Monday, 24 March 2008

What's the point?

"What's the point?"
The classic schoolboy (and for all I know, schoolgirl, but I went to a single sex school) lament. Teachers spent hours in a vain attempt to make lessons seem relevant. Get kids out doing a job and the lesson is relevant and they learn. Horses are working animals and always have been. Some of them pulled ploughs, most of them hauled goods and a few hauled the upper classes around.
They were the tragic animals who had to do a days work and look posh at the same time. Barbaric bits and bearing reins enforced "deportment", while the poor animal was forced forward by the whip against the bit so it looked keen. You could always recognise a "blood" horse by the red stuff dripping past the bit.
But hunting or haymaking, the horses were working, they were bred to work. We have been selecting horses for 5,000 years so they will thrive on work and what do we expect them to do today. Stand in a field and do nothing until we can spare half an hour. And then what do we do........ we try to teach them, and they are saying
"What's the point?"

Get out there and do something with them. If you want to be traditionally upper class, mow the bloody lawn with them, or haul the muck from the stables to the vegetable garden. OK the upper classes didn't actually do it, but their ponies and horses did, working with the grooms and the under gardeners, and we know about this because the upper class children came out an "helped" and years later wrote books about their horsemanship and where they had learned it. And although they all remember the name of the first pony, we never get to find out the names of the grooms or undergardeners who did all the teaching.

But the rest of the world, 99% or so, learned their horsemanship on the milkround, or delivering groceries, or collecting rubbish, or on the building site, or the docks, or railway shunting yards, or wherever they could get a job. Where you see white van man today, you would have seen a horse and cart. And those horses were trained, not to react to every pull of the bit, or every touch of a whip, but to do a job. And that is my point on training, train for a purpose, and within reason, let the pony work out exactly how it does it.

Here is a quote from Smiles' Life of George and Robert Stephenson. "The horse drew the train along the level road until on reaching a descending gradient, down which the train ran by its own gravity, the animal was unharnessed, when wheeling round to the other end of the waggons, to which a "dandy cart" was attached, its bottom being only a few inches from the rail, and bringing its step into unison with the speed of the train, he leaped nimbly into his place in the hind car, which was suitably fitted with a well-filled hay rack."................That is training.

Not all of us have railway lines to play with, but before you start thinking, I want a well trained animal, I need to do some dressage training, ask yourself if it is really any more skilled than shifting coal on the Stockton and Darlington line. Skill is skill, don't let issues of class get in the way.

I am full of admiration for lots of things I can't do, singing, ironing, sewing on buttons, carriage driving, name just a few. But I have also watched my pony when he goes out in the field and is feeling frisky. The acceleration, turning ability and sheer beauty of watching Henry move is awe inspiring. Although he is short legged, shaggy and frequently (more accurately, almost always) unbrushed, he can do the floaty paces and the spins and other fancy movements that were given French names 50,000 years after man's earliest relationship with horses.
My point is that the horse or pony knows HOW to do the paces. It doesn't need someone telling it which leg to move and how far. Just watch any pony or horse that is reasonably happy, turned out in a reasonably natural environment and you will see dressage paces to die for.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Class race horse. Copyright Simon Mulholland 2008

In 1776, Thomas Paine published "Common Sense", a beautiful denunciation of the principles of hereditary privilege, and the St Leger, the first "Classic", was run for the first time, creating a multi billion pound, glamourous, global industry, based on hereditary privilege.

In 1776, the English aristocracy, in the process of losing their American colonies, could see hereditary monarchies and aristocracies facing perilous times across the continent. Did the British Upper Classes get together to create the ultimate fifth column, a real Trojan Horse, combining classical erudition, snobbery, and an apparent love of animals, to destroy these horribly vulgar ideas of equality? Did they pre empt Clausewitz , and decide that rather than war being politics by other means, war could be waged using the politics of other species?

