Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Foolish comments and simple solutions.

Back in the old days, I saw some horrific accidents. Mostly, it involved a horse or horses falling and the horses beside or behind those horses having nowhere to go but to pile into the wreck. 
One night at Sudbury, I raced a horse that was in such an accident. Luckily, my horse avoided the trouble, but the majority of the field was down on the track. That happened solely because the rail horse was leaving and bearing in so bad he was going to go over the hubrail. So, the driver jerked him to the right, into my horse, who was the 2 horse. Mine was already just about clear of that one, but just close enough that she had to veer right to avoid him. That caused a chain reaction accident behind her. None of any of that would have happened if the hubrail wasn't there. One guy was out cold on the track, almost died, and his driving career ended that night. His horse also died. When the 3 or 4 left going came back around to those horses, they went wide around them. Some pulled up, others kept going. It was a total cluster fuck.
Because of that, which seemed to be at least a weekly occurance back in those days, they took out the hubrail and replaced them with pylons and a safety lane. They call it a safety lane for a reason. It has probably saved hundreds of horses lives and probably a few human ones as well. It was a simple solution to a pretty simple problem. 
Monday night, there was another incident. Luckily, nobody got hurt, and all drivers and horses arrived home safely.  That was pure luck though. Its a situation like the one I saw in Sudbury. An accident waiting to happen.
The most interesting thing about these articles is always the comments section. 
One fan said this:
 "The race was declared a "No Contest" and the warning lights were on.
The announcer said he would like the horses to pull up. It would appear to me that if the rules state that they should have pulled up,
then I think they all should be fined just to show others that if you are supposed to PULL UP then you better."
Another said this:
"Every driver should be fined for ignoring the lights, siren and the announcer for not pulling up their horses."
You have the fans, like the two above, who are mostly clueless to how things really are. They have never touched a horse or sat behind one, let alone at race speed in a pack. Why would a driver keep driving and drive right into trouble that could end up costing him his career and health? That makes no sense.
Then you have the horsepeople, who take offense to anything that sounds even remotely like criticism. It's like you are threatening to kill their children if you even hint they are at fault.
So, I found Shannon Henry's comments the most telling. She is the wife of Trevor Henry, a driver in this race. Here is a portion:
"That a flashing warning light is just that "A warning Light"..Sometime's meaning "keep driving"... Easy to judge any of these driver's and their abilities to drive and make this bad decision all about them. Although ,Trevor said he will take the heat on this one, he did not hear the "horn" and continued to drive with everyone following. Fine them all.. How many of you have been in a grandstand and looked at each other and said "what did the announcer say.?" And you expect these guys going the speeds they are going in full winter gear to hear the announcer?Did they hear the sirens? Full winter head gear can make it hard to hear anything. Don't judge any one of them until you get out there and sit in their colors. The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make every race when a driver or horse goes down ... NO CONTEST... That way everyone knows..IT'S OVER."
Yes, if you are out there, you know that your vision is tunnel vision to some extent. And when driving a horse, you would not hear the racetrack announcer, and even if you could, you cant understand what he is saying. If you have ever been in a pack of fast moving racehorses, you know that it is loud and drowns out all other sounds. People who have never done it don't understand any of that. Same with the sirens. You might hear it. You might not. It simply doesn't work. If it did, we wouldn't see the repeated incidents like this, where it is only luck that horses and drivers aren't injured or killed for no reason.
But here is what I do know. You can put a sign out there, at different points of the track, above the quarter pole markers, the quarter, the half and 3/4, much like they do on the highway to alert you of traffic flow or blockages. The drivers can easily see that and take direction from it.
In this case, it could have said this:


Or, it can alert the drivers to whatever the situation is. In a more dangerous situation, it could say...


Or, they could wear wristbands that are like pagers. They vibrate when there is a horse down or loose and going the wrong way, and have displays that give direction if they happen to not be able to see the display on the quarter poles.
Any of these solutions can be implemented today and put in place by the weekend. Will it? Of course not. Racing people are great at debating issues, who is to blame, but horrible at actually doing the constructive thing to fix the problem.
So, they carry on. Some driver will die or get injured and lose his career. And/or, more horses will die needlessly, as we have seen at Flamboro, and almost happened at Fraser a couple of months ago.
When that happens, everyone will say..."Why didn't we just solve this simple problem?"
And mostly, you have ignorance to even the simplest of solutions that will get rid of the problems racing seems to perpetually have and cant move forward from. That comment was the first one, yet nobody picked up on it.

"There is something wrong with either the warning procedure and or the drivers reactions to it when not a single driver pulled up and several were urging their horses long after the warning siren was activated, the announcer stated it was declared "a no contest and we would love for the drivers to pull up", and the fallen horse and driver were clearly visible!!"

Fines in this case are meaningless and not appropriate. There was no bad behavior. No reckless disregard for the rules. No liberties taken. This was an instance when drivers didn't realize there was an issue, because the horse that choked and fell was well off the gate when it happened, and fell well behind the field. They simply didn't know. So, figure out a way that they can know and get direction on what to do. 
Have a simple procedure in place of what you do when X happens. That is something all drivers are schooled on when it comes to horses making breaks, or have broken equipment.  They got rid of the hubrail, and that was a simple solution to having nowhere to go when a horse fell or became uncontrollable. Now, they have somewhere to go, but they don't know what to do. So, figure it out. It can't be that complicated.
Simple as that.

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