Thursday, 14 August 2008

Nelson Mandela and Mornington Crescent tend not to feature in horse drawn vehicle corporate blurb, but the Saddlechariot is different. For the last few months the Saddlechariot site has been a marvellous tribute to "caring conservatism" functioning as my own, online, "care in the community" so I could have a very public nervous breakdown. It makes a nice change from drunks lolling in the gutter to save the NHS a bob or two, now everyone can go global with their problems, paranoia and delusions, with the massive advantage that most of us don't then invade Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever it is that we are invading this week.
On his release from prison, Nelson Mandela said of those who had put him in Robben Island, and kept him there, "I don't hate them because if I hated them they would still be controlling me." Just listening to his reported words loo
sened the chains of hate that have been wasting my time, and wasting my life. My problems are nothing to those Mandela faced, and I am not trying to draw any parallel, merely expressing my thanks to Mr. Mandela for his example which has helped me so much.
Mr. Mandela's words allowed me to look at my problems clearly, not through a fog of hate, and I saw the British Horse Establishment in all their glory playing a rather more vicious and much less funny version of Mornington Crescent. For those who haven't enjoyed "I'm sorry I haven't a clue!" I can only say please listen to at least one episode. "Mornington Crescent" is a truly British game involving the four players on "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" saying the names of London Underground Stations until someone says Mornington Crescent. Humphrey Lyttleton chaired the proceedings introducing abstruse and arcane rules and rituals and the players endlessly questioned his jurisdiction and the fine print in the rules. The
joke is, that that is it. Once you know it is all a game, you can laugh at those outside the charmed circle who just can't get it, and congratulate yourself on your wit and erudition. But the charm of all those concerned, and their comedy genius made this simple formula a delight to all listeners for nearly thirty years. Yes, for thirty years a game with completely fictitious rules and no point, has entertained millions, and The British Horse Establishment over 80 years has done pretty much the same, with meaningless rules, archaic dress codes and snobbery.
The British Horse Establishment, if you are accepted, is, I am sure, full of charming and witty people, but to an outsider, it is "Mornington Crescent" without the genius and without the charm. Complicated and abstruse rules are insisted on with no background of logic, and once you are in the charmed circle, the rules no longer apply. The joy for those in the charmed circle is how easily you can keep out the riff raff.
For example, cantering on the roads
"No mater how much you enjoy cantering, remember the horse's well-being. The canter should only be attempted on suitable ground, otherwise the horse's legs will be jarred. Soft ground is best and you must never canter on a road surface." I was brought up with the absolute rule that you don't canter on the roads, until I went hunting for the first time, where all the people who insist you don't canter on the road are doing exactly that, but it is all right because they are hunting.
Blinkers are vital if you are going to drive a horse. The reasons why they are vital vary according to who you are talking to, but they are vital. The Royal Horse Artillery gave up using blinkers before 1857 and don't use them to this day. Are the Royal Horse Artillery particularly stupid and permanently crashing because of a lack of blinkers? Or is it possible that the rule is nonsense. Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty thought blinkers were a dangerous fashion accessory, and every small horsey girl reads Black Beauty, they just shut their eyes when they come to the bit about blinkers. One of my Lancaster university contacts said the reason horses have to wear blinkers is so they have the same narrow viewpoint as their owners.

On the right is a page of a book for novice horse owners. It might just make sense if you are completely ignorant, but those in the know are well aware that Thoroughbreds boast of their descent in the male line exclusively, and in the female line predominantly from ARAB blood. So you start a Thoroughbred at one and wait till the notoriously late developing Arab is 5 or six, you must either assume that the whole Thoroughbred pedigree is total nonsense or that the rules don't apply to rich and aristocratic race horse owners but must be enforced on any peasants.
Yes it is Mornington Crescent, it just isn't that funny. The reason they have to say that you can start Thoroughbreds at one combines tradition, stupidity and cruelty and is therefore supported whole heartedly by the establishment despite the fact that vets have insisted it is stupid and cruel since Captain M. H. Hayes FRCVS wrote "Points of the Horse" in 1903.
Pages 345 to 355 of this highly regarded work are a sustained diatribe against the January 1st birthday applied to all Thoroughbreds and the habit of pushing them to race too early. And guess what. Nothing has changed, but books now claim that you can start the Thoroughbred at one. Typical Mornington Crescent. Invent a pointless, idiotic rule, and insist it is both sane and sensible. But in the Equestrian establishment game, the horse is the loser.
Captain Hayes also comments on Showing horses. "A false appearance of flatness and strength of back and loins, and of roundness of barrel, may be temporarily given by "show condition" (excessive fat)." And guess what, to win at shows today, excessive fat still gets the prize. Since excess fat is the chief cause of laminitis, and laminitis is the major avoidable medical problem in ponies, and horses, you might think the show world would listen to common sense, but after 105 years they carry on regardless.

The Saddlechariot is different.

