Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Grand National.

I have very mixed feelings about this Steeplechase, particularly this year when a local horse had to be put down.* The Grand National, like the Boat Race, the Derby, The Cheltenham Gold Cup and the FA Cup Final, is an iconic moment in the sporting calendar and is one of the events which we always try to watch. This year because of the wedding we missed it and I can't say that I am sorry in view of the fatalities.

There has been such a lot of publicity, so many people writing 'for' it and so many 'against' it - that I really don't know which side to come down on. The points the pro people seem to make are:
a) the horses love it. How do we know this? They say that if the horses didn't love it they wouldn't continue to gallop round the course once they had unseated their riders. My answer to this is to think of wild horses in various parts of the world - they are herd animals and when put together they follow one another. Surely the same applies when they are galloping round the course.
b) the runners are chosen by their owners because they are the brave and fearless ones. This I view with suspicion mainly because I think these are human characteristics. Having watched young horses being broken in by the jockeys on our local 'gallops' (we live in a racing area) I think the jockeys do not give up until they totally dominate the horse, in which case they are not so much brave and fearless as under total domination.

Why in all the furore at the moment does no one mention the real reason the race is run - money.

We have to accept that are too many horses, the loose, riderless horses are a real danger, every horse seems to be being steered in the direction of the tightest bend (like racing cars), the jumps are fearsome (I have seen them and believe me, some of them, particularly Bechers Brook are absolutely terrifying). Last but by no means least, every jockey carries a whip and after the last fence there is a frantic race to finish first. Need I say more?

As I say - I love watching it on television, I would be sad to see it go but I do sometimes feel that my reasons are for self-gratification rather than the good of the horse. Can someone please enlighten me?

*According to Pete.


Mary said...

Wow, I recall watching it on TV with my Daddy as a child, thinking it exciting and wanting to take riding/jumping lessons.........but no way could we afford that! Later, I rode now and again on friends' horses, gentle trots and canters around the fields......and got to know more about the horse as a special and quite delicate animal despite its size. Magnificent animals who deserve great care........forced racing, steeplechasing, whatever, is just not right. I have to admit I'm against such intense training and rough handling all in the name of money. If men (and now women) want to be stupid, careening around tracks and risking their lives in the name of excitement, stick with cars, not beautiful animals.

Enough said for one who loved riding the elephant where there was no jumping or whips! I may be adding another riding lesson later this year - on an unusual animal, stay tuned!!!

Hugs - Mary

Jan said...

I agree-I don't know much about horses but I don't watch any of these on TV. Just seems wrong to put animals through that for money.

Heather said...

When I was young and before we had I don't know why there has been so much fuss this year. When I was young and before we had TV we always listened to it on the radio and I found it thrilling. The first time I saw it on TV I think there were 5 horses put down and I have never watched it since. Why do the fences have to be so high and dangerous. Wouldn't everyone be satisfied if they were lowered. It would still be a race of skill and I think all concerned would be better off.

Heather said...

I thought I had deleted those first eight words. Apologies.

Bovey Belle said...

As a horsey person, and one who has followed this race from when it was first broadcast on tv in 1960, I have a different take on it.

Yes, loose horses will "follow the herd" but if you look, not all of them jump. If they are tired or daunted or you might say, sensible, they go round the fence. The damage to Synchronised was when he was galloping and jumping loose after his fall parted him from McCoy. If a horse is approaching on a wrong stride, a good jockey will try to correct that, and also help the horse's balance as he is jumping/landing. Synchronised appeared to be in a really wound-up mood before the race (hence shying and dumping McCoy then) and that attitude would to a degree affect his concentration during the race. The usual battle-charge to the first fences never helps either. According to Pete was brought down by another horse, which is one of the perils of the sport. No-one ever wants a horse to die in the name of sport, and yet many horses die every day - just not on the tv. There is an astonishing amount of ignorance at the lower end of the horse-owning public and horses suffer for it, but that's a whole different subject. Un-horsey people don't understand how horses think/react - just like the chap who drove straight into the back of my friend's mare and broke her hind legs . . .

Personally, I think too many horses are run - I would like to see 30 or less running - and only the absolute top-class horses in the sport. I also think it would be a good idea for a once-round the course race (like the Foxhunters the previous day, which is for amateur jockeys) to actually qualify horses for the National, so they have experienced the type of obstacles (totally different to the stiff birch fences and level ground of normal steeplechasing).

There are strict whip rules and absolutely no point to any race if a horse isn't there to win.

Bovey Belle said...

I meant to add, that all horses should also carry the same weight, as over that distance carrying a handicap of an extra stone because it's a cracking horse is what tells. It should be the best horse than wins, not the one with the least lead on its back.

Irene said...

I think it's an unnecessary thing to put horses through just fr the thrill of the public. It;s obviously a dangerous sport otherwise there would not be so much controversy about it. It seems this race causes regular fatalities and at whose cost and at whose betterment? I say, stop this nonsense and let's treat those horses better to a life they deserve. They didn't ask for this.

H said...

I'm not sure what I think. I've never really been keen on watching horse racing (either live or on the telly) though I do consider horses to be magnificent animals. I could definitely live without the race and not miss it at all.

Dominic Rivron said...

Enlighten you? I think what you've said is pretty enlightened.

MorningAJ said...

I have very strong feelings on this and I daren't really start to express them or I'll upset the 'pro' people. Around 420 horses a year die in, as a result of, or training for, races.
That can't be right.

MrsL said...

The whole of the racing industry and everything involved is barbaric to me, and yes, it's about money, always has been and always will be. End of.

Just my thoughts.


MrsL said...

The whole of the racing industry and everything involved is barbaric to me, and yes, it's about money, always has been and always will be. End of.

Just my thoughts.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for joining in the debate - can't say that I am any more enlightened than I was before. It is a thorny problem and there are no easy answers, but some of us will always be pro and some anti.