, the heroes and heroines without whom we would not exist in this place, on this day.  Veterans' Day just past here in the United States, and at 11PM that night, I thought about The Forgotten Veterans.  I cried for the horses who generously, without malice or resentment, helped humans create greatness for themselves.

And today, those who inherited that greatness--who live off the fat of the land, a generation who know the benefits but saw not the sacrifice--those descendants of the warriors, who fought side-by-saddle with the warrior horses--are willing to let the government tell us that the wild horses should be extinct, and that "unwanted horses" should be slaughtered.

News bulletin:  there's no such thing as an unwanted horse.  Someone, somewhere wants that horse.  One-hundred years ago--50 years ago, on a frozen hill in Korea--someone needed that horse.

Americans, do not allow our horses, wild and those on the slaughter truck--to be forgotten.  Before the next Veterans' Day comes around, let us commit ourselves to saving both our wild horses--the descendants of those creatures whose manes flew free as they rode under Native tack--and the horses whose plaintive cries as they are beaten and slaughtered are heard only by the spirits of those horses from long ago, those who created and molded this land.  

If Americans can't or won't step up to speak for the animals to whom our nation owes a debt so large, it never can be paid--then we are no nation, no community.  

No We, the People, at all.

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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.