Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Glimpse from 2006: Lad's first race of the season

Ok here's the pre-cursor. In 2004 I bought myself a really nice horse. I mean really nice. But then 8 weeks into owning him my job changed and instead of living at home, galloping in the mornings and riding my horse at the farm in the afternoon, I became a full time, all day exercise rider/assistant trainer at Belmont Park. I was living and working on the track property, eating, sleeping and dreaming racehorses. So I made the decision after a few months that the only way to enjoy my horse "Lad" was to somehow involve him in the racing life. Ironic since I had just bought him coming off the track. (That is to say he was slow enough in his races, he was deemed not a good racehorse, and thus a great candidate to do some other sport that didn't involve racing.)

So I thought maybe he might do well in the sport of Steeplechasing. Many failures on the flat track do come over well and can succeed with rolling grass hills under their toes and jumps in their view. So late in the winter/spring of 2005 Lad joined me at Belmont. He trained for the steeplechase season at Belmont Park on a dirt oval. Yea that's a ton like the fields of the Mid Atlantic!! Um no. To say this is unusual would be an eggregious understatement. So knowing nothing but what I hoped to happen and a basic idea of how to train to get there, I started my "hobby career" as a trainer....for my one and only horse. It worked. He shipped down to Virginia and won his first race. AMAZING, but Lad's 2005 season was cut short when a horse in my Boss' string of horses jumped into prominence and ended up on the Triple Crown Trail. So the choice became apparent....Focus on Lad and miss out on the once in a lifetime experience of having any connection to a horse on the Triple crown trail or let Lad enjoy some nice pasture and bring him back in 2006 for another go round. Since his age won't matter in the steeplechase world.

And so it went. Lad went to pasture, and Scrappy T went on to gain all sorts of notoriety in the Preakness of 2005. You know the one where Afleet Alex was coming into the stretch to just glide to an easy win, that is until he collided with a big black horse.....named Scrappy T. *Sigh* Still wasn't the results we had hoped for, but que sera sera. I'll talk about it more in future posts.

So anyway, this post is from Lad's Blog I kept during his 2006 Campaign. You can access the whole thing here:

This was right before Lad was ready to be shipped down to run in his first point to point of the 2006 season: The Casanova Races, held in Virginia in late February.

It's one of my personal favorites. Not sure why, but even though I wrote it, I can still find myself reaching for the Kleenex after reading it. I wonder if anyone else cries at their own memories? OK enough already, here ya go.

Dated February 26, 2006

Have I mentioned that I ride other horses besides Lad? I think so. Well sometimes "ride" is an objective term. "Riding" sometimes really means to stay clinging onto a wild happy and very fit thoroughbred for a span of however long it takes to complete the prescribed circuits of the track. During said "rides" many things can and are being thought through my mind. Such as, "Why am I doing this?" or "When is this (bleeping) (bleeping) (Bleep!) going to settle the (bleep) down!?"

But as part of the routine the horses all get me on their back, we go to the track and return in one piece..well ideally anyway!! Now where am I going with all this? Well now that you know the `ideal' let me present the `less than ideal.'

Any story that starts with me laying on the shed row trying to get sand out of my inner ear is not a good one. When you factor in that my body is in the immediate recovery phase of doing self-diagnostics
after the 1000 lb crush of flipped over equine flesh has just left, is also not good. When you add to this noticeable blind spots on the left eye's vision…well basically that's strike 3. Additionally you
get a free ticket not to the dugout, but rather to the ambulance and from there onto the closest hospital. Yippee. (BIG sarcasm) One CT scan, many digital x rays and a whomping headache later, all is well
enough to return to the track. And so life has succeeded in reminding me that to enjoy the exhilarating gallops on Lad, Scrappy and the rest, there are bad rides mingling in as well. Call it a luxury tax.

And so here I am now. And we're 3 days past the fall and my head is healing. But simultaneously Lad is entered in his race and a mere 15 hours away from loading onto the trailer to ship to Virginia.
Saturday is his day in the 10th race at around 5pm or so. Friends have walked the course and deem it to be in better than good condition and the weather shouldn't kill us too much. The jock is excited and the owner/trainer is trying to think and plan with a huge lump on her head. The horse however is ready. Now again let me interject with what `ready' can mean on a racetrack.

When asked if Scrappy was ready for the Preakness, my answer was a very loud resounding, "Hell yea!" When asked if I was ready to breeze my first 2 yr old going 3 furlongs my answer was (HUGE gulp, 2 puffs on inhaler, fake smile) "Yeah. Ready." (Said nearly inaudibly) My point being that `ready' has a wide range of interpretations. Lad in this case falls into the Scrappy at the Preakness category. If he had to wait another week I would honestly worry that he might get bored and hurt himself.

I sent Lad out for his final work last Thursday. I rode him myself and we worked a total of a mile and a quarter and tried for the bulk of the speed work to last for 7 furlongs in the middle. Ideally I wanted to 2 minute lick into the work and then speed up for the 7, and then decelerate into a 2-minute lick after the 7 as well. It went according to plan and the times were well above what I had hoped for, but right about where I thought he could be. His times were actually good enough to have been published too!!! He went the 7 furlongs in a nice quick 1 minute 33 seconds. And his final 3 furlongs went in 37 and 4/5. This is quite good. And when we consider that last year his best 3-furlong time was 39 seconds and 4/5 I am very pleased.

Since his work I have cut him way back. Instead of galloping and going the normal 3 miles or so a day, he had 2 days off with turnout in the round pen and has gone with the pony twice and hacked around
the backside with me. It would be fair to say that in the hack and the ponying he has started developing his Lipizzaner antics. He is feeling so good, and had his teeth done, got wormed and is dying to be allowed to gallop on again.

So here I sit, Lad is packed and ready to ship tomorrow. I have the overnight (Entry list) for the races in my lap and the silver bowl from our win last year in my view. It’s obvious that I would be thrilled to win right out of the blocks like we did last year, but I have to rethink. This year we have more races, more time, and bigger goals. The ego sees the bowl and wants more, the brain, though dented and ouchy, knows it's about the season, not about this weekend. The owner, as always, fears the what ifs of horse competition and life. The trainer knows she has done all she can and prays it's the right mix. And because all of these people are inside me I feel pretty much like a person with multiple personality disorder. But oddly these feelings mesh together and propel me to keep moving forward. Lad for his part helps out by dragging me whenever I lead him outside of his stall.

Its also during moments like this, the first show, race or outing of the season gives all of us a chance to look back at past highlights and recall the stressed out moments that lead up to the euphoria. For
me I recall my qualifying and riding to a 3rd place finish at the Washington International at the MCI center, finishing on my dressage score in 7th place at my first three day at Radnor, finishing 3rd in my first point to point flat race as a rider, and coaching my first student to complete her first recognized event. Sleepless nights, crash and burns and setbacks and injuries precluded all of those great moments.

I don't know what Saturday will bring, but I do know this. I am a firm believer that life is a journey and that whatever happens is meant to and how you deal with it determines what happens next and what type of person you will grow into. Good or bad, triumphant or disappointing, life goes on and the next turn in the road is still lurking just ahead. I hope we see a nice sunshine on smooth pavement, but honestly if
it's a field of speed bumps spread out like an Olympic mogul field, well I'll gulp, set my jaw and be ready for that too.


1 comment:

  1. Well, you'll have one reader, at least, Miss Emily. I love blogging, and love to read what other bloggers with similar interests have to say. I'm going to be looking forward to your thoughts and comments. And, I'll throw in a few of my own, here, also.