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A Day at the Races

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Having a lovely time with fosteronfilm's family. There's quite a drought going on up here. The grass is brown and dying, and apparently the corn crops are a loss this year. Weird. On Friday we had flash flood conditions in Atlanta.

The in-folks treated us to a day at Arlington Park yesterday. I've never been to a horseracing track before. It was huge. And very white. We were inside--thank God, it's hotter in Illinois than it is in Georgia, which is just wrong--sat in shaded air conditioned splendor overlooking the track for the whole afternoon, nibbling on brie and chocolate cake. Very decadent. Nine races in all. fosteronfilm and I bet on six of them, and promptly lost our twelve dollars. We're so not gamblers. But our philosophy on it was that the money was paying for the enjoyment of having a horsie to root for, so it was all good.

The horses were beautiful. There was some excitement in the final race. In the jostling to the finish line, a horse went down, throwing his jockey and knocking another one off his mount. The second rider got to his feet, very shaken, but walked off the track without needing assistance. But the first jockey went down in a throng of horses, and while I know that they'll do their best not to trample a person, there was really no way for them to not step on him. He went rolling under their hooves and when the horses were past, he wasn't moving. I wonder if he got kicked in the head. The ambulance guys came running and immediately went to work on him. The track didn't give any details about his status. I still have no idea if he's okay, or even alive. I plan to do some Googling to see if I can find a news article about it. A sobering finish to the day.

[Edit: Just found this article on the accident. Jockey and horse are still being evaluated and their injuries treated, but at least I know the jockey isn't dead.]

I also wonder about how the horses are treated. They looked incredibly well cared for--they were sleek and spirited. But there's also a listing on the program to indicate whether the horse is on Lasix, which is apparently some sort of drug. And, of course, it was very hot. I do tend to think the horses probably have a decent time of it. At the very least because they're worth so much money. If people are going to make the financial investment into racing, they really can't afford to abuse, neglect, or starve their horses. I hope.


Writing Stuff

34-day reprint SALE of audio rights to "The Life and Time of Penguin" to Escape Pod. "Penguin" is going to be made into a podcast! I'm so jazzed. I'm a total Escape Pod junkie. Ever since I discovered these folks, I've been jonsing to have one of my stories turned into an mp3 reading. And even better, Stephen Eley, the editor, is going to try to get a little girl to read the part of the, err, little girl. *happy dancing*
I'm feeling:
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On July 18th, 2005 12:56 pm (UTC), harmonyfb commented:
But there's also a listing on the program to indicate whether the horse is on Lasix

My dad takes Lasix. It helps to prevent congestive heart failure by acting as a diuretic (it's also used to treat kidney and liver disease.)
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On July 18th, 2005 12:59 pm (UTC), eugie replied:
Ah, so not a "performance enhancing" drug. That's something of a relief to know.
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On July 18th, 2005 01:24 pm (UTC), wolflady26 commented:
In horse racing, it's fairly common that horses will bleed from their lungs after a hard workout. It's not as dangerous a condition as it sounds, and it has to do with the way the horse's body has evolved, and the way it moves when it is running at top speed. Oftentimes, the blood is only microscopic.

Lasix helps prevent this bleeding. It's listed in the handicapping because some people believe that Lasix gives a small performance bonus, whereas others believe that bleeding indicates that the horse is not fully fit, and therefore has a lower chance of winning.

My dad was a racehorse trainer for several years, and I used to frequently work on the track before I moved to Germany.
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On July 18th, 2005 01:29 pm (UTC), wolflady26 commented:
As an addendum, how well and how kindly the horses are cared for depends, of course, on the owner and trainer. There are cruel things that are done to horses to keep them running and performing. There are ignorant and cruel people on the track. Racing is a high-stress sport that causes frequent injuries, and many times the horses are not given significant time to recover naturally.

On the other hand, you also have trainers who adore horses and do everything in their power to give them a wonderful life. And you also have horses who absolutely love to race. Personally, it's a sport that I deeply enjoy, and I guess it's like everything else that involves money: there are very good and evil people involved in it, and a whole lot who have a touch of both.
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On July 18th, 2005 01:32 pm (UTC), eugie replied:
Thanks so much for the "insiders" insight on horseracing. It's much as I expected, that it mostly depends on the people (again) as far as how good the horse's life is. But that can be said about any situation involving humans and animals.
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On July 18th, 2005 01:47 pm (UTC), wolflady26 replied:
On the positive side again, they are quite strict about testing for performance-enhancing drugs. They normally do a test on at least the winner, and I think also second and third place, horses of every race to make sure they haven't been doped. Which helps a bit at least.

(Ha, I bet you didn't think that one throw-away sentence in a post would result in a treatise about the goods and evils of horse racing, did you? :D)
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On July 18th, 2005 02:26 pm (UTC), eugie replied:
Actually, I was sort of hoping that folks on my flist would chime in on the horseracing front. I love horses (and animals in general of course) and I loved seeing them at the track. But I honestly don't have much knowledge about the ins and outs of horseracing so didn't know what to think about the activity as far as how the welfare of the horses go. I'm glad to have the assurance that there's a good chance they're treated well and that there are safeguards in place to protect them from unhealthy doping.
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On July 18th, 2005 02:44 pm (UTC), wolflady26 replied:
Oh, that's good. I didn't want to be going overboard in your journal. I love horses, too, and desperately miss owning one. I'm hoping to get one here in Germany within the next couple of years. I used to do competitive dressage and show jumping, and I miss it like crazy!
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On July 18th, 2005 02:29 pm (UTC), aimeempayne replied:
Sounds like the horse racing industry is like the dog racing industry. There are good and bad. Our ex-racer, Doc, came from a small breeder whose wife was the trainer. Not only was he cared for, he was loved. Patti, our other ex-racer, was physically cared for, but did not receive much affection. We had to teach her about ear scritches and belly rubs. She's making up for it now, though. :)

I wouldn't even consider Patti's case to be bad, there are worse stories out there.
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On July 18th, 2005 02:46 pm (UTC), wolflady26 replied:
Yeah, it does sound similar. My favorite horse was ex-racetrack, and I think he really missed it (though he was never a particularly _good_ racehorse!). He loved to compete, and was never more active and alive than at a competition.

