Lack of Fair Play  

Tim Capps knows a lot about Thoroughbreds. Former editor and publisher of the Thoroughbred Record (which is when I first met him, some 27 years ago), Executive Vice President of the Maryland Jockey Club, Executive Vice President of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Vice President of Matchmaker Racing Services, Director of Operations for the Jockey Club, and current Director of the Equine Studies Program in the College of Business  at the University of Louisville, he ought to. His students love him for all the reasons I do: He’s scary smart, wry funny, and he plays fair. Take as an illustration his comment on my Normandy Farm blog entry. “Having known Mr. Ryan along the way, I warmed up to the Normandy piece quickly, only wincing slightly at your omission of Fair Play as part of the Man o’ War production team while understanding your motivation in focusing on the feminine portion.”

Clever and gracious way of pointing out my egregious lack of Fair Play, no? 

Fair Play is the SIRE of the mighty Man o’ War! His grave, marked by a life size bronze replica of him, now green with verdigris, is the focal point of the Normandy Farm cemetery. His last owner, Joseph Widener erected the monument in 1929 to salute the stallion’s extraordinary influence on the breed, for he sired not only Man o’ War but also an unheard amount of 18% stakes winners--an amazing statistic for sire potency when these days 10% is considered top class. His influence continues to this day: 60% of all American Thoroughbreds are related to him. Maybe I forgot to mention him because I am a mom and thus my sympathies lay with Mahubah, Man o’ War’s dam?  Either that, or I was distracted by the weird family connection. I recognized the pink granite slab covering Mahubah came from the quarry on the island in Maine where my mother lives. Either way, it was mindless omission.


Horse traders, on the other hand, specialize in mindful omissions. There is no such thing as a perfect horse. Besides, the merits of any horse are subjective--so why criticize what might turn out to be another man’s treasure? Best leave most unsaid and let the buyer beware. You sell a lot more horses that way.

I am a lousy horse trader. Always have been. Always will be. I let everything I know about my horses, good or bad, out of the bag. Call it the T.M.I. (too much information) school of horse sales. T.M.I.  kills a sale. But, in my mind, that’s the only way to be fair to a horse.

I probably was a shadchan, a Jewish matchmaker, in a former life. When I get a horse into the MMSC, I want to find out all that I can about its horsenality (a wonderful term coined by the brilliant horse whisperer, Pat Parelli), its way of perceiving the world, how it goes about making decisions and choices. What does the horse want to be when it grows up: hunter, eventer, dressage competitor, therapy horse, or b.f.f?  The more riding techniques the horse is introduced to, the more it reveals its likes and dislikes, the better chances therefore of making the perfect match. 

Selecting suitable two leggeds is trickier. They are not as transparent. That's why potential adopters start by filling out application forms, submitting three references, and providing photographs of where their horses will reside, indoors and out. Once this information is assembled, it is sent to the MMSC board’s Approval Committee which consists of three people, a horse breeder and owner, a veterinarian, and a bloodstock agent. If approved, the next step is the meeting face to face at the MMSC. Does the adopter like the horse? More, importantly in my book, does the horse like the adopter? You see, people are like horse traders. You don't often get the full story. They might bill themselves as great riders and sympathetic horse people, seasoned trainers. Get them around and on a horse, however, and the bluff, if there is one, will be up. That's because horses,(most horses, anyway) are straight shooters. They cut to the chase quickly.  Make their dislikes apparent, usually very graciously. (After all they could, if they so choose, really level us!) And they are so forgiving with our inability to comprehend them, or our refusal to listen to them. In other words, horses are rarely guilty of a mindless or a mindful lack of fair play.

Cheery bye,
Susanna