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The Unknown Danger

It's one of those things we don't like thinking about, but sometimes we don't have a choice.

I'm talking about protecting our lifestyle. Not about security alarms, or water sprinkling systems or locks on every door, although those things are great. What I'm talking about is the kind of safety for your horses that comes with neighbors and friends keeping an eye on things for each other. The kind of strength that comes from all of us looking out for Arabian racing.

Recently, we had a taste of reality. We have a training stable with a track on another property a few miles from the main farm. I keep a studio in the loft of the barn, but I don't generally stay overnight. I like having Nahgua there (Nugui El Khamsin, featured in my novel Fate of the Stallion) because I can ride him on the track. At the time of our surprise, Nahgua was recovering from a serious weight loss that we couldn't understand and the vets were reminding me that, being in his twenties now, he might not last forever. Just between you and me, I know differently, but that's beside the point.

Nahgua's son, Briggin, is also stabled there. But, other than for the two stallions, the rest of the stalls were empty when this happened and because it looks more presentable, we keep all the stall doors closed and latched, up and down both sides of the center aisle. Remember: There were only two horses in the barn. The other eight box stalls were empty, but latched shut.

I grew up around here, which is the Northern part of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania's farm country. I guess I'm used to a certain amount of privacy when you have a barn set back about a quarter mile off the road. But, I guess there are a lot of things I'm used to that you can't count on any more. I wasn't counting on the call from my friend that morning, when she went to feed and water the horses.

We all have a favorite horse, one that means more than any other. In Nahgua's case, I had glorified him and Arabian racing in stories, in an audiobook that was read on the radio in New York City, in TV appearances and in newspapers and magazines around the world. Now, right before my eyes, both stallions were loose in the center aisle of the barn. They were fighting. Briggin was fighting because he wanted to. But, my brave Nahgua was fighting for his life.

Their stalls were unlatched and the sliding doors were open. The mystery deepened when we saw that not only theirs, but every stall in the barn had been unlatched and slid wide open as well. How did it happen? All of us wanted to know how the stallions got loose, and why.

But, perhaps the deeper mystery is why anyone would do such a thing. As word of the vandalism got out, we received notes and phone calls here at the farm coming from horse owners asking what really happened. As near as we can tell, the farm was targeted by animal rights fanatics acting out a scene from one of my novels. We in Arabian racing love our horses, and that's why we have them, but there are many people trying to destroy our way of life through the media and legislation. National organizations claiming to love animals have taken a stand against animal sports such as horse racing and they are getting serious public attention. The emotional passion of the animal rights movement runs deep, but no animal lover would want two stallions to tear themselves apart and open wide every stall door in the place to make sure we'd know it was on purpose.

Protect yourselves. Protect your horses and our way of life. Make friends with your neighbors. Ask them to look out for your stables always, and thank them when they do.

For those who have asked about Nahgua, he's back in shape and all patched up. Once again, I'm riding him on the track for anyone to see. Even without painting it across the barn in graffiti that night, the message of those vandals was clear: We're out there. We can hurt you! But, when you think about it, every foal we breed and raise for racing, every horse we get on the track, sends a message that's even greater: "Yes, we know you're out there. We've noticed. But, horse racing is here to stay."

Author/Artist RON HEVENER specializes in animal sports and entertainment. Mr. Hevener owns one of oldest dog show kennels in the U.S. ("Lochranza," specializing in Collies since 1945). His dog "Kane" (Ch. Amberlyn's Bright Tribute) was featured in his popular novel "The Blue Ribbon."
His interest in Arabian horse racing goes back to the early days of Delaware Park, now one of the leading Arabian racetracks in the US. His stallion "Nahgua" (Nugui El Khamsin) was one of the first Arabians to race at Delaware Park and inspired Mr. Hevener's novel, "Fate of the Stallion."
Along with racehorses and show dogs, Mr. Hevener's interest in Greyhounds started with the adoption of a retired racer and led to a full-fledged racing kennel and inspired his novel, "High Stakes." Today, he owns sons and daughters of every major Greyhound racing sire from the U.S., UK, Ireland and Australia.
An accomplished artist, Hevener figurines and prints from his novels are bought and traded throughout the world. His original paintings and sculptures are displayed in galleries and can be found in many private collections.
Mr. Hevener is currently on tour, speaking at bookstores, libraries, theaters, schools, gift stores, pet stores, dog shows, art shows and horse shows throughout the country. "Life is a movie," he says. "On with the show!"


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