People who know me on a particular social networking ‘site are aware that I had an existential crisis this week. Well, OK, I didn’t wonder whether my very existence had any meaning–but I felt mighty guilty over something that, on the surface, seemed to be ridiculous.
I hadn’t fed, petted or played with…my virtual horse…in a very long time. No, really. I received notices that a friend had been tending to my (virtual) horse’s emotional needs, and–overwhelmed with guilt–I went to the ‘site and fed, petted and played with her until she was 100%.
I kid you not.
My virtual horse is a Thoroughbred. Let me rephrase that: if she existed, she would be a Thoroughbred. I created her two years ago: her virtual birthday is the 20th of this month. (What a feeling of power: I CREATED HER. Makes me feel rather lofty.)
Yesterday, as I frittered around pouring sweet feed for my virtual Thoroughbred, I realized that I’d really like to create a virtual Arabian, too. I’ve fallen in love with Arabians during the last three years, so it seemed only right that I’d have bookend virtual horses, a Thoroughbred and her ancestral cousin, an Arabian.
And then I stopped dead in my virtual tracks, as I realized that I have barely enough time to tend to one virtual horse: two would give me a very-real headache, running around in CyberSpace, trying to make sure that both virtual horses felt equally loved, and were equally well-tended.
How inane is that? What kind of conundrum is it, that anyone would opt not to create a second virtual horse because they’re worried that they couldn’t take good care of two virtual horses?
Really, I think that I’m losing what’s left of my mind.
Except. Except that that train of thought took me immediately to the concept that there are people who own real horses, for whom they can’t care any longer. For whatever reason–illness, lost the farm, divorce–some people have a horse, and really want to keep her forever. But something happens, and they just can’t.
I can barely take care of my cat and my virtual horse. What in God’s Name would I do with a real equine? The thought is daunting.
It’s hard to believe, but even owners and trainers of Thoroughbreds can find themselves in the position at which they no longer can care for their horses.
This is where CANTER steps in. CANTER is an acronym: it stands for Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses. With chapters in several states and regions of the U.S., they help trainers and owners who need to find Forever Homes for their horses. Working with trainers, owners and racetracks, CANTER helps place retired Thoroughbreds in new careers, with people who will love them until their natural deaths.
Finger Lakes has a similar program, a blessing in Upstate New York: FLTAP. (Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program)
The CANTER and Finger Lakes horses aren’t named Secretariat, Seattle Slew or Curlin. Those horses had 401(k)s.
But the horses for whom these two groups find Homes–and new jobs–are loving, beautiful, loyal, real-live Thoroughbreds. Descendants of the Darley Arabian, Godolphin Arabian and/or Byerly Turk. They have noble blood flowing through their veins–some more noble than others.
But nobility was never a reason to love someone, was it?
If that was the case, 99% of humans would be utterly bereft of affection.
So…here I am, worrying about the fact that I can’t afford the time and energy to create a virtual Arabian horse…and then I saw a posting today by CANTER KY. The posting made note of the fact that they have some fabulously lovable horses (my paraphrase) just down the road from Keeneland, where Bux Deluxe (again, my words) are being spent on horses, even as we speak. And that, for a mere $500–a beautiful, loving Forever Friend can be acquired through CANTER KY.
And–flash!–a challenge came into my mind. I’m sure this idea is not original with me–“…there is nothing new under the sun…”, as a wise scribe wrote in the Book of Ecclesiastes (the Bible). But the idea flashed into my head, perhaps inspired by the same One Who gave the biblical writer his mojo.
This challenge is to those who attend horse auctions–not New Holland, please, legitimate horse auctions. Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Tattersalls.
Here’s the challenge: if you spend $500,000 or more on a horse at the sales this year–let’s extend that through 2012–if you spend that much cash on a horse in the next 15 months…might we convince you to drive down the road to your local CANTER, or to Finger Lakes, and spend a measly $500 or thereabouts, to buy a second Thoroughbred?
