Thinking outside the Horsebox really requires a calendar, and an ability to operate a calendar. It isn’t good enough just to hang the calendar on the wall and look at the pictures. There are figures involved. Not just the ones promoting the virtues of a particular brand of brake fluid, or the unique stopping capability of a tyre, both of which are apparently best displayed by removing clothing from young ladies.
There is a series of numbers discretely placed at the bottom of the page. There will be a sequence from 1 to 31, or 30, or 29, or occasionally 28, which are to all intents and purposes irrelevant. There will be a four digit number probably in a larger typeface, find it and look at the first two digits. They will be 20, not 19 or 18 or 17, but 20 and this number defines the century you are living in.
This is where the tricky part of operating a calendar comes in. It says 20 and doesn’t mean you are living in the twentieth century. I think that is where the equestrian establishment have gone off the rails slightly. They obviously thought the 19 on Calendars ,meant the 19th century was being re run for their entertainment. But in reality, for all those 100 years, they had been in the twentieth century and never noticed.
It’s an easy mistake to make, just look at the way we acquired the National Stud.
The National Stud was founded in 1916 when Colonel Hall Walker, who later became Lord Wavertree, offered his bloodstock to the British Government on the condition that it purchased his breeding establishment at Tully in County Kildare, Ireland. His stud included more than 40 well-bred mares and had bred King Edward VII’s Epsom Derby winner Minoru, the Oaks winner Cherry Lass and many other top-class horses. The Government accepted the offer on the basis that the maintenance of first-class foundation stock would ensure the breeding of high quality light horses for the Army.
Although the increasing mechanisation of the Army between the two World Wars rapidly reduced the importance of this original function, the Government retained the Stud for the purpose of breeding high-class Thoroughbreds.
Read it again. They bought the horses in 1916. Hadn’t they noticed a small squabble going on across the Channel which we tend to remember as the Great War. They wanted to ensure the breeding of high quality light horses for the army. The army was commandeering every damn heavy horse they could find and sending them into the Somme and Passchendaele and a few other places the pillocks who were buying some wide boy’s Irish Stud had never heard of.
The increasing mechanisation between the world wars, what about the unbelievably rapid development throughout the Great War as the guys in the front line, and in the trenches noticed that horses and riders had the survival characteristics of a mayfly.
But a simple mistake to make if you see 19 at the bottom of the calendar and think we are in the 19th century, early stages of, Oh yes Waterloo was in 15 this is 16, lots of horses used, really vital, lets buy a stud.
This is a preferable theory to the alternative, that a bunch of chancers rammed through a dodgy deal when everyone else was distracted by the carnage in France and the Dardanelles.
It isn’t just the National Stud which is unsure about the Century, or the Millennia. The Equestrian Establishment as a whole lives in the past, but that is no reason for horseowners to. Tomorrow, before you go out to your horse, look at a calendar, check the first two digits of the year and try to remember this when you get to your horse. You aren’t going to be able to watch bare knuckle boxing, cock fighting is over, badger baiting ditto.
Whips are out of fashion, you can’t horsewhip editors any more, giving the children a sound thrashing is no longer part of the school curriculum, and they are talking about banning it at home. You can’t whip children, you can’t whip dogs, you can’t whip servants, or unruly peasants.
So why can you still whip horses? Why are whips compulsory for Jockeys, for children in the Pony Club, for British Horse Society members, for British Driving Society members? Go back, check your calendar. Yes it is 2010.
Maybe its’ time to tell the rest of the Horse World how calendars work. Maybe they would like to come and join humanity in the 21st century. I have a strong suspicion it would make their horses really happy.
Next time you see a calendar with horses lugging the upper classes cross country in pursuit of foxes, or hauling a vehicle on dangerous, unstable, solid tyres, or poncing around cranked into position so some top hatted, tail coated bozo can look impressive, just check the numbers.
It could just be a printers error that explains the 19th century treatment the horse gets in the 21st century.