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Junk vs. Organic: Not Just for the Human Diet

by Christine Picavet

As an artist, it is necessary to be a keen observer of the horse. I will admit to being extremely empathetic to horses and the price of sensitivity is sometimes seeing more than I want to see. There is a saying which declares, "We are what we eat." As human being of free will, we may choose to eat junk food or organic food. If we apply this analogy to American racing, we might ask ourselves that if eliminating drugs in our horses is too radical, why not have two kinds of Thoroughbreds?

The Junk Thoroughbred

Bred, cosmetically modified and for sale. He must be speedy and precocious. Wallets open wide should he breeze a fast one furlong. He must stay in the fast lane. No time to wait for this youngster to mature, especially if speed is suspected. We want fun, we want results, we want dividends and we want it all now! Horsemen, tracks and states want racing everywhere, everyday, regardless of how poor it may be. All horses run medicated, so none are left behind without an edge over all others! Slots need live racing to fatten casinos, purses, state coffers: live horses needed! Anything goes, often overboard. After a rash of breakdowns the racing surface is always blamed, not the spent horses running on it. There are proverbial holes in tracks: horses step in, then fall, then take several horses and jockeys with them. People gasp, shed a tear and move on. The "stock" and the "heads" are a recyclable commodity! Used junk horses from big tracks are tuned-up to run at small tracks. No need for lemon laws. With powerful, avant-garde drugs and exotic procedures, magic is in the air -- injured horses are good to go. As long as horses can reach the starting gate, who gets hurt? We witness stunning form reversals: a horse loses a claiming race then wins a stakes race. We live in a fantasy world inhabited by genius horsemen training horses who grow wings. Horses with great bloodlines and potential are lost along the way but hey! -- some make it time and again. The team believes it is invincible. Enough horses can be found to fill most barns and races. Drilling into them is always worth a chance in the junkies world where you do or die.

The Organic Thoroughbred

Trained and raced based on his inherent physical abilities. He is allowed to mature and recover from growing pains with time and mild remedies. Occasional medications and therapeutic procedures are used to heal, not mask a problem, and race. His owner has patience and reverence for his horses and for the sport. His skilled trainer chooses prevention and baby steps over risking injuries, painful repairs or fatal loss. Not being pushed when they should not, most organic horses race several years. They are given an opportunity to exhibit their full potential and develop a strong fan base in their wake. They thrive, being mentally and physically healthy, benefiting from no-nonsense, sensible equine management. Racing is good, far away from chemistry, snake juice and needles. Organic horses compete among themselves and may choose to race without drugs against junkies. They earn genuine race records based on core talent. The goal of organic breeders is to produce sound athletes who will compete fairly, be enjoyed by trusting fans and handicappers, and enrich the breed. Pots of gold from horse sales are not the end that justifies all means, therefore sounder horses are raised to race or to be raced by owners espousing similar values. Surprise! Financial returns are plentiful, injury-related expenses low, and loss of horses rare. Organic racing is proud and thriving, a self-fulfilling PR machine, a pleasure to watch and a thrill to bet on. Breeders diligently cull inferior horses to ensure the quality of future generations. They selectively breed horses among their kind to regenerate the Thoroughbred. It is a wholesome world where less is more.

Christine Picavet exercised horses for ten years for conditioners such as leading French trainer Francois Mathet and Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham. She has also worked at Dr W O Reed's hospital at Belmont Park, preparing horses for surgery, then monitoring them. During that time Picavet assisted Ruffian's surgery.

She has owned and bred a few horses.

Currently Ms Picavet is an equine artist and has been painting commissions of Thoroughbreds for 30 years, including many champions. Her paintings are in collections around the world and she has had 70 covers of magazines and racing programs. Her work can be seen at www.ChristinePicavet.com

Email: Christine Picavet


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