Does the sight of horses under the whip make you feel excited at the strength and speed of it all, or does it represent man’s inhumanity to beast? A cruel display of control over nature for nihilistic ends? The things that we see around ourselves mean different things to different people. For some, in the case of horse racing, these signs indicate a noble profession illuminating all who take part in it. For others, it is savage exploitation of fellow creatures who should be left to roam the planet unhindered by human pursuits.
The relationship between human and horse is a relatively long one, within our temporal conception of things. When people first stated climbing on the backs of horses it elevated them to a position of power; capable of travelling vast distances and giving them a strategic advantage in battle. Early humans, when they first sighted riders on horseback, thought them strange six legged tall entities. This is where we get the mythical creatures called ‘centaurs’ from. When new things are first witnessed it is difficult to conceive of their true nature. Similar things are thought to have happened when indigenous people on remote islands first saw an aeroplane.
Today, the horse no longer carries the brunt of humanity’s need for mobility or its military advantage. Equus has been reduced, in the main, to the sporting entertainment of the rich. The horse racing industry is peopled with wealthy owners who flaunt their wealth by competing for prize money at race tracks around the globe. The industry is also supported by plebeians who punt on the outcome of horse races in the hope of winning free money. Bookmakers prey upon these gamblers with free betting promotions to lure them in, before fleecing them of their wages and savings.
Horse racing imagery: beauty and savagery abounds, depending upon the eye of the beholder. The short man aboard the massive beast. The fat man in top hat and bespoke suit. The blonde bejewelled skinny miss in cocktail dress. The riff raff in the stands. The strappers in the mounting yard. The keen smell of horse shit. A day at the races can find all of these sights and smells. If you are a fan of the racing game, you will be enchanted by many of these things, but if you detest this realm, you may find it all a terrible travesty. You are the judge of all you behold, after all.