JANE Fonda — still going strong at age 82 — had the star role in Sydney Pollack’s 1969 movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, recalls DAVID MOLLETT, writing in Business Day.
Unlike the grim picture painted by trainer Mike de Kock regarding racing’s current crisis, the movie’s title grabbed the attention of film fans.
But, in fact, it had nothing to do with horses. Its theme was that if a horse was in such a miserable shape it would automatically be shot, why should a human being be expected to endure it.
In an outstanding video compiled by racing interviewer Andrew Bon on the effect of Covid-19 on racing, the words of De Kock will send a chill up the spine of every animal lover in the country.
De Kock said that, “jobs and horse welfare are on the line if the government says no [to racing resumption]. Loss of jobs and euthanasia are going to become a grim reality.” (It now is, following the government’s feedback on Tuesday that racing will not be allowed under Level 4.—Editor)
Yes, they do shoot horses, would be the dramatic answer to the question which Pollack’s movie poses.
Sports and leisure horses, many of those retired from the racetrack, are in danger of losing their lives at private farms, riding schools and equestrian establishments which have served as retirement homes for ex-racehorses.
With the coffers empty and no money flowing through racing, the ‘Second Home’ scenario will soon have little or no support as owners and even voluntary do-gooders are forced to cut back on costs, to ensure their own survival.
Commissioned by Drakenstein Stud, Bon has put together a YouTube video — it has already had 7,000 hits — which includes some of the major players in the sport. In no particular order, they are Sean Tarry, De Kock, Adrian Todd, Vee Moodley, Hazel Kayiya, Geoff Woodruff, Paul Peter, Michael Azzie and Dean Alexander. They all make important points and recommendations.
Who — many will ask — is Kayiya? This writer had never heard her name but — having watched her interview — her appointment as executive racing administrator at the National Horseracing Authority (NHRA) can be likened in football terms to “a major signing”.
In my book, Kayiya, who started off with Gold Circle and then attended Mick Goss’s School of Excellence at Summerhill Stud, is the star of the video.
She says she was not really into horses until she spent time at Summerhill, but is now passionate about thoroughbreds. “Racing is all about passion, our aim must be to get people to fall in love with horse racing.
“The virus has had a ripple effect across the whole industry — we really must hope that government will give us the go-ahead to resume racing. We can prove we are able to put in measures of social distancing,” says Kayiya.
It might be a good move for the NHRA to send this video to the relative ministers adding “please check out Hazel Kayiya’s comments”.
The other interviewees all stress important points: “I don’t want to be putting horses down as this would have a knock-on effect as it would effect the groom’s family.”
“At Randjesfontein training centre grooms live on site and receive food. Money is drying up as horses are a luxury item.”
“We could probably hold out for another month but we don’t want that.” And “everything costs the same as if we were racing.”
Bon said: “This is the most indescribably difficult position horse racing has ever confronted. We hope, we pray. More I cannot say though I would love to explode.
“It’s all about the horse and his/her immediate minder, the groom. The thought of mass euthanasia puts the fear of God into me. It’s simply unimaginable.”
Bon’s wife, Sarah, a smart lady who always goes the extra mile for horses in her care, runs a riding school in the north of Johannesburg.