In today's Harness Racing Update, Red Mile Judge Rich Williams admitted to seeing Tim Tetrick 'boot' Captaintreacherous but has no problem with what transpired. Williams goes on record as saying "Unless the horse is being abused I don't have a problem with the kicking..." Williams goes on to say he rather see the contact of the foot to the leg or hock than beating the horse with a whip.
Well, at least Williams goes on record he is against excessive use of the whip. That being said, perhaps someone should follow Mr. Williams around the office one day and let him experience what it feels like to have someone leave their foot out and constantly hit the back of his knee as he moves around. Maybe then he will realize why people are upset about the booting of horses and understand why all the comments in yesterday's HRU and many in the blogosphere and social media sites were talking about the 'Boot' action performed by Tetrick and Sears.
Isn't this be great as harness racing makes an effort to invest in social media? Can't you see all the comments featuring #Bootinghorse or similar hash tag being used?. For despite what you tell horseplayers (and yes, animal rights supporters), they know what they are seeing.
I for one would like to know when booting/kicking became so acceptable? After all, if memory serves me well, wasn't there a time where Walter Case Jr.'s inability to keep his foot in the stirrups earned him plenty of fines and days from the judges (I am not talking about Case's other problems, so don't write about those issues if you choose to respond)? Is it a question of kicking with finesse which makes it acceptable these days? Perhaps, booting is acceptable now that the use of the whip has been restricted?
All I know is when the response towards booting from those who support the sport at the windows (or computer) is seemingly greater than the response was regarding the excessive use of the whip there is a problem (Oh, and those Animal Rights people are going to love those comments about scaring the horse).
Some people are calling for rules similar to the disqualification of horses for too much whipping in Ontario; that's a little too draconian for my taste, especially since yo risk alienating the public forced to toss tickets because of a bonehead move. That being said, it is time for judges to join the rest of us in the 22nd century and realize the humane treatment of horses and other animals is something to be seriously considered. Judges need to start enforcing the kicking rule a lot more seriously with a narrower interpetation. It shouldn't be "well, it's better than beating the horse with a whip", the message needs to be neither method of urging a horse on is acceptable.
The penalty also needs to be a lot more than a $100 fine which for many drivers is the cost of doing business, not a deterrent at all. Perhaps, a fine starting at the level of what the winning driver would make if they won the race in question is a good starting point with repeated violations earning higher fines and suspensions. Maybe when a driver realizes they just raced for free or lost money racing it will encourage them to start keeping their feet where they belong.
All I know is racing better start dealing with the foot problem before many of its supporters use their own feet to walk away from the sport.