Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Warning from Colonel Wall

A West Point graduate and lifelong cavalryman, John F. Wall served with the United States Army for more than thirty years, including stints in the Philippines, the Far West and along the Mexican border. Charged with the responsibilities of purchasing and breeding stock for the Army's Remount Service in Lexington, Kentucky, he rose to the rank of Colonel and in time was named Chief of the Remount Service and Commanding Officer of the Remount Depot at Front Royal, Virginia.

Colonel Wall penned several important works relating to the breeding of Thoroughbreds, including Thoroughbred Bloodlines and Practical Light Horse Breeding. I came across this timely passage while paging through Wall's Famous Running Horses this evening:

"Few sports equal in popularity those in which the horse participates. In addition, with the horse there is the incentive to breed, to raise, to train and to have them perform better than those of a rival. Horses cannot be bought by the dozen. It is well that this is so for the interest in selection or the necessity for constant care, as the animal matured and trained, would contain no challenge...

...One does not have far to go in seeking a good reason for racing. He may be inclined to place his tongue in his cheek when it is said that racing has for its motive 'the improvement of the breed.' Admittedly, the average race-goer is not directly concerned with testing the breeding of a horse. He is interested only in enjoying and profiting from the contest immediately presented. Yet, to the breeder, the test of a race will determine the quality of the heart and lungs, the bone and tendon and the general makeup which develop speed. Several good horses by a sire and from mares of a family that perform well, will serve as the best indication to breeders that correct matings are being made, for it is certain that weakness and strength will be clearly indicated on the race course.

A secondary reason for the existence of racing is the wholesome enjoyment afforded the public. It has been remarked that one can be as lonely in a crowd as if he were on a high mountain peak or lost in a dense forest. This need not happen at the races. At the race course, care is forgotten. Blood flows quickly, laughter is frequent, conversation is commonplace as men and women from all walks of life jostle one another for points of vantage at the paddock or along the rail from which the finish of a race may be seen. The average spectator does not attend races in the hopes of exploiting them for selfish gain and the experienced race-goer has long since realized the futility of it.

It is hoped the day will never come, even if we have national lotteries, when spectators will desert the race track with its sweat, heat and smell, for an air cooled salon, where lawful wagers could be made and the race viewed by television. Such habit would spell the doom of breeding and decent racing.

~ Colonel John F. Wall, Famous Running Horses


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