Saratoga Horse Racing

Horse Sense: Don't Practice Breedism, and See Things from at Least Two Sides...

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As those who know me are aware, I am (sadly) a bit of a skeptic, regarding the good intentions of other human beings.  My motto, "The more humans I meet...the more I love horses" didn't come into existence because I sought to be quoted 100 years hence, but rather because, in my experience--most people are not as trustworthy as most horses.

It's sad, but it's true.

Do you recall the Billy Joel song from 1989, "We Didn't Start the Fire"?  In rapid succession, he barked out some 100 events and people that had passed through history between 1949 and 1989.  The song's staccato beat and the seeming-cacophony of the music always made me anxious.  I think that was the point:  we heard and sang the names of some very bad people and events, accompanied by rat-tat-tat-tat music--and maybe, just maybe--we might think about the fact that the actions of an individual or of a nation can ripple to every living being on the planet.

Recent events in our sad, weary world have made me think a great deal about this song--and that things haven't changed very much since 1989, except that perhaps they've gotten worse. Greed, anger, prejudice, hatred--the majority of which are fueled by misconceptions, long-held   myths or just plain jealousy--run rampant on our beautiful blue marble planet.  One day Guy #1 wants to blow up Country #2;  the next day, someone else wants to take over Guy #1's  nation, and enslave his people.  

It goes on and on, so much rage and unwarranted hatred--the names and locations may change, but the results are the same:  we live in a fractured world, with imminent threat of extinction at our own hands.  How very stupid are we?

I wonder how it looks from the perspective of One whose feet aren't standing anywhere on the planet?  How does this bloated bickering look to God?...
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I was further inspired to think about this topic today, when I checked Google Analytics for this blog.  In the last 24 hours, people from 76 different countries read this blog (a fact for which I am grateful)--but the thing that struck me, a slap right in the forehead, was that many of the countries represented by those 76 people, "hate" each other.  That is, the administration of Country X is a sworn enemy of Country Y.  And yet, individuals living in their nations love horses, and are out here in CyberSpace, that neutral territory--reading stuff about horses that soothes their souls, and makes them smile.  Seventy-six nations, some of which have the ability to destroy our Earth.  But the good people of these nations, well, they just-plain love horses, and seek horse info on the Internet.  We meet in CyberSpace, and there's no problem.  We are unified by The Horse, and I am blessed to know so many wonderful people who feel passionately about horses.  I wish I could meet every person from each of those 76 countries, and warmly discuss our mutual obsession for The Horse.

Yes...wars and nations and sorrow...ad then we have The Horse.  Ironically, The Horse is one of the most-quiet and timid of animals on this orb.  A horse may be enormous, compared with a human in stature--but the personalities are still those of a prey animal, whose best wish on any given day is to Get Along, and to live in peace.

This four-legged Ambassador from God is far-more wise than many humans give credit--and more sensitive to the human condition than 99% of actual humans.  This may be because, like God, The Horse sees us not from inside our humanity, but from a place that's related, but more objective.  The Horse sees the Truths about our situations, because, not being people, they are privy to The Big Picture.  

And yet, everything they see about our frail humanity--and we are frail, in spite of what some need to think--everything that horses see about us, every action we take, every war we wage--directly affects the future of all animals.  

If the world blows up, horses go with it--through no fault of their own.

Many people liken themselves to animals--I do this, myself.  Men and women like to think of themselves as being "catlike."  Or focused, like a tiger.  Loyal, smart or ferocious, like various breeds of dog.  The stock market is either bullish or bearish.  There are many references to animals in the stories we tell of our own humanity.

But rarely do we hear of anyone likening themselves to a horse, or thinking of themselves thus.  Surely it cannot be because the equine lifestyle isn't worth emulating--or is it precisely because horses are prey animals, and not predators--that human beings can't relate to them?

(Oh, sure, misdirected testosterone sometime inspires a male to refer to himself as being a "stud," but we all know that:  
a)  They don't know what they're talking about; and
b)  The more a human brags about something--the less-likely it is to be true.)

Other than taking credit for stallion-like prowess that doesn't exist, humans either can't identify with horses and the equine worldview--or is afraid to think that way, because thinking like a prey animal makes one vulnerable.

BUT.  There are two very important attributes of The Horse, special abilities, if you will, that humans would crave--if we had the brains so to do.  And Wallah--I swear to you--if just for one day, every person on Earth practiced both of these things--we could have world peace.

Am I nuts?  Possibly.  Am I on to something?  Definitely.

The first attribute of horses which I find to be completely admirable is that they don't judge based on looks.  

When was the last time you heard of a sleek, fairylike Arabian horse, looking down her long nose at a Percheron and condemning her for being fat?  Or a Thoroughbred, the second-fastest animal on Earth, talking behind the back of a Shetland Pony, because he can't run like Seattle Slew?

Horses don't avoid each other because of color, shape, size, temperament or talents.  A dark bay doesn't ostracize a strawberry roan, who doesn't dislike a chestnut--who, in turn, doesn't take a white, grey or buckskin out into the alley for a good beat-down, simply because they look different.

