By CAROLINE SEARCY
Do you remember how you felt when you first heard that Michael Hutchence had died? Or Princess Diana? Robin Williams? The feeling of horror, of disbelief and sadness. A breathlessness, a sinking heart. You know the feeling.
I had that feeling on Tuesday afternoon.
Less than an hour after the running of the 2014 Melbourne Cup I was told Admire Rakti had collapsed in his stall.
I caught my breath. I hoped the messenger was mistaken. They were not. And soon after it was confirmed. The Melbourne Cup favourite was dead.
Then came news of Araldo. The only horse I had photographed pre-race because I just loved him. Araldo was gone too after breaking a pastern bone in its leg when spooked by a flag waved in the crowd.
I had bet on him each way. But that didn’t mean anything to me.
People who view horses like machines anger me. They view a horse-race as being like two flies crawling up a wall. No more than numbers. But they are the ignorant minority. I know first-hand and share the love people within racing have for their horses.
The overwhelming reaction of sadness after the death of any animal is understandable. The criticism of the racing and breeding industry is also to be understood. The industry learns from every single incident and pours hundreds of millions of dollars into the care of these beautiful animals to ensure there is as little chance of them coming to harm as is humanly possible.
Just please, don’t tell me the industry and those who make a living from horse racing don’t care. That is wrong.
And believe me: the industry is doing a lot now and will continue to do more to safeguard the precious lives of these magnificent and well-loved animals.
Let me tell you my story. I have followed and relished the sight of these supreme thoroughbred athletes since I was a child riding my bike to Victoria Park in Adelaide. Just to see the horses.
I have worked to promote the sport through a 25 year media career which for the last 9 years has been as a TV racing commentator and host and producer of a thoroughbred breeding show.
It is more than a job. It is my greatest passion.
In 2007 I bought 25% of a yearling with some friends after working extra hours doing breakfast radio at Radio 2UE. A $10,000 share was a huge outlay for me.
My first horse.
Unfortunately the filly was too slow to race. With a tank-like body and short legs that refused to grow she finished last in two trials and her very honest trainer suggested she was not going to be a chance to pay for herself.
A friend and her daughter, a promising NSW eventer, spent time teaching her to be a riding horse. I rode my girl and eventually agisted her at Windsor just half an hour from home for perhaps a year, with me learning as much as her.
But she developed a sore shoulder and it wasn’t in her best interests to keep riding her.