Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Freezing fog and an inexplicable controversy

In this neck of the woods, today has been memorable for its freezing fog.  Towards the end of the morning I did think that the sun would break through as it looked a bit brighter if one looked directly upwards, but that wasn't to be: the fog just got thicker again through the afternoon.  Still, the temperature must have risen above zero for an hour or two because some of the ice began to melt at one stage, albeit briefly and only slightly.

However, that was still far preferable to the strong winds and wet or damp conditions of recent days: getting marginally lower temperatures in exchange for the wind and the rain was an extremely good deal from this end.  And it made for some interesting photographs too, and that's always something to consider when one has a blog to write.  What's also good to consider from that point of view is a good talking point, and we had that today too, even if it was from the most unexpected angle.

I'd sort-of read an article in the Racing Post about Kauto Star heading off for a second career as a dressage horse now that he is retired, but I didn't really take it in, other than to think that that was good: as any trainer will tell you, an ever-present worry is how to ensure good lives for the horses after they have finished racing.  It's relatively easy here as we probably only move on two or three a year.  We have a fairly good name for having sensible horses, so we find it fairly easy to find directions in which to send them in which they can have loved, safe, fulfilling and active lives, even if sometimes it takes a while.

But for a trainer such as Paul Nicholls, it must be a nightmare.  It would be a fairly satisfactory rough estimate to say that he and his owners have to re-home around a hundred horses a year, and it must be a worry.   (Or at least I hope that it is a worry, and that they don't just wash their hands of them).  A horse such as Kauto Star, one would presume, would be easy enough to re-home, not only because he's clearly a lovely horse, but also because his fame goes before him.  Even so, it's still one problem solved even when the most easily re-homed horse finds himself a new life - so if Kauto Star has had a new life arranged for him, that's terrific news.

Anyway, it seemingly was confirmed today - and then all hell broke loose.  And I really don't see why.  I would have thought that Paul Nicholls would have been delighted: as a trainer, one ideally would love to see none of the horses leave, but in practice they have to move on after they have finished racing, otherwise if one had a stable in which horses only arrived but never left, one would need to be building a few new stables and buying a new field ever year (or, in his case, building a hundred new stables and buying a dozen new fields every year).  The horse will be loved, well cared for, and kept happy and busy where he's going, so what is the problem?

I just hope that Kauto Star goes on to do as well in his new discipline as some of our alumni have done in theirs.  We've had horses go as pets, as general riding horses, as hunters, as dressage horses, as show horses, as eventers - and even as endurance horses, as both Jack and Jenny Dawson have done.  Like Kauto Star, they have no pretensions to rising to the very top in their new sport.  Jack and Jenny won't be heading off to the Middle East to take part in the really big endurance races, which are dominated by Arabs, and won't be heading down under to take on the stock horses in the Tom Quilty Cup (or to take on the stock horses at camp-drafting, come to that) but they have done really well in their new sport, Jack in particular, which is really lovely.

In an ideal world, I'd have loved Jack and all our other favourites to have stayed here for the rest of their days, but it would have been neither feasible for us nor fair on the horses - so if they can go on to find another great life among people who love them and treat them really well, then that's a cause for rejoicing.  So why is there all this furore about Kauto Star being turned into a dressage horse?   Answers on a post-card please.  Oh yes, and it's freezing hard again tonight, but I'm confident that the sun will break through tomorrow, so we could have a whole new and different set of views at which to marvel.

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