And the Horse Will Play Your Grandmother: My Day of Equine Family Therapy
“Will you be my father?” Connie asks with the twisting posture of a nervous child. We just met half an hour ago. She’s old enough to be my mother.
“I’d be honored,” I reply.
She places her hands gently on my shoulders. “This is my father,” she affirms, smiling sweetly.
Connie hasn’t spoken to the real man in 20 years, making this a tricky role to play. Rounding out the family is a Jack Russell Terrier named Jack (her daughter), a chestnut mare named Jackie (her grandmother), and a few other human strangers in various roles.
The matriarch of our little clan is Sara Fancy—a former competitive bodybuilder and ex–punk rocker who developed a love for horses in midlife. She was particularly fascinated by the animals’ apparent intuition, their ability to read and respond to human emotional cues. This sensitivity, she believed, could be harnessed for therapeutic purposes. Building on the work of psychoanalyst Bert Hellinger, Fancy bought several of the animals and a desolate plot of land in Southern California. She erected stables and a yurt, and named her new homestead the Silver Horse Healing Ranch. I drove down from LA this summer to experience Fancy’s horse therapy firsthand.
The cars arrived in clouds of dust stirred up from the dirt road. We all met one another inside Sara’s kitchen. There was Connie, a longtime Silver Horse client, and her friend Kay, who was there for support. After them came Christopher Rutgers and his wife Stephanie. Like many visitors to the ranch, Christopher had been referred here by a traditional therapist.
“We also get a lot of recovering alcoholics and drug addicts from the clinics,” Sara added in her cheerful British lilt.
After several cups of tea and slices of watermelon, we strolled to the stables under a blazing blue sky. A horse named Pretty Boy sauntered to the edge of the corral, pushing his cheek into Sara’s hand. “Pretty Boy’s owner was going to shoot him in the head and throw him in a landfill,” she explained, rubbing his muzzle. “Luckily, the man called me first and asked if I wanted him. I can’t use Pretty Boy with clients because he’s a little mousy, but I took him anyway. Ironically enough, some time later Pretty Boy’s owner ended up shooting himself in the head.”
Animals Can Consent to Sex with Humans, Claims Human Accused of Running Animal Brothel
In April 2010, ex-cocaine smuggler Douglas Spink briefly dominated headlines when police raided his property in Whatcom County, Washington. Inside, they found a Welsh tourist making use of what the press has since described as an animal brothel, replete with tail-less mice covered in Vaseline. Overnight, Spink became the poster boy for the bizarre, brutal world of bestiality.
But according to Spink and journalist Carreen Maloney—whose upcoming book, Uniquely Dangerous, deals with his case—that’s not quite how things went down. Maloney believes, based on court records, that the Vaseline mice, for instance, were a fabrication created by the local Humane Society, and Spink says the ordeal is a manifestation of a bigoted assault on him for being an outspoken defender of heterospecies relationships, sometimes known as zoophilia.
Spink doesn’t consider himself just another animal fucker. He describes himself as a counter-surveillance researcher (at Baneki Privacy Labs), a heterospecies writer and thinker, and species equality activist who cut his teeth in frontline direct action in the 1990s with Earth First.
VICE recently spoke to Spink, in the final stretch of his current sentence, about his views on heterospecies identity, zoophobic bigotry, and our revilement of inter-species intimacy as a natural result of human solipsism and aggressively ecocidal policies.
VICE: First off, are you OK with being called a zoophile, or do you use a different term?
Douglas Spink: I tend to use “heterospecies” rather than “zoophile.” I see it as the difference between calling someone a faggot and calling them gay.
I do not think that I’m terribly good as a categorical representative of heterospeciesists or any particular class. I’m a bit of an outlier, even in the communities where I feel most at home. A BASE-jumping, Chicago MBA-carrying, counter-surveillance tech-developing Asperger’s-diagnosed oddball. Proudly so.
I have chosen a path of dissent from the default zoophobic stance in our current social sphere, and as a result I’ve been targeted and imprisoned. It’s a thought crime issue, not an action-based issue. My words are considered criminal, and enormous effort has been expended to censor me.
Can you tell me how you first got engaged in heterospecies identities and issues?
I was raised in a horse-centric environment, having learned to ride at age two. I was (and am) able to empathetically understand things from the horse’s perspective. In biology class, I was presented with some counter-intuitive claims of “facts that were decidedly incongruent with what I knew from my firsthand immersion alongside equine companions, like “Animals were devoid of any interest in sex or sexuality, and bred purely based on instinct.”
As a young teenager, I was able to learn about the (then new) horrors of factory farming from nonprofits like PETA. I became a lifelong (if imperfect) vegetarian, and my interest in activist work in support of non-human wellbeing kicked into high gear. Bring those threads together, and you get the question of heterospecies relations between humans and nonhumans.
This Danish Guy Has Legal Sex with His Dog
It hasn’t been long since the Copenhagen Zoo pissed off the entire internet by turning a young, healthy giraffe named Marius into lion food. But last week, they were at it again,killing four lions to make room for a new male lion.
