In Harness Racing Update, Tim Tetrick and Brian Sears were basically saying "What did we do wrong?" when it came to the infamous booting incident in last Saturday's Tattersalls Pace where Captaintreacherous and Vegas Vacation were locked in a stretch duel. Both argued that they didn't strike the horse with their foot. As Tetrick claims, his boots didn't even touch the Captain; the horse brushed against the side of his leg. Such a practice doesn't even hurt the horse.
Perhaps the worst part is Tetrick's claim that the only complaints he hears is when he doesn't do 'it'; not Tetrick's claim itself but the fact others are asking him to do kick (boot) the horse. Whether you agree with the legitimacy of kicking a horse or not, one can't deny it looks bad and racing foes as well as well as the general public are not going to be drawn to a sport where it looks like a horse is being hurt. Trying to educate the public you are not physically hurting them but trying to scare the bejeezus (or use another word) out of the horse to get him to go faster isn't going to win you any fans either as they may consider it mental abuse (anthromorphizing here).
Drivers, trainers and owners need to recognize they are not only participants in racing but they are like it or not part of racing's marketing efforts. Whether squeaky clean or not, what these participants do on and off the track is going to contribute to the decision of whether existing customer are going to stick around or not and whether potential customers are going to consider racing as a viable entertainment.
The sooner people recognize this, the better off the sport will be. For perception purposes only, kicking/booting needs to come to an end.