Littlefield: An Afternoon With 'Causing Chaos' And A Talkative Scot

Download Audio
Bill Littlefield couldn't stay away from sports, even on vacation. There, he got the chance to catch a not-so-chaotic horse race. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Bill Littlefield couldn't stay away from sports, even on vacation. (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

“Causing Chaos.”

Who’d want to name a horse “Causing Chaos?” Especially a horse bred for the unchaotic discipline of jumping over things on command?

In the competition I recently watched, “Causing Chaos” and a lot of other horses raced – or, in a few cases – wandered through a course full of obstacles, almost all of which almost all of the horses jumped over.

One didn’t. I don’t remember that horse’s name…maybe “Nah, Not Today.” Anyway, that horse “refused.” That’s what they call it when a horse approaching a pile of painted fence rails sensibly decides he might bark his shins if he tried to clear the pile and stops. “Refused” is what they call that. I learned the term from the fellow sitting next to me at the competition. He was from Scotland. He’d seen a lot of competitions like the one we were watching.

Anyway, when “Nah, Not Today” refused, the young woman on his back slid slowly forward over the horse’s neck and on down into the grass in front of the fence rails.

She wasn’t hurt, but she was disqualified.

“If she’d managed to hold on, she’d only have lost points,” the fellow told me. “Sometimes, you see, they’ll grab on to anything to keep from falling off, then try to climb back up and continue.”

The next horse by just barely cleared the obstacle that had discouraged “Nah, Not Today,” barking his shins on the fence rail in the process, which must have hurt. But though the rail wobbled, it stayed on its brackets, meaning no penalty would be assessed. The Scot felt it necessary to reassure me of that. Maybe he thought I had a betting interest in the outcome.

I didn’t. As far as I could tell, nobody did.

This guy was pretty talkative for a Scot. Maybe he’d been away from home for a long time. Anyway, he also told me that getting a horse to jump over a fence was harder than it looked. He said that because of the way a horse’s eyes are set in its head, the horse loses sight of the obstacle a moment before it has to jump, which leaves the timing up to the rider, which is extraordinary, unless it’s rubbish and the guy from Scotland had pegged me as a rube and was having me on.

The prizes that afternoon were ribbons. At the end of each competition, the ribbons were pinned on to the bridles of the winning horses, which seemed only right, since they were the ones who’d done all the work, except for deciding when to jump, unless the guy from Scotland was full of haggis…which is Scottish for “baloney,” only more so. A lot more so.

And “Causing Chaos”? Well, “Causing Chaos” won more ribbons than any other horse, which just goes to show that Shakespeare was right when he had Juliet ask “What’s in a name?” Because in this case, not much.

This segment aired on April 26, 2018.


Headshot of Bill Littlefield

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



More from Only A Game

Listen Live