In appreciation of our beloved friends

This is the year of the horse, according to the Chinese calendar, but there is more to it than being a horse year only

This is the year of the horse, according to the Chinese calendar, but there is more to it than being a horse year only, it is also said to be the year of wood horse, a combination of factors according to Chinese traditions of reading the stars and associating them with earthly factors such as fire, water or metal etc.

The psychics say the combination involves a lot of volatility in the lives of people in the year of the horse, reflective of our equine friends’ mobility and speed.

As humans, we have been friends with horses for almost 8,000 years.

According to an eight-volume history of Eurasia published by UNESCO, UN’s cultural and educational arm, humans have domesticated horses as far back as the fourth millennium BC in what is now known as Ukraine.

Horses have been the key element in the realization of waves after waves of migration to the eastern steppes of Eurasia, going as far as what is now known as Central Asia and then back in recurring waves to the west, ushering in a period conquests by the Persians with Alexander the Great returning the favor later and the Huns coming from the east again to threaten the Roman Empire.

All of this history could not have been written without the horse, our closest friends and partners in building our civilization.

Now we have come to the time of the year when, throughout the province, we will celebrate not only the partnership in writing history, but sharing of our instinct to play together with this wonderful animal.

Like all mammals, horses do have an instinct to be playful and rodeos and similar equine events are opportunities for us to watch the friendly competition between the Man and the beast.

Yet, this is also the time for the controversy on whether this playful partnership is or can be interpreted as abuse of animals.

Over the years, we have heard and read and written about cases of horses having heart attacks in chuckwagon races and dying as a result, each time preparing the ground for another round of the endless debate bringing animal rights activists to conflict with rodeo fans and organizers.

There is cynicism among the pro-rodeo party of the debate that animal rights activists are fanning the flames just to be able raise funding and keep their cause in the media just as a public relations exercise and that they don’t really care about animals.

Unless proven, that looks like a rather unfair accusation, but the criticism leveled at the rodeo loving people that they are actually supporting the abuse of animals is also stretching the imagination a bit too far.

Rodeos and chuckwagon races are nowhere near the bullfights in Spain and in some Latin American countries, where the animal is tortured and killed in front of cheering thousands.

And yes, as in every playful activity, there is the danger of loss of life, including for competitors as well as animals, but as you can read in our story on page 19, there is an ongoing effort to improve the care of our dear equine partners so that they will come out of their races or bucking adventures unhurt and healthy.

The more we improve the care we take of our longtime friends, the more history we will write, but this time in fun and joy rather than with migration and conquest.

— Mustafa Eric


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