You can be good at riding and racing but not at soft.
The problem with horses has been addressed in a few recent books. And while, at first glance this seems to have changed the way people think of racehorses they may be in the wrong thinking. In his ‘Treatments’ book George Plimpton describes how he was ‘a man of great feeling and enthusiasm’ for horses when he began training them. But later, he decided that they were not for him (although he could do a great deal to keep them alive and in better condition in his training). He then developed an interest in a new breed of horse that he named in his own blood, ‘Cairn’; ‘the Cairn’, with its black coat and red markings, was an easy fit. The racehorses were very similar to horses he had seen but had not been trained for. In this version of his ‘treatments’, the horse-racing aspects are absent. He writes:
I have never been able to understand why the horses were so well ridden, and why they seem to have been treated so badly. If I had been given the opportunity to do it again, I should probably have turned them out of doors as soon as it was possible.
In Plimpton’s version of the treatment horses have been treated with: warm wool, strong cream, sugar, water, good feed and water only (one horse in particular, Bessie that had been bred to be light and fast was given a ration of half-beer). The ‘treatment’ here (not to mention all the other things he had been told to do) is of course the same when a person gets a bit of medical treatment: the horse is fed on its diet, and watered in the evening. Of course, even if the horse had been fed with all this it is doubtful whether it would have turned out as well as it did. When Plimpton wrote about the horses he had been fed with in the ‘treatments’ his horses didn’t turn out so well. In truth, they had had to be turned out with an unusual lot of problems; they didn’t get enough weight, they had difficulty eating, they had trouble walking (their hoofs weren’t strong enough to keep up with them) and had been overfed. And while the horses had been trained to race they had been given the wrong mix of diets (although, of course, it didn’t matter what the food had been,
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