More than two years after it was written, I think it’s safe to assume that the words “You Can’t Hug a Thoroughbred” will be engraved on my tombstone.
A fitting epitaph, for a girl who loves to hug those nutty, dangerous, fire-breathing dragons, right? In the minds of some, I walk where demons themselves fear to tread, skipping lightly down the shedrows and through the paddocks haunted with those flighty, unpredictable, caffeinated animals that we try to pass off as riding horses, when everyone knows they are only fit to gallop in circles.
Of course, if you’re reading this blog, it’s because you’re one of the crazy ones, too. You drank the coffee. (We only serve coffee here; Kool-Aid has entirely too much sugar.)
“You Can’t Hug a Thoroughbred” has been viewed more than 2,000 times on this site; it has been reprinted in myOTTB, an Australian Thoroughbred website; its opening lines are repeated over and over in hundreds of Facebook links; it is the working title of my nonfiction work-in-progress.
I’m writing about it today because it got cited on another blog; not an uncommon occurrence, sure, because You Can’t Hug a Thoroughbred (YCHATB?) gets lots of OTTB blog love. But I like this story, from the new OTTB blog “A Gift From Heaven or Belle.”
The writer says this:
“Before I even got Belle I had been researching on the internet about training OTTBs and one article that I read has been stuck in my head for awhile. The article read “You Can’t Hug a Throughbred” and was written by an OTTB owner that shared her experiences with other horse owners about Off The Track Race Horses.
“Now at the time I read the article I thought it was interesting but honestly it didn’t relate to me at all so I just looking for more ways to train OTTBs. However something happened yesterday that triggered the article in my mind again and it blew me away how much I could relate now.”
(This is when I pause and mutter under my breath didn’t relate? Didn’t RELATE? I am really touchy that way. I am the world’s worst receiver of criticism. This is why I am very relieved that the only reviews for The Head and Not The Heart have been good reviews, and after I receive the first bad one I will have to go to Ikea to buy an entire new set of dishes.)
The writer, who has only had her OTTB, Belle, for two or three months, went on to describe her first experience with anti-OTTB prejudice, and it wasn’t pretty. The writer was doing the right thing, sticking with her horse, helping her figure out what she was supposed to be doing. I think we can all agree that sometimes, that isn’t pretty. Longeing OTTBs can be a contentious subject; some people say to never do it, some people say to always do it (I stick with the inconclusive but accurate “it depends on the horse, really”) but if you judge a young Thoroughbred (or young Hanoverian, or young Norwegian Fjord pony, or young goat) on their longeing ability, you will probably get a poor impression of that horse’s future potential. Just as, sadly, the barn manager did, when she told the writer that Thoroughbreds weren’t worth the time.
(Now that I think about it, don’t Quarter Horses often get shown on the longe as yearlings? Perhaps this barn manager’s expectations of what a horse ought to be able to do by age four are slightly skewed?)
Anti-Thoroughbred comments sting. They feel like an attack on your children. You’ve got this amazing horse, with this astonishing history, and all the heart and grace and beauty that anyone could ever ask for, and someone is telling you that they will never amount to anything. We’ve all been there. I am as confused and outraged by comments like these now as I was when I was a teenager. I sputter and get defensive. I bite my tongue and shake my head. Everyone has breed preferences, of course, and that extends to their other animals. Some people, I hear, think that poodles are an acceptable pet… it truly takes all kinds! (Everyone knows that only hounds are appropriate pets.)
The point is, when you need a friend, I’m here for you. We’re here for you. Remember… we know very well a secret, that some people out there just refuse to hear: Thoroughbreds simply thrive on hugs. And they are well worth every second. Stick with Belle, my friend. And remember you’ve got a whole community over here at Retired Racehorse, on your team. Team Thoroughbred.