Winx Proves Her Superiority, with a Bullet–and Thereby Questions Conventional “Wisdom”
‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said, ‘to talk of many things…’
With her resounding victory in Australia in the 2018 Ryder, (Queen) Winx proves once again that–yes, it’s true–there is no physiological/biological/physical difference between a female horse and a male. Unless you take a gander in the right place–you know that you can’t tell a female Thoroughbred from a male.
All those arguments, about males being more muscular, faster, etc.–are all just myths, based on other myths.
These myths are identical in outcome to this one: that the Sun, hiding behind a cloud, confirms for believers that the Sun is angry with us, and so must be appeased.
The Thoroughbred racing gods have put forth, for years–based on their own myths, and biases–that male race horses are superior to females. For their superior performance, and big, muscled bodies–they must be paid (oft’times, lavishly) for the act and result of breeding. Paid, by the owners of the female horses who are vanned to them. Female Thoroughbreds who often are bigger rock stars than the males who service them.
But because of the numbers: one foal per year for a female, up to 300 a year for a male–more value is placed on the participation and result of the male Thoroughbreds, than on that of the females. This makes no sense.
Is not a Winx baby–or Makybe Diva, Black Caviar, Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta baby–worth more than 300 Old Bob Bowers babies? (YES, the mighty John Henry came from Old Bob Bowers–but what about Bob’s possible other 299 babies? What happened to them? I don’t want to think about that answer–do you?)
Winx proves an argument that I’ve floated since, oh, 2003: that extraordinary mares should be paid for their time in the breeding shed–and for the babies who are the result of that tryst.
And no, I’m not an idiot: I do comprehend the economics of it all. I do Get It. I understand why breeders and owners need to hold fast to the myth of superior male Thoroughbreds.
It all comes down to money, friends.
But if this script were to be flipped in the cases of extraordinary females–I believe we’d start to see a couple of trends coming to a halt:
- Overbreeding; and
- Lower prices at sales, because X sire has really, just-too-many babies Out There.
The system would go this way:
* Let’s imagine that Winx will be paid say, $750,000 for her first baby. (Stands and nurses.)
* When that baby is sold by her owner–Winx will earn another 5%. (If Consignors and Bloodstock Agents get this for NOT being pregnant for 340 days, and NOT going through labor–why shouldn’t the broodmare get this perk?)
* Racing incentives will mean that Winx will earn more, after that baby races and proves herself as a race horse. (Winx’s owner will earn percentages of every race of that baby, for as long as that baby races.)
So perhaps Winx will produce, say, 12 babies over the course of her lifetime after retirement. At $750,000 a pop, those 12 babies will bring in a cool $9,000,000 to Winx’s owners–before the sales percentage and racing incentives kick in.
The sales and racing incentives could mean that Winx’s owners pocket far-more money than they’d gain under the present, 19th Century system.
And that’s if the mare’s owners are concerned only about money–which I doubt. I think, from what I’ve seen and heard, that they’d be far-more concerned about the viability, health and welfare of any foal who is produced by their rock star horse.
And, admit it–a stallion who produces up to 300 horses per year–is in it for the numbers. Not unlike human studs, who do hit-and-run really well, but don’t stick around to support, rear and nurture their child.
I’m sure that many people will write me off as being an idiot. Or a crank. Many will dismiss me, as being a curmudgeonly old Feminist. Yet-others will (and have) speak ill of me, just because they have No Lives, and need to trash someone. I’ve been on the receiving end of trashing for years, so really–I don’t care.
But my opinion, that Winx and other powerful female race horses should be the recipients of the money in a breeding transaction is based on two factors:
One is my own perspective, but still has some implied scientific merit: My own experience as an Only Child. The second, from reading a brilliant white paper by a physiologist–a scientist who actually knows more about equine physiology than any trainer, owner, breeder or any smoky-backroom turf writer:
Growing up an Only Child, I asked my Mother once, why I was an Only Child. She always responded that she’d put her energy into Quality, rather than Quantity. From that one conversation, I felt special, forever. Still do. My Mother put all her energies into rearing me. Into making sure that I learned new and exciting things. That I grew up, craving education and knowledge. Every ounce of (impossible-to-measure) energy my Mother had–she invested in me.
Now, a broodmare has no such opportunity for relationship with her own babies, unfortunately. When that baby is a weanling, s/he is being groomed for yearling sales. But to that one mother, that one child–that is the relationship that has meaning. (We’ve all seen photos of mares with their babies, looking lovingly at each other. That’s no anthropomorphism, that’s reality.)
So to that equine mother–her one child is special.
This is the way that every single horse who is born should be perceived by the humans who are their caretakers.
Every horse is special, unique.
Imagine if Winx gets paid for her baby, and not the reverse. The new owner of that baby might take her and race her, herself, instead of seeing her as a commodity just to be sold for the sake of recouping.
