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Archive for the ‘Equine Charity’ Category

Freedom Ride: Maybe, Maybe Not

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Orlando, the city where the children of the world come to play – the lucky ones, anyway – still hasn’t decided whether or not the local kids deserve a break.

But they’re kind of leaning in that general direction.

Although no move has been made to offer Freedom Ride a new five year lease to extend the current one, which ends in 2011, the Orlando Sentinel reported that “at least three of the six city commissioners agree that Freedom Ride should stay.” Mayor Buddy Dyer appears to be leaning in that direction as well. But no talks are scheduled, and it’s possible that the city government will take the easy way out – ignore the issue until the contract runs out.

Starting from scratch isn't cheap

It’s hard to imagine a worse publicity journey than the one which Mayor Dyer embarked upon a few months ago when he decided that the therapeutic riding center in Metro Orlando would be of better use as fallow fields, awaiting funding in the undefined future to become still more soccer fields. As every SUV within one hundred miles of Orlando has at least one soccer-related decal affixed to it, I fail to see why the city feels honor-bound to provide so many playing fields that it can’t spare ten acres for children, adults, and veterans with everything from multiple sclerosis to ADHD, whose lives are changed daily by visits to the horses of Freedom Ride. It appears, to me, anyway, that everyone in Orlando is already playing soccer somewhere.

The president of Freedom Ride’s board of directors, Sam Dunaway, told the Sentinel that starting from scratch, on a new piece of land, would cost more than $500,000 – they would require new barns, new arenas, new paddocks, new everything. To say nothing, of course, of the cost to the users of the program. It might be an hour’s commute from East Orange County to Freedom Ride now. If they ended, say, west of town, in Lake County, where the land is almost, vaguely, sort of, still affordable, it would be more than two hours. Prohibitive in time, to say nothing of gas, inching back again towards three dollars a gallon, and the interminable toll roads which are the only way to get around Orlando.

In 2000, when Orlando was trying to decide what to do with Ben White Raceway, bids were submitted that included creating a showground. Imagine if Orlando, always second best in equine terms to Ocala, Wellington, and Tampa, might have rivaled Tampa’s fairgrounds, the eventual building of HITS Post Time in Ocala or Jacksonville Equestrian Center. If money had been the object, profitable measures were there for the taking, that could have been good for Orlando’s struggling equestrian industry and the city. But the city decided on Freedom Ride, allowed them to build a beautiful facility, and if charity and a sense of decency aren’t enough to allow the group to stay, then a sense of responsibility ought to be.

Written by Natalie Keller Reinert

April 7, 2010 at 9:47 am

Review: The Sweet Running Filly

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Where was this book when I was a kid?

All I ever wanted was a good racing story, that might explain to me the very adult world of horse racing, always with its door closed to children. We were relegated to velvet hunt caps, tasteful make-up, and “natural” obstacles. I wanted rainbow silks, dirt in my face, and a clear path to the wire.

The books I had were the classics, and I memorized them even as I bemoaned either their age (Black Gold and Come on, Seabiscuit! were amazing history lessons, but I wanted to know what racing life was like now!) I was always a skeptical child, and knew the Jockey Club would never have permitted the Black to race, and certainly not to enter the Stud Book. (One might say the same thing of The Pie.) I wanted reality, I wanted some glimpse of the real thing, that storied world I wasn’t allowed to enter, not more history, not more fantasy, and certainly not more boys. Surely Velvet Brown wasn’t the only girl that dreamed of galloping a fast horse?

At last, The Sweet Running Filly is the book I was looking for.

First published in 1971, and set in southern Ohio, everything about this book rings true, right down to the very skillful country voice that the narration and dialogue is written in. Oh sure, there are stereotypical characters – the scar-faced trainer that specializes in cheap claimers, the African American groom that knows all the native flora and fauna and uses them in his secret remedies to keep the horses going, the wealthy farm owner, etc. But if Dick Francis wrote to a formula, I think we can excuse the authors theirs’. When the characters work, do you really care if you recognize them?

From the opener, at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga, where one very beautiful yearling spooks her way into the sales ring and rockets out again, a sales-topper of The Green Monkey proportions, to the Ohio antiques shop where Julie Jefferson holds up the counter for her father (a man of excellent wit, and their exchanges alone make the book worth your time) to the summer spent starting yearlings and learning to work horses, The Sweet Running Filly captivates – and manages to stay within the realm of reality, a gift for anyone tired of racing fantasy. Even the mystery, during which the main character reinvents herself as Julie Jefferson, Girl Detective, is fast-paced, entertaining, and not so convoluted that we couldn’t have expected her to have figured it out!

And despite the rollicking, quick story, despite the excellent voice and the witty dialogue, what really captures me are the truisms in this book that any horse-crazy girl will see herself in:

“The common belief was that you loved horses because you loved riding. But Julie’s emotions worked the other way. She loved riding because she loved horses. Sitting astride a horse was just one expression of the closeness of two spirits, no more and no less satisfying that playing together in a grassy pasture, nuzzling in a warm, dark stall, hand-walking after a bath to dry out, or grooming on a pair of crossties snapped across a stable aisle.”

The “Bonnie Books” continue with a half-dozen more titles, including the currently available A Horse Called Bonnie. A percentage of sales of these books will be going to Thoroughbred charities, working to improve the lives of retired racehorses. Find out more on Facebook – “The Bonnie Books.” Here it is at Barnes & Noble.com – for only nine dollars.

And – just because you might have missed this one in childhood – don’t miss it now.

The Sweet Running Filly

Barbara Van Tuyl & Pat Johnson

www.poppetpress.com