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Horsin' Around: The kind of help we really need

I see in the news that there is condemnation for the persons who are running the online apparel shop which serves the Louisville team that was recently stunned by the current loss of a top player, Kevin Ware, who suffered what is termed a "devastating injury" during a game.

It is most devoutly to be hoped that Mr. Ware will return to the game safe and sound next year after healing from his injury.

However, the online apparel shop is offering a T-shirt that has been deemed to be not only overpriced but also something less than sympathetic to Mr. Ware's current situation.

I found myself wondering if the PC correctness people aren't working overtime here and investigating intent as well as actions.

All I can say is that it is a good thing that the people who follow Mr. Ware's sport don't take up horseback riding at any great level. Horse folk are used to getting hurt.

We are not only used to getting hurt but we don't seem to need a great level of overt sympathy when we do get whacked in pursuit of our sport.

"Ooh, I bet that really hurt!" seems all that is required or desired for us to feel warm and fuzzy. Let me offer a few examples of the kind of sympathy that horse people offer to each other.

This is equally so for not only the doughty western riders and rodeo riders but also for those hardy souls who ride over big fences on little English saddles.

If a person gets into a bad situation with a steer he is working or an opinionated horse that is acting badly, someone will likely ask, "Think it's time to help him out?"

The answer will likely come back as, "Naw, not yet. Let him play with it awhile. He's still havin' fun."

If the rider is face down in the arena (having reached what might be termed his inevitable denouement) when his rescuers reach him, he is likely to hear someone cheerfully say, "Get up, boy! No one can see that shiny belt buckle when you're layin' on it!"

When a suddenly dismounted rider does reach the arena fence on foot, dirty and somewhat bruised, he is likely to hear someone say to him in dead-pan tones, "Wal, given the choice, I prob'ly woudn't a done it just that way myself."

I have seen riders at the schooling shows take a bad bounce off a horse that was not acting in a very intelligent manner anyway and heard from the spectators only the phrase, "Oh, too baad!" said in the chilling drawl of the boarding school elite.

Likewise I can remember hearing a person standing near me say coldly after a trainer had come off at a poorly ridden fence, "If he's not dead right now, I'll kill him myself for letting my good horse get into that mess!"

Does this mean that horse folks are hideously without feeling toward each other?

An outsider might think so, but it really is more that early on we realize that this is a sport that is fraught with ugly possibilities health-wise.

As a group we are prone to sprains and bruises. We are used to hard landings during the day and stiff bodies the next morning. The broken collar bone is so much our sport's national symbol that the handsome cravat that the original fox hunters wore was a traveling bandage for strapping an arm up as it was as an addition to correct dress in the hunt field.

With that in mind it may not seem hard of us to watch calmly as a football or baseball or even a basketball player is taken off the field of play on a stretcher.

Those are big guys who play those games ... no one was more impressive than Refrigerator Perry but even Mr. Perry did not weigh in at 1,000 pounds, which is the average weight of a horse. A 7-foot tall basketball player is a force to be reckoned with but so is a 16-plus hand horse.

You also need to remember that horses operate on horse principles, which can make them tricky, as well as the fact that a human is mainly an upright creature while horses are not only vertically tall but have a distinctly horizontal existence as well.

While all of this is going on we humans who work with horses have to be careful not to startled the dear creatures as we work with them because they are essentially timid beasts since in the wild they are preyed upon and thus easily upset.

Having just re-read this column for errors I find myself wondering if it is possible that horse folk don't need more psychological help than physical help after all.

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