This fall, both of my kids were on a Pony Club mounted games team that flew out to BC to represent Ontario at the nationals. I didn’t get to go, of course. I got to stay home and go to work to pay for the fun that everyone else was having – which would be my primary contribution to most of our equine pursuits. By all accounts, it was a terrific event. Any time you’re in a national championship in anything it’s bound to be a really cool experience. But it got me thinking that what we really need is a truly unique Canadian National Horse Sport. We have lots of land, we have a national horse, we even have a National Mounted Police force – so why not a national horse sport? The Prince Phillip Games competition that my kids were involved in was great, but it’s hardly uniquely Canadian – they do it in pretty much every country in the world. Same with horse racing, polo, dressage, and pretty much anything else I could think of.
I came to the conclusion that I needed to invent the perfect horse sport, and then let it travel the world. Our country has a long history of doing this. The first games of football, baseball, and hockey were all played in Canada, and even basketball was invented by a Canadian living in the US. There is, of course, the very real threat that Americans will take over the game, add an extra down for no good reason, institute a “fair catch” rule, and slow things down to a crawl by allowing a 45-second clock, however.
While I have no idea what this sport will ultimately look like, there are some basic elements that are non-negotiable. There will be NO JUDGES. Success will be measured against time, or an opponent, or physics – 100 per cent objective. The ball is in the net, the rail is still on the fence, or one competitor was the fastest over the line (or is too injured to continue). Any activity involving a judge, subjectivity or style points, is not a sport – it’s a perversion of sport.
There also needs to be speed, risk, and a very real possibility of injury. And it won’t be played on a nice, safe track either. The competition would be held between towns, like Irish Hurling, or the original lacrosse matches. First team to stick the head of the other team’s mayor on a pike in the town square wins. Okay, maybe Mayoralcide is taking things a bit too far, but the whole idea of flying across the countryside is very appealing to me. We could divide it up by county – where all the horses in one county would compete against all the horses in another county, regardless of breeding or discipline. Show jumpers, and hunters, and ponies, and cowboys, and draft horses – all flying across the open fields, united in their hatred of their municipal neighbour.
There ought to be elements of that Mantracker® television show in it too. I really like the idea of chasing terrified urbanites around in the woods. The uniforms should be loosely based on the Mounties’ formal red coats, but with football helmets, hockey shin pads and lacrosse gloves. Not sure why we’ll needall of those things, but it’s a Halloween costume that I put together once, and it looked fantastic.
Most important of all, is that there can’t be any super lame rules like in that Harry Potter game, quidditch, or whatever it’s called. They fly around beating each other up for hours, scoring ridiculously difficult and dangerous points, but if somebody catches the golden snitch, they automatically win and the game ends, even if they’re behind 100 to nothing. Imagine doing that in a real sport! The Tiger-Cats are leading the Blue Bombers in the fourth quarter, by three touchdowns and a rouge – but wait, one of the Winnipeg defensive linemen has caught the golden mosquito … game over, Hamilton loses. There will be no stupid rules like that – give your head a shake J.K. Rowling!
So, I’ll be spending much of this winter figuring out the rules to the game, using the guidelines above. Hopefully we can play it next summer, and develop enough of a following that we can start an indoor winter league a year from now. And two generations from now, when the US is winning the Olympic gold medal, and the televised version has a glowing saddle, because American viewers can’t follow the play – you can say that you were there when a Canadian invented the Ultimate Horse Sport.