Baseball traditionalists go on lengthy rants when someone suggests a rule that would eliminate home-plate collisions. American football traditionalists fear changes to the contact sport to such an extent that conservative talk-show hosts spend hours suggesting that precautions limiting concussions are the result of socialism and can only lead to the "wussification" of America. That sentiment seems like nothing compared to the traditionalists in equestrian eventing, one of many horse-based sports that we can't afford.
A very interesting article by Sonia Van Gilder Cooke at Time takes a long look at equestrian eventing, which combines aspects of dressage, show jumping and cross country. The leaps the horses take are extremely dangerous and can result in deaths for riders and horses alike.
Van Gilder Cooke notes that while some of the jumps have been augmented over the years to help reduce injury or accident, other obstacles are not conducive to augmentation. Rather than help prevent further loss of life, the equestrian eventing traditionalists insist they remain as is.
Officials for the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) stress that "only" seven riders have died over the past eight years, despite millions of jumps. Animal rights advocates (rightly) point out that there are other life-forms involved in these hazardous events -- the horses themselves. Since the start of 2009, 12 horses have died as a result of jumps in the U.S. and U.K. alone, while 283 horses fell on jumps in 2011 FEI competitions alone.
The participants in eventing -- which again, are people who can totally afford it -- stress that the animals are pampered beyond belief. Hey, we totally believe it! Amazingly entitled, wealthy individuals can do things like buy a six-figure horse and a team of people to care for it around the clock. Amazingly entitled, wealthy people are also capable of saying things like this:
"People in third-world countries should be as lucky as to be an upper-level event horse," says [U.S. Eventing Association President Denny] Emerson.
I don't think I can even articulate how offensive that is and how small-minded a worldview you would have to possess in order to evoke that comparison when defending your dangerous sport.
Look, we all know the horses are pampered. That's not the point.
Here's an analogy. Let's say you give me my own guest house on your property, rent-free. You give me absolutely everything I ask for and give me a team of personal trainers. I would never want for anything, because you're my best bud and my benefactor. In return, all you ask is that I give you piggy-back rides. But on some of those piggy-back rides, you ask me to jump a bunch of things over half my height, with you on my back. Or maybe sometimes you'll push me in a pit. With you on my back. Maybe we'll both die on one of these adventures! Wheee!
No, horses aren't people. I'm not getting into individual opinions on that front. Imagine if you turned on a UNICEF commercial and over the pictures of impoverished children, the narrator said, "If only these children had been lucky enough, through the sheer coincidence of the universe, to have been born a rich dude's horse."
But what do we know? We're just a bunch of poor idiots.
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