In their article on the Arabian horse (page 96), senior writer E.M. Swift and reporter J.E. Vader quote a breeder who describes the Arabian as "tremendously versatile." Lately, we have been saying the same thing around here about Swift. In the last six months, Swift, 34, has covered the Tour de France, New York's pennant fever, Joe Theismann, the American League playoffs, Bret Saberhagen and the Philadelphia Flyers. And he also has a piece on the Washington Capitals in this issue (page 88). "Ed's not only a jack-of-all-trades, he's mastered them, too," says assistant managing editor Jerry Kirshenbaum.
During his Princeton summer vacations in the early 1970s, Swift worked on a dude ranch in Buffalo, Wyo. (pop. 3,799). His only two encounters with Arabians there left him once bitten and once bucked.
"The ranch owner had an Arabian, and when she was on vacation she would have the workers exercise it," Swift says. "When it was my turn, I hadn't heard that she used to feed the horse from her saddle. That's a really bad habit. Arabians are smart, and this horse had gotten used to it. We came to a fence, and he stopped and turned to look at me for his reward. I kicked him to get him going, and he ran about 20 yards and stopped again. I kicked him again, and he swiveled his head back and bit me on the knee."
Swift also learned a valuable lesson in steer roping at the ranch: You never pull in the slack with the hand holding the reins. "If you're on the ground, you can rope with your right hand and pull in the slack with your left," he says, "but when you're in the saddle you're holding the reins with your left. They let the steer out, and I stood up in the stirrups and roped it. I pulled in the slack with my left hand, however—the hand with the reins—and the horse absolutely stopped dead. I went right over the top and sat down on the steer's horns."
January 13, 1986
That put a quick end to Swift's roping career. This time around he maintained a much smoother rapport with the Arabians. "I went in prepared to hate the horse," he says, "and I came away a fan. I enjoyed the racing and the endurance people. The horse wasn't like a precious gem to them. To some, it's a living, breathing bar of bullion that you can pet. I didn't appreciate that."
Though Swift has written about the rodeo, this was his first SI story about horses, and he obviously enjoyed the experience. "Animals don't say a lot of brilliant things," he says, "but they don't keep you waiting or give you dumb answers, either."
But, Ed, athletes don't bite people on the knee.