Friday, December 23, 2011

The Other Thoroughbred Calumet Farm
An Obvious Bias or Two...

Or three perhaps.  Somewhere around Chapter 18, I decided to explore my own deep-seated case of equine bigotry.  Yes, it's true.  I own a bias or two and as we all know, recovery is a long and painful process with a demoralizing 92% rate of recidivism.  Like that last word?  So did I.  All I know for sure is that the forests and fields surrounding many of America's racetracks are the sanctuary of the hopelessly enamored -- those that know in their hearts and minds that nobody but God could have created something as perfect as a Thoroughbred...

...actually it was the British, but to be fair, it was during a period of England's history where quite a few folks might have confused English aristocracy with the Almighty anyway:

 "God didn't invent the Thoroughbred, the British did.  Okay, that was the painful part.  And it gets worse!  The British actually stole horse racing from the Arabs.  What's more, they also stole the horses, which was probably a little noted side-bar since the British were stealing entire continents anyway.  In order to make horse racing seem like a British idea, they had to invent a new horse.  Racing Arabian horses outside Buckingham Palace would seem...well, touristy?"

Now you'll have to buy the book to find out what the Boston Tea Party, a bunch of Chinese dope fiends and Lady Balfour had to do with it.

But my real bigotry showed up with the first importations of a European invention known as the Warmblood.  It was based on early American experiments with dogs -- notably what became known as the Irish Setter Syndrome, in that they wanted a sleek-looking, fashionable dog with the mental acuity of a potted plant.  These equine genetic anomalies began washing up on shore in the Americas in the late 1970's.  They were, for the most part, "a work in progress."  Whose work and the exact definition of 'progress' based on excessive optimism or whether the buyer's check had already cleared the bank or not.  Germany had the thing down to an exact science.  Every district had its own kind of horse:  Hanoverians, Westphalians...Volkswangoners.  The Dutch got into it as well, though they weren't much on details or just how much Thoroughbred in the recipe was really needed.  Evidently, not much.  However, the French horse breeders, they kept the ratio at about 2/3 TB as compared to the Dutch models which limped in at about 1/16 TB -- "the rest generic DNA scraped from the armpit of a three-toed sloth."  Ooh, did I really write that?  Well, it was 1979.

Of course the French were pretty realistic about the whole thing.  If the experiment went badly, well, the horse always had a second career:  fine cuisine.   Later in the same chapter, I look at how the Thoroughbred got tapped for a little product improvement in Quarter Horses.  And I've included a fascinating interview with Miss 1958 Chevrolet Hubcap on 'mayhem and magnetism in professional rodeo.  A must-read for those folks that cruise the masochistic dating sites.

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