For any aspiring Hollywood producers out there, I can rewrite this as the ultimate conspiracy. A world renowned and respected book, The General Stud Book, that everyone believes is the Family Bible of the Thoroughbred, was actually written in an attempt to stop the British Upper Classes running ringers in weight for age handicaps.
Two British Generals with the same uncommon name, both the children of Sir John St. Leger and Ms Pennefather, but Wikipaedia pretends they aren't brothers. Have the upper classes even nobbled Wikipaedia? In 1776 one is fighting the revolutionaries in North America and the other is starting the eponymous race with The Marquess of Rockingham, the British Prime Minister, and owner of the winner of the first St Leger. This horse, for reasons that I am sure are entirely honourable, appears to run as Sampson in some races and as Allabaculia in the first St Leger.

With political, social, military and horseracing connections like these, the St Leger "brothers" make such obvious baddies and we only need an American hero to make this a viable project.

But what role can the American hero play. It looks like the British fifth column has won. Americans, and everyone else, have bought into this massive scam. Breeding is all. The Thoroughbred/Pedigree Industry is huge and growing, yet it is based on hereditary privilege, incest, snobbery, misogyny, eugenics and most depressingly, racism.

This is not overt racism, the problem lies deeper, in the whole tribal culture of "Horse People" brilliantly analysed by Rebecca Cassidy in her book of that name. Rebecca Cassidy is an Anthropologist of note, a group whose natural habitat I had always assumed was the upper reaches of the Amazon discovering new tribes for gap year students to rescue from extinction.

In "Horse People" she documents a remarkable study of the arcane rituals, weird beliefs and extraordinary social organisation of two tribes of horse people living in isolated towns in Cambridgeshire and Virginia. You may have heard of Newmarket and Lexington, but you will never look at them again without wondering how they missed the 20th century. Darwin's theories of genetics, female emancipation, the discrediting of Galton's eugenics, modern attitudes to racial equality, the law on incest and modern attitudes to animal welfare have escaped notice in a society obsessed with "breeding". If Thomas Paine had been a religious man, his personal devil's breeding would have been "Lexington, out of Newmarket."

Hereditary privilege, incest, snobbery, misogyny, eugenics and most depressingly, racism. These are serious charges and regrettably easy to prove. The evidence is all around us, mostly published by the pedigree/thoroughbred industry and their acolytes.

Hereditary privilege
is the basis of all breed shows and stud books. Unless you were born to the right parents, mere quality is irrelevant. Try entering a horse for the St. Leger on the grounds it is very fast. Sorry; the Thoroughbred is the fastest horse in the world and therefore no other animal is allowed to race against it. Don't ask me to explain the logic, I'm just presenting evidence.

IncestPedigree breeders of horses, llamas, dogs and any other upper class pet, maintain to this day, that for the best breeding results, "The sire of the sire, should be the grandsire of the dam!" Let me put that into English for you. I should mate my brother's daughter, or if I had a sister, my sister's daughter. I must admit the Thoroughbred world didn't accept this theory. They preferred to cut out the middleman and advocated breeding father to daughter. Since incest is illegal and contravenes the moral codes of Christianity and Islam, why is it desirable to force your pets to do something you would find morally repugnant and which would get you a term inside.

Snobbery. "the native ponies are far better converters of food than their aristocratic cousins." How frightfully common they must be, but that's natives for you, can survive on rubbish. This example of casual, and totally pointless, and irrelevant, and inaccurate, snobbery, is found in The British Horse Society Complete Manual of Stable Management, published in 1998. But I will come back to it, because the snobbery hides the inherent racism.

Misogyny. Rebecca Cassidy quotes Federico Tesio, Italian Senator, Businessman and Horse breeder, Author of "Breeding the Racehorse" reprinted UK 1978.the mare is like a sack which gives back what has been put into it...... The female is by nature weaker. The purpose of her existence is the state of pregnancy. As soon as she becomes pregnant the nervous -almost neurotic - symptoms of virginity disappear." These Aristoteleian theories on the inferiority of females, still infect racing today, and indeed the whole pedigree industry.

