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On Anti-Greyhound Racing Crusaders and Extreme Horse Races

I was happily reading "One Woman’s Crusade to Ban Greyhound Racing," by Cynthia Anderson at The Christian Science Monitor, when something not-so-thrilling caught my eye.

But first, applause to Christine Dorchak, who spends her days (and has for well over a decade) doing everything she can that is legal and nonviolent, to abolish greyhound racing in the United States. It wasn’t always that way, though, but after nearly dying and being in a coma for several weeks, she decided to attend law school at night and dedicate herself to passing legislative bans on dog racing.

Is she a vegan? I have no idea. Nor do I care. She (and Carey Theil, the executive director of Grey2k USA) works tirelessly to end the use and abuse of greyhounds for entertainment, sport and gambling. And for that, she’s a hero of mine.

Of course, as a day doesn’t go by when I don’t read a horrible story about an animal, right next to the story about Christine Dorchak was "Extreme Horse Racing: Where Man and Beast Both Run," by Tom A. Peter, about a "ride and tie" event where teams composed of two people and one horse race for anywhere from four to 100 miles. Oh, wait, the horse races for four-100 miles and the people take turns running and riding "it" (the horse). Let’s deconstruct:

"The race starts with one person running and the other riding. At least six times during the competition, the rider – who has gone well ahead of the runner – must get off the horse; tie it to a tree, bush, or whatever he or she can find; and begin a leg of running. The first runner catches up to the horse, mounts it, rides past his running teammate, ties the horse, and starts running again."

Must be really fun for the horse.

"It’s based on a historic means of transportation," says Bud Johns, the sport’s creator. "When two people had a long distance to go and only one horse between them, how did [they] maximize the fact that [they had] a horse? The horse can’t carry both people very far, and if one person is riding, then the other person’s not benefiting."

Yeah, and it’s 2007. Haven’t horses done enough for us yet? More accurately, haven’t we taken enough from them yet? Meanwhile, the horses aren’t even mentioned until bottom of the final page of the article.

"If someone becomes overly competitive, vet checks safeguard horses from being overridden. In races 20 miles or longer, horses pass through at least one vet check during the race and afterwards they must be declared fit to continue or the team gets disqualified."

Somehow none of that makes me feel better.

The camaraderie is fitting for a sport where contestants tow horses in trailers for hours, or days, to events, and pay $100 race fees – all for the glory of winning a horse blanket or water bottle. The only cash prizes are for the world championship, where the top prize is $1,000.

So a horse may be towed for days . . . for what? The ego of his owner?

"People will say you’re crazy," says Lieberman [a 67-year old "competitor"]. "But they use it, I think, in a positive way…. Not that you’re just off, but that you’re doing something very special that most people are unable to do."

I beg to differ. Lots of people can ride a horse, stop, and then ride him some more. But can Leiberman do what the horse does? That would be "very special."

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