Will a GPS help find the correct direction ?

17 Mar


Black Beauty

Horse-crazy kids find horses everywhere: the velvet seats in the local cinema can be straddled like a saddle, and the cowboys and Indians on screen can be galloped after,amid  clouds of dust and whoops and war cries;  big enough dogs can become wonderful ponies, in a pinch, for small enough riders; and in New York City, there have always been the carriage horses.

Every kid’s horse bible, “Black Beauty”, makes it apparent early on that some human beings will mistreat animals , so it was never a shock to see a few of these carriage horses looking less than shiny, their frames a little thin, their hooves looking worn and even over-grown. But most of the horses were the pride and joy of their drivers/caretakers, and served as proud reminders that there was an Age of the Horse, when the  wonderful creatures were transportation, power sources, the means to a better life.

Just as the horse world has changed—become bigger and more public even as there are fewer truly knowledgeable people raised in a world full of horses—so it has come to the carriage horses of New York. Most of the current drivers did not start as horsemen and see  the drives through Central Park as a way to make money without too much physical labor on their part—not to reconnect with a glorious past. Horse racing used to have giants on 4 legs– Seabiscuit, Exterminator, Big Red, Secretariat, Affirmed, Gallant Lad–the names roll off, they were newspaper headlines and part of everyone’s common knowledge. Now, the horses are just part of an industry, the trainers are often called ‘mechanics’, because that is what they are: people who use drugs, hoof putty and a good dose of cynicism to keep  horses running one more race–before being carted off in trailers to end on dinner tables or worse.

And then–there is top sport endurance. A sport which used to feature the epitome of close contact between rider and horse now resembles nothing so much as the sleazy underbelly of racing.  A sport which has provided so many of the innovations and cutting edge knowledge for horse nutrition, showing, heart-lungs, technology,and the triumph over terrain and physical limits, is fast becoming the public face of horse sport as perceived by the general public:drug scandals,  fractures, heart failure, cheating and death.

Region VII in the endurance world– Bahrain,Dubai, Qatar–is fast becoming the face of endurance and horse sport in general.

International horse sport is being engulfed by its own association with its governing body, the FEI. And it is a disturbing picture.

The FEI lives in a building in Lausanne, Switzerland  bought and paid for by Meydan, one of the main corporations owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the leader of Dubai a well as the husband of Princess Haya, president of the FEI.

The venerable  German horse show , Wiesbaden, a mainstay on top sport’s calendar, will now have as main sponsor Qatar.

WEG 2010 was bankrolled in part by title sponsor  Alltech and then bailed out of impending and crushing debt by Meydan. WEG 2014 (Alltech again title sponsor)  is already bankrolled by Meydan and Meydan will now be title sponsor of World Championship Endurance at WEG– the 2014 World Endurance Championship, to be held August 28th, will be called the ‘Meydan Endurance at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014.

2013 was not kind for Maktoum,what with the seizure of illegal drugs from the private airplane; , the discovery of illegal drugs in racehorses; the drug problems in tn endurance horses; etc..  Still–the entire  British thoroughbred industry as well as world-wide endurance are underwritten by Region VII: Bahrain, Dubai, Qatar. No sale of Thoroughbreds the world over is truly complete if several Sheikhs are not bidding on the sales stock. No international endurance race has been complete these last few years if the podium is not represented by Region VII.

The intelligence agency Qwest was hired by Princess Haya in 2010  to head the FEI’s Integrity Unit. Qwest, headed by Lord Stevens, was recently hired by Sheikh Mohammed to investigate the above-mentioned drug scandals. In headlines from the world’s newspapers, the result of the4 Qwest investigation was to clear Sheikh Mohammed of any knowledge and state that the illegal drug imports and positive drug tests were the result of management failures and breakdowns–ie, the trainers gave the drugs without knowledge or consent of the owner.

Only Britain’s  DEFRA (Dept for Environment, Food, Rural Affairs)has  spoken  out,insisting that its veterinary wing, the VMD, has no input whatsoever in the Qwest investigation, despite the fact that it was the VMD that arranged and oversaw seizure of the illegal drugs.

2014, video surfaces of men in cars/on foot chasing the ‘winning’ horse down the stretch in Bahrain  ,forcing the exhausted creature to break from a walk/trot to a canter–



 And in the past few weeks,the FEI has   agreed to investigate the rumor that the Crown Prince of Dubai roden two horses under the same name in two different competitions during 2012.

Ringer horses enduranceCidinha Franzão photos.

The latest news is thatBahrahin  has underwritten the FEI endurance  ride to be held at Royal Windsor Horse Show this year. Riders and federations that roundly condemned Region VII at the special FEI Endurance conference only a month or so ago are all eager to enter and compete.

Everyone’s hand is out, eager for petro-dollars, the influence and power they represent.

But is this really the way horse sport is meant to be going?


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