His father, interestingly, was trained by The Horse Whisperer, and was mentioned in the book :) Two degrees of fame, and all that :D
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On July 18th, 2005 02:03 pm (UTC), mtfay commented:
The corn thing must be primarily northern Illinois. My father-in-law thinks his corn will still tassle out okay. He's expecting about a 10-15% decrease in yeild though. Soy beans are the big worry in McLean county.
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On July 18th, 2005 02:27 pm (UTC), eugie replied:
I've noticed that corn prices in Georgia have been pretty unimpressive. Normally Hobkin gets a lot of fresh corn in summer. I wondered how much that was drought related.
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On July 18th, 2005 03:30 pm (UTC), melindadansky commented:
Not only are the horses worth a lot of money, in most cases, you don't become a jockey, a trainer, or a breeder unless you love it a whole lot. It just doesn't make enough money. I think of them as being like baseball and football players. Occasionally, they'll race hurt, but not very often, and in general, the people who make money from them running don't want them to hurt themselves worse.

Enjoy Illinois. Personally, I love the Midwest. I just wish I were closer to the fields and further away from the mini-malls.
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On July 18th, 2005 08:59 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Er....welll...gonna cheese people off as I'm so good at doing.

I worked as an exercise rider and off-track jockey for several years. Yes, there are people who care about their animals.

But it's a business. Big business. And much like greyhound racing there is abuse, primarily in the throwaway attitude of most owners. A horse is only good for a few years, after that, if its lucky it gets a second career as a riding horse. (Race horses BTW are not riding horses--they need loads of retraining. But they can be awesome athletes off the track.)

Many perfectly good horses are sent to slaughter after they've outlived their usefulness. They end up at a "killer" auctions, are packed in cattle trucks (too small for horses), and shipped for 10-12 hours to a meat plant in Canada or Mexico. (I think there are also plants in Texas.)

I'm not trying to make you guilty or anything, because as a vegetarian, you're a better person than I am. Seriously. I'm not being condescending. (I've tried, I'm just so f-ing weak, keep eating meat.) But, personally, I don't do horse or dog tracks anymore. 'Tho I used to have lots of fun betting, too. I just know too much about the industry.

Prayers for the jockey. Twelve hundred pounds of animal stomping on you does very hurty things.

Pat Kirby
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On July 18th, 2005 11:01 pm (UTC), buymeaclue commented:
Arlington! Squee! I worked on the backside there for a summer and after starting out at Hawthorne (another, smaller Chicago track), I thought I'd died and gone to Churchill Downs.

Yeah, ditto the rest on Lasix as an anti-bleeding medication. It _can_ enhance performance--if you were bleeding before and aren't now, you'll run faster, too. *g* There's all kinds of handicapping voodoo about first-time Lasix and such. But a magic bullet, no, and it's controlled (when I was a vet assistant, the rest of our day was built around when we had to be at X horse's stall to give him his Lasix).

Which isn't to say that there aren't drugging problems in racing. They do test--some states more seriously than others--but it's probably like anything else. As fast as they come up with new tests, someone else is coming up with drugs.

I'm deeply ambivalent about the whole thing, which is why I don't really follow the sport anymore. I don't believe you force a horse to run the way the good ones (who may or may not be the _fast_ ones) do; I believe that on some level, they like what they're doing. And you can't wrap a horse up and put him on the shelf; that wouldn't be fair to him. But sometimes bad things happen to running horses, however well they're cared for. I haven't quite been able to reconcile it all.

But man, Arlington. I loved my summer there. The track's kind of its own little world. A very strange little world, but it's got good people and bad ones and lots in between.

Kind of a funny bit of synchronicity. I've just started poking at the idea of volunteering for a racehorse rescue group, to keep my hand in.
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On July 19th, 2005 01:51 am (UTC), eugie replied:
I'm only reading my flist sporadically while I'm with the in-laws, so I just hopped over to "another post in another place" and replied.

#$&^%!#@ I'm too old. Not by a lot, but enough to disqualify me from even the hope of begging for an invite.

WAH!! I'm too fucking old! I think I'll go cry in a corner for a while now . . .
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On July 19th, 2005 10:44 am (UTC), keesa_renee replied:
Oh, Eugie, you need to learn some of the most basic rules of adding candles to your cake. The most important of which, at the moment, is Rule #7: You're not too old; the anthology is too young. Repeat is after me, slowly. I am not too old; the anthology is too young. Okay? Good. :)

And many, many, many congratulations on the Escape Pod sale!! That is too cool! I need to hop over there and look at the website more closely; I have the link somewhere, but I've never really taken the time to go through and read all about it. Too much life getting in the way! :)
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