Why We're Doing This, and How You Can Help

What would inspire two men, ages 65 and 59, to take on 11 racetracks in 21 stages and 25 days over 1,000 kilometers...on their bicycles?

The way we see it, Thoroughbred race horses have contributed to the very meaning of life, so they too deserve to retire with dignity and not be sent to the slaughterhouse just because they now do six furlongs in 1:16 instead of 1:12.

As American expatriates living in Paris, we have decided to ride our own Tour de France--riding from racetrack to racetrack across France--during the 'real' Tour de France to raise money for Thoroughbred retirement. But we need your help.

We invite you to follow our journey, and if you'd like to sponsor us, just click on www.firstgiving.com/trf or on the Sponsor Us link below.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation currently cares for over 1200 unwanted horses. When you sponsor us, we are helping them in their mission to save ALL unwanted racehorses.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


We went into the day with 468 kilometers (292.5 miles) and added 42 kilometers with two separate but related round trips: west to Longchamp race course for the celebration of Bastille Day (the French just say "the 14th of July”) and east to the Bastille plaza, where the prison was stormed and the monarchy defeated by the French Republic. Americans like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson supported the French Revolution and Frenchmen like Lafayette, supported ours.
“As United States minister to France when revolutionary fervor was rising toward the storming of the Bastille in 1789, Jefferson became an ardent supporter of the French Revolution, even allowing his residence to be used as a meeting place for the rebels led by Lafayette.” (from Library of Congress)
Vestiges of the original Bastille are absent from the scene, which is now occupied by a lively outdoor café scene, a modern opera house and a yacht harbor where an underground part of the Canal Saint-Martin surfaces to join with the Seine.
At the other end of Paris, the Grand-Prix de Paris was the biggest race of the summer. The race was won by Behkabad, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, a bicycle enthusiast. (I passed the race after having found arguments in favor of most of the horses in the field.)
The sun came out after thunderstorms and the fresh luminosity, a rarity in Paris, allowed for every imaginable shade of green to dazzle, on the track, around the emblematic windmill, in the surrounding forest, and at the edge of the nearby mellow ponds.
The day ended with 510 km, or 318.75 miles.
Yes, we've visited 10 of the 13 tracks on our agenda, but that's because the tracks were nearer each other. Now we face a lot more cycling on the road, for longer distances, through three different regions of France, including the Loire castle region, where I intend to partake of performance dis-enhancing substances of red liquid poured from attractive dark bottles.
But don't be fooled. At the age of 65, reaching our 1,000 kilometer goal will not be easy for me. Alan looks like he could go 2,000 km.
Two people have already asked me, "How can you go to such an extreme just for horses?"
At the track after the first race, we watched a team of uniformed workers repairing the turf surface. It was a primitive form of labor, as is grooming a horse and even training one. This is one of the last remaining labor-intensive, job-providing industries in the developed world. And this entire industry depends on one living being: the horse. I doubt if most of you would feel the same aesthetic pleasure watching ostriches or automobiles going round a track. Whether standing or galloping, the race horse is a work of art, as in the paintings of Degas, Manet and Dufy, and this art transmits itself to human beings.
The wife of the great jockey Olivier Peslier, works with handicapped children, and in her work, horses play a therapeutic role.
Today we react against the throw-away society, recycling computer screens, paper, and so much more, and yet when race horses finish their careers, they are allowed to be thrown away, when in fact they can be redirected into other meaningful roles. Yes, this IS about horses, but it is also about our own humanity, not using a living being for our pleasure and then killing it.
The skeptics respond, "But there are so many other worthy causes!"
This is true. And who is to say which causes are more worthy than others? In my immediate family, people very dear to me have been stricken with devastating medical handicaps. They are battling back and I am contributing to the research that might eventually come up with a solution to their conditions.
But that does not mean I can forget the horses, because they are responsible for keeping me sane, hopeful, and helpful to the ones I love. The horses help me because their spectacle provides a refuge from a hostile world.
Today at beautiful Longchamp, I lost a few dollars, but it was a fair game with everyone in the stands was getting exactly the same odds. Compared to most other industries or governments, racing is remarkably clean.
There was moving poetry flying down the stretch. There were owners and trainers willing to live a very precarious existence because they have a passion for this great spectacle. There were courageous riders who form an amazing partnership with the horse and trust their partner at 40 miles an hour in "traffic".
For me this is a passion. I feel sorry for people who do not have a pasion, any one, whether it be chess, or bridge, or travel, or collecting, or cooking, or even sitting on a mountain and contemplating the surroundings.
I don't want my passion to be based on a throw-away economy. The horse gives me this aesthetic pleasure, and in return, I owe something to the horse. Yes, I've worked on other causes, often lost causes, but this cause happens to provide a positive outcome. The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has developed a winning exacta, by saving unwanted horses and also providing vocational training in the form of horse care and stable management for inmates: saving unwanted human beings.
This is about horses and it’s about people, in so many ways.
On July 14 I wore the tee-shirt of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. I lived in LA for 10 years. I loved the city but when I was there, it offered no transportation alternatives. Pavement covered more than 70% of the surface, in the form of freeways, parking lots and streets. Not pretty.
Now, with the help of the LACBC and other non-partisan civic groups, residents can begin to reclaim a landscape that has been almost entirely usurped by the car, and the bicycle can be seen as a worthy form of transportation.
The Tour de France admirably presents bicycling as a great sport in a stunningly beautiful geographic context, but year after year TV commentators fail to mention what the LACBC shows: that the bicycle is a useful form of transportation, one providing purposeful exercise and contributing to a clean environment.

No comments:

Post a Comment