Just think! Two Thoroughbreds for $550,000! Bargain-basement prices!
I get alerts from Blood-Horse every time someone spends a chunk of change on a horse at the current Keeneland sale–those critters are going for $500,000+. A few in the $1 million range.
If you have a million bucks to spend on a racehorse–please, please consider spending just another $500 for a horse who truly needs you. Toss that horse into the trailer with your expensive new acquisition–they’ll get along just great. Company for the ride Home.
Give that $500 horse a stall, vet care, food, brushing and some hugs. You won’t have a new racehorse in your barn–but you will have a new best friend, a horse who will love you for the rest of her/his Life. A companion for your racing horses, and a great night’s sleep, especially that first evening when you hear the grateful nicker coming from your barn.
There are many legitimate reasons why a trainer or owner can’t hold on to their horses. Those people are stepping up to the plate, and working with CANTER, FLTAP and other organizations to find new Homes for their horses. That’s the right thing to do, and those folks should be rewarded for being conscientious–their real, soul-reviving reward is in doing The Right Thing. That’s a good feeling.
Now, I’m calling on you horsewomen and -men who are at Keeneland right now, and will be at Fasig-Tipton, Tattersalls in Europe–wherever you buy your racing Thoroughbreds.
(Please know that I’m not condemning you for having the cash to buy kabillion-dollar horses: in fact, if you knew me, you’d know that I admire you and appreciate that you’re helping the economy. I sit in awe at the Saratoga Fasig-Tipton sales every year as I watch my favorite horseman and his bloodstock agent buying horses. He’s pouring money into the American economy–and he has a retirement plan for all his horses.)
Everyone who knows me knows that the two nights of Fasig-Tipton are my favorite 48 hours in the entire Saratoga racing season. This is a sentiment that’s shared by many of my racetracker friends. Everything, everyone–the air, itself–is charged with electricity. The elegant, beautiful grounds and buildings…the shiny, lovely yearlings…it all comes together in a way that is nothing short of magical. If every night could be Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Night–I’d be in Heaven, itself.
So no, this is not a judgment. I’m not saying that I’m saying that you’re wrong to spend Big Bucks on horses. It’s your money, you should spend it however you please.
All we ask is that you take a breath and consider–after you’ve bought a Big Bucks horse, spend just a few dollars to rescue a horse who needs you. That’s all.
What’s $500, when you’ve spent a million?
Yes, I know: care and feeding cost money, too–but I’ll bet that that racehorse you just acquired will pay the bills for your “new to you” horse. (Garcon! Sweet Timothy all around!)
Whether you choose to work with FLTAP, CANTER or another worthy organization, there are plenty of retired Thoroughbreds out there, waiting to be adopted. One of them has your name tattooed on his heart: find him, take him Home–and then enjoy the best night’s sleep you’ve ever experienced.
This is one bet that’s a Sure Thing.
P.S.: Curious note here: I wonder why we have no CANTER NY in New York State? CANTER is present in New England, Ohio and Pennsylvania–why, New York is surrounded by CANTERs! Does anyone have any insight? Thanks!
P.P.S.” I didn’t mention retiring Arabian racehorses in this piece because, frankly, I know a lot of people who breed and race Arabians–and from what I’ve seen and heard, they tend to hang onto their horses. And when they sell them–they make darned sure that they know where that horse is going, and who’s got her.
P.P.P.S.: I know a gentleman who has 230 broodmares. (You read that correctly: 230.) I asked him how many foals this Spring–expecting that he’d say, 230–and he told me that he had 35. Only thirty-five babies. He went on to explain that it would be irresponsible to make that many foals, and that to use a broodmare every year would in essence not be caring for her body: it would wear her out.
Selective, careful underbreeding and respect for the broodmare. Imagine that.
Selective, careful underbreeding and respect for the broodmare. Imagine that.