Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Standing Ovation

Barbaro, the star race horse who was the darling of the tracks and has won millions of dollars’ worth of prizes, was recently injured in a race. He broke his leg in several places and had to undergo major surgery. He is now in a long, painful recovery.
Such is his stature that he’s been constantly receiving gifts like baskets of carrots and other horsy treats. It was heartbreaking to see pictures of this beautiful horse with his leg in splints, horrendously injured and in obvious pain. However, he is receiving the best of care and is expected to recover even though his racing career is over.
Although when you think about it, it’s not ‘his’ career at all, is it. The story of this horse made me think of racing in a rather sad way. These animals have, obviously, no choice.
I remember watching a show in Disney World where the performers were the two star orcas, Amu and Shamu. The end of the performance was to be an act where the two of them would create such waves with a thwack of their tails that twelve rows of spectators would be soaked in the cold water from their tank. Well, that day Amu didn’t want to do this trick. Even though she was slightly smaller than the 12,000 lb. Shamu, she called the shots. She blocked his way and prevented poor Shamu from performing, even though he was clearly OK with it.
The trainers cajoled them. They even, I suspect, begged. Amu wouldn’t budge. Finally, the trainers told us apologetically that that was that. There wouldn’t be any splashing and we would all just have to go home bone-dry.
Maybe all performing animals are just kind to us by going along with our ridiculous demands of them. I wonder what will happen the day this stops and they start really asserting themselves.

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