The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Fear and Loathing in Bellharbour

point2point.jpgYesterday we went to the point-to-point races sponsored by the County Clare Hunt association in Bellharbour. It was not for the faint of heart. A point-to-point race, as we discovered, is one which loops around a mile course 2-1/2 or 3 times, depending on the length of the race, and includes steeplechase hurdles positioned strategically around the circular course. Often seven or eight horses and their riders started the races, and only half would finish. This was because some horses lost their riders on the hurdles, and more than one horse landed awkwardly, tumbled, and fell. Even I could see the elementary mistakes some of the riders made, like turning to check over their shoulders for their pursuers before they took a gate (which put the horse slightly off stride) or taking a hurdle faster than the horse could manage. Many of the races were for horses which hadn’t won a point-to-point in the past (called maiden races), which meant that there were a few untried horses and inexperienced jockeys. Part of the “sport” was the knowledge that there would be falls, some of them potentially fatal. One of the students called it “primal.” fallen_horse.jpgI found it a bit like watching a bull fight. Seeing a horse writhing on the ground, quivering, with steam rising from its body, unable to catch its breath, with a possible broken leg or fracture touched the most primal emotions in me. In a more primitive society, even one which still hunted with horses, it might make sense. For the Irish, it was a way of connecting with their past. Personally, my sympathies were always with the horses.

February 11, 2008   1 Comment