Eugenics. Francis Galton's discredited theories on improving the race, and on races generally, make depressing reading "If a twentieth part of the cost and pains were spent in measures for the improvement of the human race that is spent on the improvement of the breed of horses and cattle, what a galaxy of genius might we not create! We might introduce prophets and high priests of civilization into the world, as surely as we can propagate idiots by mating cretins. Men and women of the present day are, to those we might hope to bring into existence, what the pariah dogs of the streets of an Eastern town are to our own highly-bred varieties."
And here is Galton on the other human beings who share out planet. Here, then, is a well-marked type of character, that formerly prevailed over a large part of the globe, with which other equally marked types of character in other regions are strongly contrasted. Take, for instance, the typical West African Negro. He is more unlike the Red man in his mind than in his body. Their characters are almost opposite, one to the other. The Red man has great patience, great reticence, great dignity, and no passion; the Negro has strong impulsive passions, and neither patience, reticence, nor dignity. He is warm-hearted, loving towards his master's children, and idolised by the children in return. He is eminently gregarious, for he is always jabbering, quarrelling, tom-tom-ing, or dancing. He is remarkably domestic, and he is endowed with such constitutional vigour, and is so prolific, that his race is irrepressible."

Yet Galton's theory of Prepotency continues to this day in "respectable" breeding circles. Galton believed that certain individuals were so superior, like a certain Francis Galton, that they could impose their genetic characteristics down the line over riding any female influence and any common or foreign influence. This "prepotency" explains why one horse, of dubious ancestry, size and weight, sired an entire breed, the Morgan.
Figure is thought to have stood about 14 hh (1.42 m), and to have weighed about 950 lb (430 kg). He was known for his prepotency, passing on his distinctive looks, conformation, temperament, and athleticism. We know he passed on his distinctive looks, we just aren't too sure what he looked like. All his descendants are Morgans, but his parents, siblings and close relatives outside the direct line aren't. I am sure there is a rational explanation and Francis Galton will produce it.

We end up with racism, and I suspect we always will. The English upper classes happily run the PLU system to exclude those they don't want. It is the commonest, and in some ways most harmless, snobbery. We all want to mix with People Like Us, and choosing to mix with people because of shared interests is inevitable.
Apartheid is the ugly side of PLU, and the pedigree/thoroughbred industry is built on overt apartheid based on breeding and appearance. Any employer using the selection processes for show animals to pick their staff would be in jail for ever on a combination of racial sexual and disability discrimination suits.
The word Mulatto, deriving from the portuguese/spanish for small mule, shows the extent to which animal breeding attitudes have been applied to mixed race people. Half blood, half breed, mongrel, mulatto are these animal breeding terms or racist terms. Like most terms they describe a continuum, but the inherently racist principles of breeders, going for pure blood as better cannot avoid creating a mindset and philosophy that will denigrate mixed race and other race animals or people.
Henry Wynmalen, published by Country Life in 1950, said "The equal potency of both parents applies only in so far as they are equally well bred, for if one or other of the parents is better bred than the other, the better bred one will be markedly pre-potent. Which is due of course to the accumulated influence of a flawless ancestry."

But that is back in the 50's we are in the 21st century now.

2008 American Jockey Club rules.
"A foal is eligible for registration provided it is shown to the satisfaction of the Stewards of The Jockey Club that the foal's pedigree authentically traces in all its lines to horses recorded in The American Stud Book or a Foreign Stud Book approved by The Jockey Club and the International Stud Book Committee and if it satisfies all other requirements set forth in these rules."

Eat your heart out Tom Paine, you've lost, you're out of date and just plain wrong. So eat these words.

but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth enquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind.To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and an imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and though himself might deserve some" decent degree of honors of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise, she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Safe Rat Poison

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Does this mean a poison for safe rats, or a safe poison for rats to eat, or am I just talking nonsense? The Government certainly is. Eradibait is a brilliant rat poison with the unique virtue of being totally safe for non rodents. BUT since it is being sold to kill rats that eat it, it must be poison, so it must be a hazardous substance so it must be plastered with a whole load of warnings.
So the front of the sack announces that you can kill rats without the use of poisonous chemicals and lists the ingredients, Corn cobs: 94% ie the bit of corn on the cob that you don't eat, (in the same way the bones are the bit of the cow you don't eat), and wheat flour: 1% and molasses; 5%. You don't eat the corn cob because it is tough and hard and fibrous. You don't eat coconut shells for the same reason and that doesn't make them poisonous.
The back of the packet is full of warnings, paritcularly the (COSHH) Control of Substances Hazardous to Health warnings. AVOID ALL CONTACT WITH MOUTH.

