A new television commercial airing in Montana is raising quite a stir in the New Year. The commercial, produced by the Montana Department of Transportation, essentially aims to encourage the use of designated drivers. News Editor Erica Larson and Photo/Newsletter Editor Megan Arszman take two opposing views on the context of the ad.

CON (by Erica):

While I (and everyone here at TheHorse.com) stand firmly behind the message of the commercial 100%, I find myself slightly befuddled as to why they chose to express their message in this particular way.

You see, the designated driver in this instance is a horse. A (very cute) Quarter Horse type equine walks down a small town street to collect his owner, who is enjoying a night out with his friends at the local pub. The horse seems to smirk as he walks by a (presumably) drunk driver being ticketed by a policeman. It's when the horse owner comes out and hops in the saddle that the confusion begins.

It seems to me, someone who's been riding horses for about 17 years, that an indication that it's okay to ride a horse while anything but sober is one that should be avoided. I don't know about you, but I need to give my undivided attention to my…um, enthusiastic?...eventer when we're doing anything by walking.

I don't know about you, but I don't think dealing with a horse with that after a few Fuzzy Navels is in my best interest. At least not if I wanted to stay in one piece!

An East Helena, Mont., man brought up another interesting point when he posted a comment on the Helena Independent Record's website:

"If you can get a DUI riding a bicycle on the street why would a horse be any different? The rider must maintain control and, unless they ride the sidewalk, are on a public road. It will be interesting when someone actually rides a horse home drunk and gets arrested."

I wish I could be a fly on that horse's neck if that ever happens!

So to review...using a designated driver? Good. Having said designated driver be your horse? Not so good. Stick with your two legged friends for this task! :-)

PRO (by Megan):

My question is, why not choose a horse as this drunk man’s keeper? It illustrates the relationship between man and horse and how close one can get to his equine companion.

If you look closely at the rider, he’s not drunk to the point of completely incapacitated…so maybe he’s just buzzed?

After talking with some co-workers here at Blood-Horse Publications, I’ve been able to come up with six good reasons why this commercial is a WIN, and not a “FAIL.”

1. If horses can sense human emotion such as anger and fear, there is no doubt they can sense human inebriation and act accordingly. I mean, come on now…if this horse was smart enough to stop at a red light, why wouldn’t you trust him with your life when your eyes are a little blurry?

2. There are historical accounts of horses anticipating earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. “I think they’ll do fine with a drunk dude,” as stated by TrueNicks guru Ian Tapp. This is very true--if the horse thought he was in danger, he would have trotted off into the sunrise without letting said “drunk dude” mount up.

3. A car will unknowingly drive itself into a building, pedestrian, or oncoming car, but a horse will avoid objects to preserve itself, just like autopilot. This kind-of goes along with #1, but it’s always worth repeating.

4. Speaking of autopilot--drunk airline pilots have been relying on it for decades. (badoo-doo! Good one, Ian!)

5. No matter the human intake of barley, malt, and grain, a horse will only thrive on these things. (I know, this sounds like a good direction for the next Nutrition Newsletter.)

6. Easy argument if you get pulled over by a cop: “Hey, officer, I’m just a passenger--the horse was doing all the driving, so give him the Breathalyzer.” And with that one, I think I win.

Either way, remember to be safe and smart out there, folks. If you are going to drink, be sure to have a designated driver. And, if you’re going to drink and ride, maybe make sure you have a helmet to wear for your protection. ;-)

So there you have it! Which side are you on? Let us know in the comment box below!