The zoo’s enthusiasm for culling healthy animals underscores Denmark’s unique approach to animal rights. For example,a it’s illegal to buy a pit bull in the country, but completelylegal to have sex with a dog, or any other animal, as long as you aren’t torturing it. There have been multiple attempts to criminalize zoophilia, but nothing has been done yet—presumably because none of the major political parties seem to think that having sex with animals is that big of a deal.
A number of animal rights groups don’t share the Danish political class’s breezy apathy and have warned that Denmark is becoming a prime destination for animal sex tourism. The thing is, there’s not a lot of evidence to support the activists’ claims—onlysome websites set up by various Danes demanding that lawmakers clamp down on zoophiles and “beasts” (as proponents of bestiality are called by people who know about that sort of thing).
To find out more, I logged onto Beast Forum, a popular zoophilia message board and apparently a great place to go if you want to borrow a dog from a stranger for an evening of consensual love-making. On the boards I met a 29-year-old I’ll call “Michael,” and spoke to him about his country’s attitude towards having sex with animals.
VICE: How did you realize that sex with animals turned you on?
Michael: It started when I was 14 or 15 years old. I grew up in the countryside, so I’d often seen animals mating, and that made me curious.
When did you first act on that curiosity?
A couple of years ago. I’d talked about animal sex with a female friend and she got curious about it. She had her own dog, and one day she let the dog take her. She told me about it the next day, and we went to her place and I got to watch. And, later, to try it myself. The dog looked interested in me, so I let it take me.
What is it about animals that turns you on?
It’s difficult to explain. They’re more honest and, well, more animal-like. If a dog likes you, there’s no doubt about it. Contrary to what people think, an animal can easily say no if it doesn’t want to have sex with you. I guess some animals are just beautiful and lovely to be with.
Which species turn you on in particular?
Mostly dogs. Horses a bit as well. And, with dogs, specifically collies, labradors, and German shepherds. They’re beautiful dogs. Most of my experiences have been with dogs, but I also caressed a mare once.
Nobody Wants to Talk About Bestiality Until Somebody Fucks a Horse
On July 2, 2005, Kenneth Pinyan was dropped off by an unidentified man in the emergency room of the sleepy Enumclaw Community Hospital, about 25 miles outside of Tacoma, Washington. By the time doctors reached him, he had died of a perforated colon. When police began to investigate the death, following the trail of events that had led Pinyan to the hospital that summer day, they found themselves balls deep in a ring of bestiality the likes of which Washington State had never seen.
As it turned out, Pinyan had sustained his injury while letting a horse have sex with his ass on a farm outside of Enumclaw. After tracking down the man who dropped Pinyan at the hospital, authorities found and searched the farm where he’d sustained his injury and discovered a videotape of the act, along with over a hundred others depicting men having sex with or receiving sex from various farm animals (aside from horses, there were violations of goats, sheep, and chickens), taken by a man named James Michael Tait, who lived nearby. Confronted with the sheer scale and duration of the videos, police and reporters alike swallowed their discomfort and dove into the world of zoophile chatrooms and websites. After a little digging, it became clear that the Enumclaw farm was known in the community as a major bestiality brothel.
But when police tried to charge Tait with a crime, they realized that Washington did not have any laws on the books prohibiting the ungodly union between man and beast. The best they could tag him with was trespassing, resulting in one year of probation, a $300 fine, and one day of community service.
The Deadly, Drunken Day of the Dead Horse Race
The remote village of Todos Santos Cuchumatanes is a pain in the ass to get to. You have to drive over a road that crawls 12,000 feet up into Guatemala’s Cuchumatanes mountain range, near the Mexican border, along the way passing massive boulders, Guatamalan army vehicles, and vultures slowly dismembering dead animals by the side of the road. The region is isolated enough that the Spanish had a hell of a time conquering the mountain people, and even today you get the sense that they’d rather be left alone—the population of Todos Santos is entirely Mayan, and for most Spanish is a second language after the indigenous Mam dialect. And while many of them are ostensibly Catholic, ancient Mayan religious traditions and beliefs still have a lot of power.
An expression of those traditions is a daylong horserace and bacchanal that locals call the Race of Souls or the Game of Roosters, which has been held every year on November 1, during the Day of the Dead festivities, ever since anyone can remember. It has its roots in the 17th century, when the conquistadors, having won a difficult victory, prohibited the indigenous people from riding horses—today the race is both a protest against colonialism and a ceremony that honors the dead. When I asked elderly residents of the town about the history of the race they said it was “ancient” and left it at that.
The riders begin preparing for the event the night of October 31. A chicken is sacrificed to bless the sandy track that snakes up a central road, and the competitors vow to abstain from sex. They spend the entire night drinking Gallo beer and a potent Guatemalan liquor called Quetzalteca. By the time the race begins the next morning, the riders are already intoxicated, and they’ll spend the rest of the day getting even more wasted—it’s what the ceremony demands—while riding back and forth on a track that goes from one end of the village to the other.