So because it can act as a poison for rats, but to us is a completely harmless, it has to comply with rules as if it was poisonous to us, and quite possibly safe for rats. Presumably if we come up with an environmentally safe alternative to the internal combustion engine, it will be taxed and legislated for as if it was dangerous and polluting.

Back to the relevant bit, does it work? Yes BUT.

You have to learn to work backwards. With your standard, drop dead lethal, rat poison, you are, I sincerely hope, working out how to ensure that ONLY rats can get at the stuff, and you work on the principle that they will eat it sooner or later.
With Eradibait, who cares who eats it. Any wasted on chickens, horses or children will only cost you the money for the product you wasted. I eat the stuff myself to prove a point. It is perfectly filthy, but safe. The bantams scratch around in the stuff the rats have kicked out of their burrows while excavating. The dog catches the rats that are slowing down as a result of Eradirat ingestion, and I suspect our feral cat is making sure very few get back to their burrow to die. The ponies try to nick the bags of poison and the ferrets hunt the honeycomb walls. And my 4 children, ages ranging from 3 to 15 wander around doing whatever it is that children do.........and I do not worry about poison. For that alone, Eradibait is worth the money.

We live in a rented farmhose with 70 yards X 10 yards of rambling stone built redundant barns. When we arrived there was a major rat problem and the walls are totally tunnelled out. While learning to use Eradibait, I was baiting 15 different points and going through Eradibait at a rate of knots. Now I am baiting one hole and controlling the rats easily.

When I started using Eradibait, I had two problems. My rats did't like it, and I didn't know how to use it. The third problem is that the instructons don't make sense in the real world. That's simply dealt with, ignore them. They suggest for indoor use, "all likely food sorces must be removed or made unavailable to rodents". In your dreams mate. If we could do this we wouldn't bother trying to get rid of the little creeps because they wouldn't be a problem. And outdoor use, for most people, why bother. I don't mind rats in the woods and hedges, or down by the streams and boating down the b****y river in children's books (though Ratty was of course a Bank Vole), in fact I am perefectly tolerant of rats if they aren't eating the ponies/guinea pigs/gerbils/bantams/dogs/ferrets food or babies. So indoor is the problem and rats can get into anything.

The solution is simple and easy ONCE you have made the initial effort. You have to find the elite property in rat terms.Think of yourself on TV doing a program on celebrity rats. Which hole is THE hole to be seen coming out of, where are the paparatzi clustering. Once you have identified that hole, put in carefully prepared (back in TV mode, but this time Celebrity Rat Chef) dishes to tempt the most jaded rat palate. Once the resident of this palatial hole succumbs, the next most senior celebrity rat moves in and in turn, moves on to a better, or at least different world. It's "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here!" in reverse.

To tempt your rat, and you may be lucky and live in an area where Eradibait is the plat du jour, I make up little handcrafted designer bags of Eradibait and peanut butter, which I insert into the celebrity doorway, and let nature take its course. What celeb can resist a personalised goody bag. Click this link to see how. And here's one I made earlier

I finally got round to writing this as a result of talking to the Wolds Owl Group. I had thought of selling Eradibait as a sideline, (call anytime and I will of course sell you as much as I can, or just e-mail all your credit card details and you can forget about the rats because you will have major financial problems that will completely overshadow your pathetic rat problem), but as you can see, Eeradirat isn't as obviously easy as putting out seriously toxic stuff.

I believed in the product, I just didn't see preaching the gospel of responsible rodent control as financially viable. But given the problems Owls and other carnivores face round farm buildings and domestic property, Eradibait makes total sense. And the ecologically aware can learn the NEW techniques associated with non toxic poisoning and show farmers how to control rats easily, affordably and above all safely. The environmental benefits are the icing on the cake, but if people do something because it makes sense, we don't have to waste the environmental guilt trip approach. A bit of education and anybody can control rats with Eradibait, but you can't just bung it down.

That is why I have put down my experiences, speaking as an enthusiastic user and am happy to help anyone with advice. The risk is that I will try to sell you an Organic Quad Bike .

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