Tal Michael Memorial Running – Good? Bad?

Why not start 2015 off with a bang and a controversial topic?

Honoring people and events is what we humans do to help us grieve and remember – good or bad.  How and what we choose to do in their memory is often related to the specific person or event.  Tal Hoyt Michael.

Now here’s a short video of the 2014 Tal Michael Run.  This was the 7th year for it and it’s the opening event for the Tal Michael Memorial Rodeo event, that in turn kicks off the Blackfeet North American Days.  I couldn’t find a lot of information and it seemed that originally it was the rodeo stock that were run through town.  As you can see in the video of last year’s event, that’s not strictly rodeo stock they are running, but I don’t think that matters.  I’ve been unable to find out exactly how far these horses are run; a 1/2 mile? a mile?  Here’s a video excerpt from the 2012 run.  It looks a little more sedate and I note the choice a couple of the riders make.  That seems telling, no?

Following are a few of my favorite quotes by people commenting on FB:

“Take another look – the scary police cars are in front of them. THEY are in flight. The horses are chasing them for fun, and to stretch their legs while having the time of their lives with their little ones.”

Clearly this is someone who hasn’t a clue about the flight instinct in animals.  Besides Standardbreds, who are specifically trained to follow tightly behind a pace vehicle, it’s tough to find other horses willingly chasing vehicles.  Just sayin’.

“No worse than you and I running a 5K.”

I don’t run.  Did it as child and even then preferred my bike.  Running gives me shin splints and all sorts of other aches and pains.  So no worse than ‘me’ running 5k, isn’t a selling feature.

“These horses can handle what is given to them and if they don’t feel like doing it they won’t.”

Famous last words, and again, someone who doesn’t have a clue about the horse’s nature.

I don’t actually mind ‘the idea’ of the run itself, but I think it could be done a lot better to ensure the safety of the horses.  I’m bothered by the pavement – road founder, anyone?  I’m bothered by foals being run.   I’m bothered by all the possible accidents along the way.  In a different video I found of the 2012 run, an unleashed dog (later to become two unleashed dogs) runs into the middle of the street and begins barking and nipping at horses’ heels.

I don’t want our world to become bubble-wrapped, and I don’t want people to not be able to have fun with horses, and I certainly don’t want people or history to be forgotten.  But for crying out loud, can we use a little common sense?  And just so people don’t think I’m complaining without giving solutions:  select a small group of mature horses owned by people who knew Tal, and have those horses painted/dressed to represent his heritage and life.  Spend some time training this group of horses and ‘run them’ in a safe area with good footing.  I don’t know what’s available in the town of Browning, but I’m sure something can be found.  A dirt road, a field.  Maybe play his favorite music in the background.

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