Olympic report: day 5

As anyone who was forced to read Animal Farm at school will know, “Four legs good, two legs bad.

And we all know snakes did that thing to Eve with a banana, or some kidney-beans, or whatever organic produce it was (sorry, I wasn’t paying attention during fairytale classes). And snakes have no legs at all, and are mendacious and twisted and jolly bad eggs.

I can see a pattern forming: each time you add 2 legs to a creature, it gets better.

  • 0 = evil
  • 2 = bad
  • 4 = good

Spiders, presumably, are the best land animals. And if you pull the legs off a daddy-long-legs it becomes progressively more evil. Whereas a lobster, with 10 legs, is positively saintly, and probably runs an orphanage and recycles everything, even the really difficult stuff like yoghurt pots.

You understand I’m just following a train of logical thought until it drives over a cliff.

All of this is my attempt to explain the type of person who rides a horse. The rider is a two-legged creature (ergo bad) who, by allying himself with a four-legged creature (ergo good) hopes to become a truly wonderful six-legged creature. Like a wasp, presumably.

But people on horses are deluded. They think they’re better than us, but they’re not. Because – and this is something that gets stranger and stranger the more you think about it – because they sit on other animals.

I have not sat on this animal. Just saying.

This is a picture of a Pomeranian puppy. And now I’m going to sit on it. Or maybe I should use Bambi as a sofa. Or plonk myself on a koala, pop open a beer, and put my feet up on a badger.

Why is that any stranger than sitting on a horse?

Let’s face it, if Richard Gere (to choose a totally random person) decided to sit on a gerbil (to choose a totally random animal) you’d probably be outraged. And with good reason!

I wish to emphasise that I’m almost completely certain Richard Gere has never introduced a rodent into the vicinity of his anus. I’m almost completely sure.

On an unrelated note…

Winston Churchill was once asked who won the second world war, presumably by somebody who hadn’t been paying much attention. He replied that it was won by “tough lads from Manchester”. That’s where I’m from, and in spite of people like me – but not actually me, because I’m far too cowardly and 50 years too young –  winning the war and securing freedom for the whole of Europe, we will never, ever be allowed far enough up society’s ladder to sit on a horse.  Not people from Manchester. Oh no.

I’ve seen horses. If you give me a few minutes and I concentrate hard, I can often tell them apart from cows. I use this simple method: cows are round, but also square. I can’t think of any other animals that this description fits, so I’m on safe ground with cows. And if there’s a leg in each corner but it’s not a cow, it’s probably a horse.

But my girlfriend is from Cheshire, and not only knows what a horse is, but probably knows how to get her hands on tight boots, jodhpurs and a riding crop….


Sorry, I got distracted for a moment. Ahem.

She spent this morning watching an Olympic whatnot called “dressage”. To me that sounds like a snooty item of furniture that’s only found in houses with a scullery and a ha-ha. You know the type of thing: an armoire or a chifforobe. If you’re anything like me you’ve heard those word, but you couldn’t identify one if you were locked in Blenheim Palace with a guide, a torch, and Olsen’s Almanac of Unnecessary Objects.

But it turns out dressage isn’t an aristocrat’s wardrobe, it’s one of those alleged sports in which winning is just a matter of opinion. For me, that’s not a sport:

  • In a sport somebody wins by dint of going fastest, throwing further or scoring more goals. Not by doing the same thing everybody else is doing, but in a way which is, in some hard-to-define way, more “stylish”. That’s not a sport; that’s shopping.
  • Even if you don’t accept my first point, you still have the issue that the activity being judged is being done by the animal that the “sportsman” is sitting on.
  • And finally, in a sport, nobody wears a fucking top-hat.

I’m not denigrating the skill involved, but that’s not a sport. It’s a pastime. In fact, it’s specifically a pastime for wankers, because the purpose seems to be to make a horse do things a horse isn’t designed to do. Walking diagonally. High kicks. Moonwalking.

Why not make a goat do handgliding, or persuade a llama to knit you a nice scarf? Again, I have to ask why that’s any madder than making a fucking horse do a fucking dance?

I accept that I may have missed the point, but the problem with writing a blog about the Olympics is that I’ve seen a total of 12 minutes of sport in my entire life. So I need a lot of this stuff explaining to me before I can comment on it here.

I must have looked quite confused when my girlfriend was telling me about dressage this morning. She described the challenges involved in something called a “flying change”, which I’d assumed was what Superman did in a phone booth, but is actually a procedure in which you make a nervous, stupid, biting, kicking, 900lb farm animal do a little skip while you hold onto it with your legs, and your friends from the country club give marks for how nice you looked.

At least I think that’s what “flying change” is. I can’t be sure I understood. But, as my girlfriend said to me, “it’s hard enough explaining it to you. Imagine how hard it is to explain it to a horse. With your ankle”.

Fair point. But it’s still not a sport. It’s animal husbandry in fetish gear.


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