Sunday, March 28, 2010

A day of karma and simple life lessons

Gosh, don’t you just love the days when karma, the fates and timing works out!!!! I know I do and today was one of those days. But I am probably confusing all of you, so let me back track and explain the details so we’re all on the same virtual page!!

So the first thing I should clarify is what I do for a living. I work on a horse farm as the ‘do it all’ girl. I ride, tack, muck, turn out, bring in, wash, get their food and bedding ordered, help organize whatever needs organizing and feed in the afternoons off the back of an ATV. We have 18 equines on the 150 acre property. Of those, 12 have been in work, being ridden etc, at some point. Currently we are in the last few days of the foxhunting season so only six of our eight established hunters are in work. Yesterday we had some guests in from New England and of those six; I prepped five to go out hunting. I did not ride with the hunt yesterday as we simply didn’t have any ready to go for me as well, but I usually do hunt most of the season. (We had hunted some Thursday as well, and have another hunt Tuesday. So the hunt schedule must be judicious) Yesterday, given all that had to be done, was a very long day. Eleven hours at work. Why? Because besides cleaning 3 white/grey horses who live outside, with quik silver scrubs and getting everyone ready and then taken care of after, we had today to look forward to. What happened today???

Well today was part two of what we do. Occasionally my boss trains some of her own horses to run in steeplechase or timber races. So today was our home fox hunt’s point to point races. Now unlike the Virginia folks, we have point to points with only timber races and flat races. No hurdle races here.

To help with a better understanding of the jump racing world and what I am talking about, have a look at Wikipedia’s description. Go to the United States Sections:

So our newest runner had his first timber race today. He had never done this, only schooled a bit and was by all accounts very enthusiastic, but very green and needed the race to further his education. The day ended yesterday with a lovely cocktail party in celebration for today’s races; replete with real cocktail dresses and strappy shoes!! (Thank you so much Ralph Lauren for liking my body type!!!!) One corona, a little puppy cuddling and I was off to la la land.

Today began with a quick trip to feed 5 horses at a second farm I have helped out with this winter, and then onto work. All morning we prepped the horse we were running and by 12:15 we were on the road to cover the 5 mile distance to the race location. The trip went smoothly, all things were set and very soon it was 1:30 and we had a tacked up first timer walking quietly to the paddock. Fernando, my co-worker and great friend, admired the crowds and we had the ongoing chat about all things we passed, in Spanish. Pretty soon it was time to throw Jody (Petty) onto the horse and pray for a little racing luck. Jody is lighter than those I am used to legging up, so I toss him up easily and smile. “Have fun, good luck, come home.” I say it to every horse and jock I have ever worked with. Only once did they not do the last part.

So here’s the basic deal:

3 miles up and down Pa. hills

18(?) fences

4 total entries in this particular race

Softer ground than desired and a few groundhog holes in the course!! Ugh.

First one to the finish line staying on course, wins.

Our horse was in it to be schooled. I kept Fernando from betting since the goal was an education and I knew Jody was under orders not to push the green horse hard.

So the horse leaves the humans and Fernando and I get a spot to watch the first four fences. Off they go and yippee, he jumps the first, second and third. He actually jumped them so well you’d have thought he were down running over a much bigger course in Maryland :-) Maybe one day!

The race continues and it plays out as expected, ours stays in the back the entire race. The three other more experienced horses move around a bit but a nice one wins. Or does he??? As Jody cantered across the finish line he yelled out something…..something VERY interesting.

Remember that I said the person who crosses the line first who stayed on course wins? Well in this case kids, that would be your last place finisher!!!! That’s right, the other three in the race all went to the incorrect side of a course marking beacon. (You have to keep these on your right. They passed it on their left.) With this error, the other three riders were, according to the rules, all disqualified. You heard me right…that meant that even though we brought up the rear about 45 lengths or so back, we won. Jody stayed on the correct side of the beacon! Yay Jody!!! Celebration ensued and a lengthy attempt at translating into Spanish why we were saying the horse had won when clearly Fernando, his son and friend had all seen the horse finish last. (This was a multi hour ordeal and only resolved around 5:30!!!)

Now I am a horseman, I know this sucks for the others and is a mighty let down. But I will be quick to point something out. Tonight after feeding I watched our mighty winner. He was sulking in the back of the stall and looking dejected. And it occurred to me, he doesn’t know he won. And I felt awful for him. I wished that there was a way I could explain to him what my parents, teachers, friends and family have been telling me for 38 years. Sometimes its not if you win or lose, but how you try your best. You don’t have to cross the line first to be considered a winner. And likewise sometimes the “winners” in life are in fact truly losers. I know this race is a starting point for him. How he processes the experience and what he does in his next race will be a big sign as to how good or not of a timber horse he will be. But only what it means in relation to timber racing, he’s a star of a horse already.

I went to his stall, and walked in to join him. I did the only thing I knew how to do, without having any carrots. I scrubbed my fingernails on the side of his withers and told him he was a great little racehorse. His initial reaction of the pinned ears was replaced by a soft relaxed gaze. He turned his head and rubbed my back without nipping me as I scratched him. I finished and pet him on the face and then left him alone with his thoughts.

Winner or loser isn’t the only question, and winner or loser isn’t the only answer.


1 comment: