I was not at Pimlico for The Preakness. I don't do crowd scenes anymore.

OK, to tell the truth I always hated crowd scenes anyway. Now I just catch it on the computer right after the race. Having said all of that, and qualifying myself as a non-combatant, it may seem strange if I venture an opinion of the two tragedies that happened on race day in the earlier races.


I have been asked what happened. The easiest thing to say is that life and racing caught up with them both. Horses do die. They die in their fields and they die in their stalls. You come down to the barn in the morning and there is your horse, dead. It doesn't have to be an old horse either. If you want to have a necropsy done you will probably find out that the horse suffered some form of aneurysm or a heart attack. Most folks don't bother with the necropsy because, well, the horse is already dead, it looks like it passed peacefully and those necropsies are costly.

That is the easy way for it to happen. The hard way is when you battle a case of colic for an entire night and finally decide to put the horse down. You are exhausted, the horse is exhausted and you can't afford the abdominal surgery — which may not even work — for your horse. Another hard way is to walk out to the pasture and find that your horse is standing there on three sound legs and one broken one. Again, you put your horse down. You will probably never know how it broke that leg even if you walk that field and check fence until you are blue in the face.

And then there is a plethora of diseases some of which you can inoculate against and others that you can only pray don't show up. The phrase "healthy as a horse" only works until you have some experience with horses. Then you know it for the lie it is.

And now that we have talked about backyard light riding horses let us talk about sport horses. There are so many ways for a sport horse to get hurt that frankly I am amazed that the insurance agencies cover them at all, never mind the price they get for that insurance.

A horse's whole body rests on a very few tiny little bones in its hooves. The canon bone, which is that nice round bone that appears to go from ankle to knee, is ridiculously small for the horse that it holds up above it and for the stress that it takes when a horse runs, jumps, turns quickly or stops suddenly, all of which is what a sport horse does for a living. The tendons and ligaments that move the legs and that whole superstructure of shoulders and hind quarter are all at risk of stress and torsion injuries.

Watch the football players walk off the field after a game; watch the rodeo cowboys limp out of the arena and they aren't carrying any weight but their own. It's the same deal, except for one thing.

Horses can't tell you where or how much they hurt.

If you are a very good groom — and a very good groom is a wonderful person indeed — you will treat your horse like it is made of glass and ribbons and act as though it is injured each time it goes out and comes back in. Rubbing all over the horse with your hands, feeling for heat in any place that shouldn't be hot, looking for swellings where they shouldn't be, watching that horse walk and trot on the line. You can cold hose its legs or you can put a set of bandages on it with some good liniment under them, you can do massages down the horse's neck, back and hips. You may still miss some little thing and it will come back and bite you.

Race horses are bred to run. If you have ever had a runner's high think about what an animal that has been bred specifically to run for three hundred years gets when it races. This is why you will see a horse try to go on running on that injured leg…the will to run is more important to the horse in that moment than is the injury.

What it comes down to is that sport horses, like sports stars get hurt. How much is problematical and so is what you can do about it. Humans can have a lot more done for them medically than large animals can. This is the simple truth of sport horses.

People who love horses work with them. They try their best to keep them well. Sometimes it doesn't work.