Editor's Note: The USTA website is pleased to present freelance writer Bob Carson and his popular "Outside the Box" features. This monthly series is a menu of outlandish proposals presented with a wink -- but the purpose behind them is serious. The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.
“I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.” -- P.G. Wodehouse
My job is to entice people to participate in the sport of harness horse racing; a task equivalent to asking Sergio to win a major. Still, I keep hacking; trying to come up with clever methods of demonstrating to the populace at large (who often know more about the sport of quidditch) that buying, owning and racing harness horses is a lot of fun.
The thing is…it really is fun.
Should you be one of the people who have never watched a harness race, click here to watch a video that shows a world record pacing race.
By the way, nice career you are hammering out. Play a bit myself, around an eight, not bad for a guy who picked up a nasty case of the yips and has not made a putt since the Clinton administration. Due to the annoying spasm in my putting stroke, my alleged friends have nicknamed me Tasered.
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Here is my thinking. You must be getting sick of the whole golf thing; day after day, year after year, since age five. What a drag. Once upon a time, seven of us went on a four day golf junket to Orlando; by the third day, phew, nine holes were plenty, the fourth day, I opted for an RV Jamboree in Plant City.
And those post-round interviews you have to smile through; “So Tiger, how did you feel when your wedge on 17 led to a bogey?” I’m guessing you would like to answer, “How would it feel if I shoved a divot replacement tool through your trachea?” Seriously, there has not been a good golf question since 1957 when someone asked Mike Souchak how to get to the best tavern in Sheboygan.
You would enjoy harness racing. You would discover that, with the possible exception of Mr. Ed, very few horses talk. Very few horses carry cameras. Nobody would pester you because harness racing gets about as much national press as Frisbee golf. You could decompress as you visit bucolic farms in the morning. Even the occasional trainer you interact with will be a taciturn sort. Much of your time in our sport will be on the computer, trying to learn about pedigrees and racing. We have a lot of neat stuff.
Here is a plan. Buy ten baby harness horses (yearlings) at a horse auction this November. Hire a trainer, the person who teaches the horses how to race and gets them into shape. From those ten babies, odds are you will get at least a few that will be fast enough to race competitively (they only race against horses the same sex and age). You can spend next summer watching them compete and learning the many intricacies of our sport. You will have a good year.
To spice things up and have even more fun, cc this post to a friend like Mark O’Meara; he might like to buy a few yearlings to compete against your horses. You guys could spend next summer learning the harness game and busting each other’s chops. This horse talk would be a refreshing break from topics like agents, sponsors, bent grass greens and square grooves.
The major golf tournaments are over so you should have some time on your hands, but act quickly because the annual harness horse sales are just around the corner. I’d be happy to show you the harness ropes. Don’t worry about the money; you probably spend more on side bets with Bubba.
Have your people contact my people.
P.S. I forgot to mention another great thing about owning harness race horses. Our sport can be very hands on. We will hand you a colorful shirt, a giant helmet and a small whip -- then you climb into a jog cart and take your horse for a casual spin; this is sort of like hooking your caddy to a rickshaw (you might want to call back Stevie for this -- LOL). You can even race your horses yourself; this would satisfy some competitive urges. Driving a horse is easy on your knees but it will probably send your agent into cardiac arrest. Here is a video of what it is like to drive a harness horse.
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