Animal Studies Bibliography

Case, Carole. 1988. Paddock Rites: Integrative Ritual in the Racing Community. Sociological Inquiry 58: 279-290.

Studies of ritual have demonstrated that it may be understood as functioning to maintain social order. One way this may work is by the ritual helping to produce social integration--keeping marginal community members integrated. Ritual functions this way in the horseracing community, in which the paddock ritual (a showing and parading of the horse immediately before the race in which all workers participate) provides temporary recognition to all members of the horse production team, thus keeping the low status/marginal members of the team integrated into the community. The ritual therefore maintains the horseracing system, which relies on the cheap labor of grooms and the financial support of owners to function but affords them low prestige in the community because of their lesser experience with horses.

Case was a participant observer from 1981 to 1983 and conducted 70 open-ended interviews on the racetrack circuit. An exercise in grounded theory, the importance of the paddock ritual became apparent in the course of the research. The ritual is unique in that it is the only part of the race in which all four types of workers (trainers, jockeys, grooms, and owners) participated, and each group was observed to consider the ritual important and to plan for or look forward to it.

Trainers have the highest prestige within the community, accorded based on their considerable knowledge about and experience with horses, their high wages, and their decision-making power. Jockeys are the second-most respected group of workers. They are well-paid, unionized, and decide what work they do, but their knowledge of horses is considered by the community to be low, and riding is not considered to be based on skill. Grooms are even less respected, doing the dirty work of caring for the horse, receiving the lowest pay, and never asked for advice or information despite their considerable knowledge about horses. Grooms are generally racial and ethnic minorities, poorly educated and unskilled, contributing to their low status. The lowest status is for owners, who generally know nothing about horses and are considered foolish for investing in them since most horses don't make enough to pay for their care. The racing community is one likely to experience disequilibrium--it is highly stratified by job and status, includes the very rich and the very poor, and involves exploitative labor practices. Grooms are frustrated by their low pay and shabby treatment, and trainers must keep them somewhat happy to keep from losing skilled grooms too often, particularly to competitors with whom the groom could share information. Similarly, owners frustrated with their low status may withhold funds or fire trainers, and trainers may try to evade such moves by keeping the owners out of the loop. To stay together and continue functioning with this status and work arrangement, the racing community uses the paddock ritual to “decrease alienation and facilitate integration” (285). The paddock ritual is the only time when all four types of workers come together and participate in one action, as a community. Further, the groom and the owner receive particular respect and attention during the ritual, contrary to the way they are normally treated. Owners, due to their wealth, generally have prestige in the larger society, but grooms, as manual laborers, do not, and the paddock ritual is thus most important to them. The ritual lets grooms show their skill with the horses and to mingle on equal terms with the wealthy; for owners, showing their horse offers another level of prestige. The ritual does not change any of the roles--rather, it allows each group to dramatize its role, which “implies the importance of the roles,” (287) a significant experience for those whose work is usually devalued. The ritual also reminds everyone that they are dependent upon each other because they all engage in the same work. Both the importance of the roles and their “reciprocal dependence” (Goffman) are displayed publicly, often the only opportunity for the disvalued workers to receive such recognition. The paddock ritual thus serves to keep the disadvantaged members of the racing community participating.



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