Will Bernardini learn to bend it like Beckham?

The Flip Side

June 11, 2006

There's nothing like a horse with a finishing kick, especially in the nascent sport of Horse Soccer, where you can grow up a foal and learn to score a goal.

Forget the Breeders' Cup. Horses can now be pointed toward the World Cup.

Renee Miller, a horse trainer from the Kansas City area, stumbled onto Horse Soccer two years ago while trying to help a skittish horse be less fearful of objects in his path.

To help the horse, she walked him while rolling her children's 50-inch rubber play ball in front of him.

In time, the horse became accustomed to the ball. She then gently pushed it against his legs. To her surprise, the horse kicked the ball. Then he walked up to it and did it again. Soon he was whacking it all over the place.

Now you can purchase a similar ball for $60 at www.horsesoccer.com, where you can also view videos of the Chuck Norris Roundhouse Kickers in action in a barn at her 40-acre Rockin' Double R ranch.

"It's counterintuitive to anything anyone's ever told you about a horse," Renee's husband, Randy, said. "They'll tell you they are afraid of running into things and they will run away from it. But these balls, they run toward it, and they have fun. They're just playing. Still, some guy told me the other day, `There's no physical way a horse can move that ball, because they can't see it. Their eyes are on the sides of their head.' You can tell them all day long, but they've just got to see it."

Count Mr. Flip among the neighsayers.

He'll believe it when he sees Mr. Ed make a throw-in and celebrate a goal by taking off his silks.

Pet palette

An animal welfare group in Berlin is urging fanatical World Cup followers not to paint national colors onto their pets.

For instance, German fans shouldn't try to spray-paint Fritz the dachshund black, red and yellow. Instead, buy him a jersey, the European Animal and Nature Protection said.

Of course, fans of Poland, Switzerland, Japan and Tunisia don't have to buy a thing if they have an Irish Red and White Setter.

Bacon for mercy

Moscow police fearing a riot because St. Petersburg Zenit soccer fans openly refer to their Spartak Moscow counterparts as "pigs" refused to let St. Petersburg farmer Vladimir Kisilev and his real live porker into the stadium for the teams' match.

Wrote Dwight Perry of The Seattle Times: "The pig, feigning ignorance to the end, insisted he was a fan of West Ham."

Compiled from wire and Web reports by Mr. Flip, who'd rather see a horse win by a head than by a header.

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