The Sienese Are Whipping Each Other with Dried Bulls’ Penises As Their City Collapses
"The world you’ve entered," Alarico Rossi warns us on our first night on Siena, "is very different to explore." Here, "We fear everything." It’s a sentiment we encounter repeatedly in the small Tuscan city that wears its long history—the battle for republican autonomy in the face of Florentine domination being a central theme—very much on its sleeve.
Alarico is a local journalist. His beat is the Palio, a spectacular 90-second bareback horse race run twice a year around Siena’s central plaza, the Piazza del Campo, in which jockeys are encouraged to whip each other with dried bulls’ penises, typically followed by a ritualized public brawl. More than a medieval pageant for the benefit of visitors’ holiday pictures, the Palio is the focal point of a distinctly Sienese way of life.
“It is not for the tourists, it is for the city,” insists Michele Pinassi, a newly elected member of the municipal council from Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. “It’s the one appointment a Sienese politician can’t miss.” A local journalist clarifies: “If you are a politician and you criticize the Palio, you are politically dead. Also physically.”
Blood Sacrifice in Sumba
Sumba is an island the size of Jamaica in the Indonesian archipelago that has been cut off from the rest of the world for so long that its ancient animistic traditions survive to this day. It is the setting for ritual battles called Pasola which take place every year in February and March. The Pasola is a fight between rival clans who hurl spears at each other on horseback in order to “fertilize” the soil with spilled human blood.
Watch the documentary
Horse Racing: The Sport of America’s Lower Class
“If you wait until 4:08, you can get in for free,” the blatantly disinterested clerk at the entrance to Hollywood Park Racetrack and Casino informed me as I desperately tried to give her the $10 entry fee. It was 3:55 and I had already started to feel the effects of the weed chocolate I had eaten earlier, so I happily accepted her terms. I avoided making small talk with the clerk by feigning interest in my phone for 13 minutes. It’s surprising how little you can accomplish on a cell phone in 13 minutes. Finally, as the clock struck the “magic hour,” I sauntered through the gate with an extra $10 in my pocket, just ready to gamble it all away forever. There’s no such thing as a free ride, unless you’re high… or talking about the moribund sport of horse racing.
Much like the United States itself, horse racing culture can be divided into the camps of “have” and “have not.” The disparity between the gilded excesses of the Kentucky Derby and the barren wasteland of Hollywood Park is stark. Step-repeat lines, funny hats, and copious amounts of rich people materialize at Churchill Downs every year to see and be seen at what is an absurdly anachronistic, passé sport. The everyday reality of horse racing is that the stands are not even a third full, and instead of expensive suits and strange headgear, people wear varsity jackets with cougars embroidered on the back. Horse racing was and still is a pastime of our grandparents.
Which Horselete Should You Root for in the Kentucky Derby?
Photo via Flickr user Velo Steve
To those who aren’t horse racing fans—a category that includes nearly every person on Earth who isn’t incredibly wealthy or an aging alcoholic gambling addict with a permanent hacking cough—the Kentucky Derby, known to insiders as “the horse race that is happening this weekend in Kentucky,” is a mysterious, somewhat stupid tradition. The horseletes (like athletes, but they’re horses) have names like “Orb,” “Vyjack,” and “Palace Malice” and are owned by characters who could be James Bond movie villains. The people who are really into the Derby wear awful hats and get day-drunk on minty cocktails that taste like your grandfather. Not only that, the race is ten “furlongs” long, which means no one knows how long it actually is. So why care about it? Because it gives you a chance to root for—and gamble on—a horselete of your choosing, and distract you from your mostly miserable, horse-free life for two minutes, or however long it takes to run ten furlongs.
But what horselete should you bet on for? Presumably you don’t have a personal connection with one of the animals, and unless you are a huge fan of orbs or whatever a vyjack is, a name alone won’t determine your rooting interest. Which is why I’ve compiled this handy guide for you that matches up your personality with a corresponding horselete.
You Hate Hippies
If you get into heated arguments with Greenpeace canvassers and routinely go on rants about the evils of PETA, why not throw your support to Frac Daddy? This horse is, of course, named after thecontroversial natural gas extraction technique—primary owners Carter Stewart and Ken Schlenkermade their money in the oil and gas business. They decided not to name him “Frack Daddy,” I guess, because spelling, like environmentalism, is for loosers.
You Love Diversity
Horse racing is one of the few sports where men and women compete on the same playing field. There have been a number of jockettes (“lady jockeys”) who have ridden in the Derby, but none of them have won, yet. Rosie Napravnik’s ninth-place finish in the 2011 race is the best to date from a female rider, and she’ll be atop Mylute for this year’s edition.
Meanwhile, Kevin Krigger, who will be riding Goldencents, is the third African American jockey to ride in the Derby since 1921. Krigger is relatively unknown, but had arguably one of the best prep races leading up to the Derby, proving he deserves a spot this Saturday. A win by either Napravnik of Krigger would make history at an event that, um, has not always been known for its embrace of progressive politics.