horse show recalls international issues

Dear Uma: There is another reason for you to visit us again in Watson Lake — a horse show! It happened on the weekend, in spite of overcast…

Dear Uma:

There is another reason for you to visit us again in Watson Lake — a horse show!

It happened on the weekend, in spite of overcast skies, cool wind, and some rain, all conditions to which the horses and their people were oblivious.

The sheer delight of being assembled and doing their thing under the stern eye of a judge (from Nova Scotia) superseded the minor discomforts of inclement weather.

This year was the third time this event has been held here, and when I heard the event had a concession stand, I was happy enough to go along with Pete’s suggestion we combine what was bound to be my favourite kind of lunch with a look at the horse show.

We were there for a couple of hours, long enough to eat a really good hamburger and top it off with nicely crisped fries, while watching some very pretty animals and their equally attractive riders go through their paces in an immaculate arena made gorgeous with white pots full of flowers.

The volunteer force wore crisp lettuce-green T-shirts and were to be seen everywhere, opening and closing gates endlessly, moving various poles and markers, running back and forth from the judge to the announcer’s tower, carrying baskets of prize ribbons to and fro, and working in the concession booth.

It was all done with the easy camaraderie of people united in a passionate interest.

The horses were shiny, many with their glistening tails partially braided for neatness, and their manes styled in little nubs perfectly placed atop their arched necks.

Their show-quality feet were the result of expert pedicure treatments, shapely and neat; their saddles and bridles gleamed as only real leather and good brass can.

The riders were turned out in tall polished boots, jodhpurs, and the prerequisite helmets under which shone perfect white teeth and smooth, flawless skin.

All around “the grounds” of the Watson Lake Riding Association were parked trucks, horse trailers and mobile accommodations in the form of campers and trailers.

It all looked very expensive.

It also featured something that was difficult to miss — a lot of farting.

There they were, these pricey, highly trained, elegant creatures trotting around the ring carrying their pricey, highly trained, elegant riders and farting with a rhythm that seemed to match their gait.

I sniggered, and nudged Pete, looking to share my mirth; he was oblivious, as was everyone else. It seemed the breaking of wind was as much a part of the show as the voice of the commentator.

Having said voice drowned out at one point by the “phut phut phut” as one horse trotted musically past me, I could not ignore these sound effects and spent the remainder of our time in the stands trying to figure out how I would spell them.

At home, finishing out a rainy Sunday wandering around the web, I discovered “enteric fermentation” and was once again astonished at the coincidences of life — I’d spent the lunch hour considering farts, and here was a wealth of information on exactly that subject!

Involved as you are in the world of barnyard animals (I hope you are not offended by your precious horses being so named), I am certain that the topic of enteric fermentation is not new to you.

To most of us, however, it is a new phrase in the expanding language necessary to describe our expanding understanding of our brave new world.

It is hard to imagine barnyard emissions posing a threat to the continuing existence of the planet we all know and love but ‘tis true: farts have been named a deadly menace.

Now of course this is not all farts; there must be discrimination. The really lethal farts are the domestic ones, those emanating from the barnyard. The gas being passed by the wild creatures, while not harmless, is far less deadly than those of the domestic sort; due, I am assuming, to sheer numbers.

In 2006 the United Nations published a report showing that, of the worldwide causes of greenhouse gas, livestock produce more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation sector!

In Canada alone, 24 million tonnes per year are produced from the exhaust pipes of cattle and other farting farm animals.

It’s a telling argument for the vegans and vegetarians, along with the hard data on how much grain and water it takes to grow one pound of beef.

Carnivore that I am, it is hard to defend meat-eating in today’s world, so I don’t.

Fortunately, I live in Watson Lake, Yukon, where flesh as food rules.

If there is a non-meat eater in this town, I have yet to meet him or her, and that troublesome organization, PETA, is unheard of.

We can all take comfort from the fact that scientists are hard at work to correct the fart problem.

Someone has discovered kangaroo farts don’t contain methane, due to special bacteria in their stomachs.

To digress for a moment; the who and how of these discoveries occupy too much of my thinking time. The last one that ate some hours was learning a duck’s embryonic fluid must be injected into the stomach of the victim as an antidote to rabies.

Some men believe the bile of a bear will make them more virile, leading to the poaching of bears for their gall bladders.

There are bear farms, l hear, where the animals’ treasured innards are harvested.

To counteract the results of all this male virility, women may prevent pregnancy by taking pills that involve the use of mare’s piss. These exotic ingredients have for the most part been replaced by synthetic substitutes, but the path to the original discovery is what I want to know about.

The latest one to catch my attention is the world’s most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak.

For $120 a pound, one may grind beans that have been eaten and passed through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet before being gathered, roasted, and sold to discerning consumers.

Who would have figured that, and more importantly, why?

How does one come to have the sort of employment that leads to these particular shouts of “Eureka!” is my question.

Back to the benign gas of kangaroos; there is reason to believe the bacteria can be isolated and given to the bad gas critters.

Not only will this reduce barnyard emissions and banish foul odour, it will make the digestive process more efficient and therefore help to stretch feed further.

When this scientific dream is a reality, Uma, we must gather up all our money and invest in it; I foresee a tremendous market for these special bacteria, outside of the obvious benefits of less greenhouse gases and cheaper, guilt-free meat.

Farts that don’t smell putrid? What a boon for all if the whole issue of passing smelly gas could be resolved with a pill!

The marriages that would be saved; the old dogs that would be allowed to live out their days; those are just the first of the many benefits that spring to mind.

Reading about the danger of domestic animal farts led quite naturally into related agricultural topics such as the search for the odourless pig.

To anyone who has encountered a pig pen, this seems farfetched indeed, and for those who have the misfortune to live near commercial pig farms, it would seem an impossible dream.

The cloning and re cloning of swine has managed to produce a pig that smells like Febreze.

Unfortunately, while not tasting like Febreze, it also does not taste like pork, mouthwash being the closest approximation in flavour. I don’t think we need hold our breath on this one.

My final bit of agricultural information for today’s epistle: on October 18, 2007, the United Nations (busy organization, this) declared 2008 the International Year of the Potato.

This momentous announcement seems to have sunk without a ripple; where are the posters? The T-shirts? The festivals?

The potato is deserving of celebration, having been around for about 7,000 years. It is the world’s fourth-largest food source, after rice, fish and probably, Kraft Dinner.

Peru, where this important vegetable originated, has 3,500 different kinds of potatoes.

Am I alone in my excitement? Is there no one else who feels the urge to join in this international celebration?

Remember the posters you had in your kitchen years ago? One was corn, the other peppers, and both were beautiful with the colours and shapes, the varieties of these vegetables.

Neither one could boast 3,500 varieties; I am thinking beyond poster and into wallpaper.

Gotta go; I want to see what they look like, those 3,500 types of potatoes. There are still three months left to do something in honour of this venerable plant.



Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.