The Saddlechariot is different. This website over the last few months has been a classic case of "care in the community" as I have had an online nervous breakdown. It is all available on Blogger so those who feel I have been rude can read all about themselves as often as they like.
As I said, the Saddlechariot is different, forget all the usual boring "unique selling propositions," "unbeatable offers" and "massive discounts", here you just get confessions of mild (in my opinion) insanity. But a combination of Nelson Mandela, Richard Dawkins and "I'm sorry I haven't a clue's" "Mornington Crescent", has solved a lot of my mental problems. If this unusual concept doesn't interest you, you can go straight to the Saddlechariot pages and find out what it does when attached to a horse, pony, donkey or mule going through surf or city centres, across rivers or hills, pointlesslessly zooming around or providing a practical eco friendly power source. Click here for normality or continue the strange journey through a stranger mind. Nelson Mandela's comment that he didn't hate those who had subjected him to 28 years prison on Robben Island, because "If I hated them, they would still control me," has liberated me as well. The British Establishment, Equestrian section, have sent me to Coventry for 8 years, insulted me, trashed my product and done their best to destroy me but since I no longer hate them for it, they no longer control me. The relevance of "Mornington Crescent" should really confuse my overseas readers. Mornington Crescent is a delightfully funny game played on the brilliant "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" Radio 4 programme, which consists of four people taking it in turns to say the names of London Underground stations until someone says "Mornington Crescent". Humphrey Lyttleton presided, allowing arcane challenges and introducing random, abstruse rules. The fact that it was truly pointless was the joke, and it lasted for 30 years. The British Horse Society has lasted rather longer but is essentially the same. A series of pointless statements, weird rules, arcane challenges and the joke is that the rules don't actually apply to those who belong, only to those who want to belong, and when they finally get the joke, they can play it on the next generation who want to belong. Richard Dawkins is not just a brilliant biologist and enthusiastic teacher of Darwin's evolution and all the science that has developed from Charles Darwin's, I hesitate to use the word "revelations", but Dawkins has successfully challenged the God botherers with an analysis of their beliefs. The British Horse Establishment in all its ludicrous pomp and glory shares a vast amount with organised religion. Fancy dress and fancy language harking back to a golden age, an inherently exclusive attitude to those who aren't God's chosen people, or riders, and a self interested subsevience to the powers that be. But their power is entirely dependent on a belief that they know what they are talking about. Horsemanship is truly global, crossing every boundrary, every religious, cultural, ethnic and social barrier. So why should a bunch of upper class twit habits, dresscodes and language, control English horsemanship? 100 years ago 99% of horsemanship was working class horsemanship. Horsepower meant exactly what it said. The Equestrian Establishment has preserved every peccadillo of the upper class twit activities, polo, dressage, hunting, carriage driving, while relentlessly destroying all memory of the myriad skills of those who actually worked with horses. It is a joke, and a very bad one. I don't hate them any more, but I feel nothing but contempt for their attempts to exclude so many from "their" activity and to deny the "horsey" background of so many. I will take ponies to anyone who would like to work or play with them. I didn't start building Saddlechariots as a working class revolutionary, but I ended up as one, just another working class revolutionary but with a very unconvincing accent. I claim the British Horse Establishment make a series of pointless statements because I have read their books and heard their comments, and seen them in action. I was always brought up with the firm belief that you never canter on the roads. Everyone out hunting canters on the roads. Those who taught me "never canter on the roads" were the first to do exactly that out hunting. Why does "hunting" make it all right? Driven horses must wear blinkers. The Royal Horse Artillery stopped wearing blinkers, (or at least their horses did) after 1815 and before 1857. For over 150 years the Royal Horse Artillery haven't used blinkers yet they are considered vital for anyone who drives, according to the British Driving Society. Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty, considered blinkers a dangerous fashion accessory yet they are still de rigeur in smart driving circles. One of my Lancaster University friends suggested that "they fit blinkers to the horses so they have the same narrow viewpoint as their owners!" There is an aristocracy amongst horses and blood will always tell. Absolutely true. The General Stud Book, the Debretts of the equine world, recording the pedigree of those equine aristocrats theThoroughbreds, was started because the aristocrats involved in racing in England in the 1700's had such an appalling reputation for running ringers in weight for age handicaps, that some way of keeping those devious shifty crooks (aka the British peerage) on the straight and narrow was required, so they recorded the date of birth and parentage of these animals in a desperate attempt to keep their aristocratic owners honest. Incest is good. The breeding policies of the upper classes, when applied to their pets, mean they deliberately force their animals to mate at a level of co sanguinity that would be illegal if they practised it themselves, father/daughter, uncle/niece, anything goes if you call it line breeding. Such a shame that the actual description is incest. The Thoroughbred is the fastest horse in the world. This may be true, but why won't they let any other horses run against them? The exclusive nature of the racing world would put South Africa's apartheid regime to shame except for the fact that the horses and pionies don't realise they are being denied equality on the basis of bigoted attitudes about birth and class.

1 comment:

Killi said...

Knowing the sneaky intelligence of my draught, I thought she was driven in blinkers to stop her noticing the lovely food in the fields & road verges she was going past! All the driving horses I remember were blinkered & these included the brewery horses of my youth. I can't exactly remember if the milkman's & rag & bone man's horses were blinkered or not ~ they passed out of my life when we moved from London when I was 4.

Maybe I need blinkers when driving to keep me focussed only on the road in front...