While we visited my nanna as young ones, I used to love browsing through her collection of cartoon books, titled Thelwell’s Ponies. Hilarious, fat horses behaving very badly. Like a lot of girls, I had developed a fascination with reading pony books. They were written mainly by English authors, as well as the Australian classic Silver Brumby series, set in the high country.
My family could not afford riding lessons, let alone the upkeep of a horse, or pony club fees, so it was all a fantasy of dapple-grey ponies, or chestnuts, or palominos with flowing manes and tails. Instead, my little sister and I created felt ponies, with an array of saddles of fabric scraps, and bridles made of plaited cotton. We made do with what we had!
Later on, I married a chronic gambler, who introduced me to horse racing, bookies and the TAB. I never gambled that much, only an occasional flutter of a 50 cent bet here and there. I guess that dates me, the days of 50 cent betting. I loved a day at the races, surveying the glossy thoroughbreds in the mounting yard, the excitement of the gallops, the thrill of a steeplechase.
But I always silently dissented at the jockeys whipping such noble steeds, who were only racing to please their masters. Later, I learned how expensive racehorses are to purchase and maintain, as well as the negative aspects of my husband’s gambling addiction, chasing his dreams.
I stopped betting, noting that the monolithic TAB did not even care about my minuscule contributions. I read in a library book, title forgotten, that many racing trainers regard racehorses as tomorrow’s dog food. The majority of race thoroughbreds end up in a knackery, one last trip in a horse float. Then they appear in a can of pet meat.
This is the tale of a racehorse, shot on race day by the vet. The horses would gallop anyway, even leap over logs in the bush. On a racetrack, the jockeys whip the horses. Sometimes misfortune happens, fetlocks snap. That’s that, the racing crowd turn away, sipping their best champagne, and pick the winner in the next race.
Very expensive. The owners buy another costly well-bred yearling to be whipped. It is the norm in Australian racing. Could race meetings have races with no whip?
This happens at some racetracks in England and Europe. The horses may not race as fast, but apparently there are fewer horse fatalities and jockey injuries. That is what I learned in my reading. Why have whips?