So, why should Winx get paid for her services? That’s easy: because, clearly, she is superior to virtually every horse on this planet. And her gender has nothing, whatsoever, to do with her ability–which she’s proven, over-and-over again.
Oh, I see. You don’t believe me. You think that–like the other, aforementioned great mares–Winx is a “freak.” Sorry, but the myth of male equine superiority, was dashed against the rocks some years ago, by Dr. Pauline Entin. Dr. Entin, a scientist (physiologist), did a study. Produced a white paper, which I’ve quoted liberally over the years since I read it.
Below is my report on Dr. Entin’s paper, which I wrote for Saratoga.com back in 2009. (Today I saw that other writers have borrowed my exact words over the years, making it look like they wrote it. I’m dealing with that…)
Please, read my report (below), recapping Dr. Entin’s white paper. Like-it-or-now, Old Boys’ Network, female horses are equal to males. Science, man, science. With this knowledge–and Winx’ss resounding mic drop in Oz today–perhaps we finally can re-evaluate the system of Thoroughbred breeding, so that superior horses are rewarded for their superiority–regardless of their gender.
Making a great mare like Winx get into a trailer and be shipped to a male who’s not her equal (’cause…who is?) would be wrong, on its face. Suitors should line up at her barn, not the reverse.
If practiced universally–this system could result in more genetically stable, viable, healthy Thoroughbreds in the future. Racing’s got a lot of things to fix: overbreeding because of a silly myth is just one, but it’s one that can be fixed, using the proposed, Winx Method.
* Photo Credits:
Winx winning (again) at Rosehill Gardens, Australia, courtesy of Sharon Lee Chapman and Gallop Magazine.
Winx Portrait, and Winx in the ocean, courtesy of Bronwen Healy Photography.
* My article, on Dr. Pauline Entin’s physiology paper:
Misogyny is alive and well, and taking up residence in American (Thoroughbred) racing. (N.B. Such is not the case in Arabian racing, either in the US or elsewhere.) Many’s the time when an owner or trainer has been accused of “abusing” their filly or mare because they chose to race her against males.
For a brilliant explanation of the physiological (that is, scientific) fact that female horses are, in fact, as fast and sturdy as males (as sturdy as American Thoroughbreds may be…)–please refer to Dr. Pauline Entin, Ph.D. (physiologist, Northern Arizona University) regarding evolution and the equine breed. Dr.Entin, a scientist with no opinion to prove, approached her study from a scientific perspective. Just the facts, Ma’am. She presented a white paper several years ago, at the American Physiological Association’s conference. She studied both canine and equine physiology in reference to both, current biology and the evolutionary march of the two species.
She began with the obvious fact: dogs are predators, horses are prey. Such has always been the case. She stated (and I’m paraphrasing here) that, as dogs evolved, of course the females had to be as fast and furious as males: they’d have starved to death, if not. (Male dogs are not known for bringing home a nice piece of meat to The Little Lady and The Pups. First-come, first served.) Had it been the case that female dogs couldn’t keep up with their predator mates, canines would have died out after the first generation. By the same token, as horses evolved, again, the females had to be as fleet-of-foot as the males: horses are prey. If females could not escape from a predator as quickly as their male counterparts, that species, also, would have died out after the first generation. (Females always would have been food, ergo terminating the species after the first hunt.)
Dr. Entin studied the muscle mass and lung capacity of horses (specifically, Thoroughbreds) vs. that of humans, and, while generally it is accepted that human females have approximately 10% less muscle mass and lung capacity than human males, horses experience a negligible 1.2% difference. “Hardly worth mentioning,” she concluded.
The study’s conclusions: that tradition, psychology and training are the reason why female Thoroughbreds (in the United States, specifically) are not often raced against males. . There is absolutely no physiological basis for the long-established myth of female equine inferiority. Ergo, the key reason why most female Thoroughbreds in the United States are not entered to race against males, and that many of those who are entered, lose, actually is a human, cultural construct.
That is, that many female horses are not trained as hard as males (a courtesy extended to their “weaker sex” role) and/or that psychologically, too often they are not treated as equals. (“Babied,” as it were.) Obviously, the US has seen rock star athletes like Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta and Havre de Grace since that paper was written, so perhaps the tide may turn, eventually. But too many fans adhere to the “weaker sex” concept, when, in fact, there is absolutely no physiological or evolutionary evidence for that idea.
Old habits die hard. While the Arabian racing industry, and Thoroughbred racing virtually everywhere else on Earth, seem not to suffer from this culturally-persistent sexism, unfortunately it lingers in the American Thoroughbred world. The very fact that races in which females go against males are touted, advertised as “battles of the sexes”–made a media circus–is evidence that it’s still considered freakish. (Look up the concept of Virago/freakish female, a Medieval European term.) To paraphrase Jess Jackson said when he ran Rachel against the boys, it’s not a female horse racing against males–it’s just people racing their best horses against each other. Amen, Mr. Jackson, and rest in peace.