Shapes of head; placement of eyes; length (or lack thereof) of legs--none of these things come into play in the equine world.  Oddly enough, places like the Kentucky Horse Park can work because, while it is home to many breeds,colors and styles of horse--horses accept each other for who they are--color, size and facial features aside.  The Kentucky Horse Park is a peaceable kingdom, because the critters in their care are the most peace-craving beings  in the world.

Horses don't judge.  And neither should we--but our world stands on the brink of explosion because humans don't have the common smarts--and the intuitive kindness--of horses, to see beyond looks.  

They don't practice Breedism, a sin which is committed every day, by too many people.   And Breedism is the cause of a big chunk of the world's problems, simply because humans Don't Get It.

The second attribute of horses, one with which they were born, again--but which catapults them into the stratosphere as Superior Life Forms--is their vision.  

Now, vision is a word that's overused in our (human) culture.  And yet, whether or not someone has vision--is usually a matter of opinion, not fact.  We love--maybe, need--to think that every-other person has vision.  Many tout themselves as being visionary.  (I find this to be immodest, at best.)   It's said that the late Steve Jobs had vision, but in many ways, that assessment is subjective.  He may have been driven by sadness in his life...and let's not forget--like most inventors, he built much on the foundations laid by others. (He may genuinely have had great vision, but to me, he always came across  like a sad little boy, making up for what Life had denied him.)   

But again--my assessment of Mr. Jobs' relative vision is entirely based on opinion.   

An artist may be credited as having vision--but whether or not that's true is a matter of taste:  it may be that he's an idiot who threw paint on a canvas and rolled around on it--and then, glory be!, he found another idiot to believe his PR, and buy the thing.  

Vision.  It's a matter of opinion.  But not when it comes to actual, biological vision--and the metaphor that can be extracted from that physical attribute.

Horses, as you know, have monocular vision:  they can see two things at once.   Like all prey animals, their eyes are on the sides of their heads, giving the maximum field of vision as they look out for predators.  (An interesting, albeit sad,  note here, that human eyes are on the front of the head.  Humans are predators.  Not my opinion, a mere statement of fact.) 

Horses get their information from the left side, and from the right side, simultaneously.  (This would confuse humans, mightily:  we can barely get The Whole Picture when we're looking at one thing.  Seeing two things at once would send us into a mental tailspin.)

Now, this sort of vision proves to be very useful when it comes to world affairs.  The Horse--the lowly, four-legged horse, whom humans wrangle and turn into companion-servants--has a far-better vision of world affairs than any human alive--simply because the horse can see both sides at once.

The metaphor is obvious:  Oh, to be a human with monocular spiritual and emotional vision!  To be able to see both sides at once, to consider all the options, to see the guy on the left as being just as valid-smart-worthy--as the guy on the right.  Horses actually, physically see two things or people at once--and we human beings could save our world if we learned to see both sides of the story/argument/threat of war--at once.

The clarity that comes from monocular vision--cannot be overstated.  Neither player is seen larger or as being more important, when one has monocular vision:  both stand equally small or large to the horse who is viewing them.

Like King Solomon in his court, The Horse has the ability to weigh out both sides equally.  The relative threat posed to the horse can be assessed immediately, and action taken according to that information.  If only we humans could practice every day--just once a day--the fairness of monocular vision--we might have world peace.  That first time of seeing the world with monocular vision would be a revelation:  we'd each experience an epiphany, as we realized that fairness is possible--and desirable. 

Then there's the fact that The Horse can take that monocular vision--and, by tilting her head forward or backward--bring the two images together as one, in binocular vision.  

So we have a horse who can see two people at once--each person seen in an eye, either on the left or right side of the head--and, by tilting her head back or forward--she can pull the vision together, to see The Whole Picture.  She has to be a certain distance from the objects in field of vision, but once they're where they should be--she can see both people, together.

This is so obvious, friends.  If we can start with monocular vision--seeing both sides of the story/person/situation--we have the perfect place to start the peace process.  As we step back just enough, so that we can tip our heads back or forward, according to need--we can bring those images together, and see those who stand on opposing sides--standing together, a new view. 

It is contrary to our human nature to look for both sides of the story.  Great journalists try to do it, and are castigated often,  for their efforts at objectivity.  But the average human being is prone, especially in the new 21st Century, to declare loudly, "My way or the highway!"--and thereby fate themselves to a life of genuine aloneness--whether that be as individuals or as nations that isolate themselves from the rest of the world, and from all that richness of experience that's available out here.

My wish for 2012 is that we as human beings, we mere mortals who inhabit this beautiful place with heavenly beings such as horses--that we can each take these two lessons from the equine species, and strive to create peace.  I commit,with you, to attempt--at least once a week, if opportunity doesn't present itself once a day--to not judge based on surface things, and to work to see both sides of a situation or person--and then to pull both those sides together, to find the place of unity.

Horses are quiet, and wise and otherworldly in their beauty.  They can teach us much, if we can get quiet enough to listen to their silent pleadings of the heart.  Drop the judgment, and hone your vision (and I promise to do the same)--and together, maybe we can preserve this beautiful planet and all the remarkable animals that God has given to us.  The alternative to The Way of the Horse leads only to judgment, greed and war. 

The bridle path seems clear, to me.







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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.