Accomplished- January 4th, 2011
I am a dreamer. So many things I want to do. But there are 3 things I want to ride- a race horse, an ostrich, and a giraffe. Today, I accomplished a dream…. during the half way point of accomplishing my dream to ride across America! I GOT TO RIDE A RACE HORSE!!!!!!!!!!
So many thanks goes to LeeAnna- our first host in Kansas- for making the phone call to a track manager she knew. Many, many thanks to Butch and Tyrone Gleason for going out on a limb and letting me ride their horses around the training track, as well as to Duston for taking the time to coach me around the track.
First, we made a quick stop at Walmart for a cheep pair of women’s dress boots with a heel so I could ride safely. We only have hiking boots and winter boots with us because our horses are calm and we barely put our toes in our stirrups. A $12 pair of shoes was worth the safety. I put on one of the jockey’s helmets and his protective jacket. Then they boosted me up onto a 3 year old black Thoroughbred named Slickorice, wasting no time, and I was escorted out to the track by a jockey on a calm horse used in the training of the racing horses.
We headed straight out to the track and he explained some of the riding practices they use while he held back the horse that I was on. First we walked, then trotted for a bit to warm up, then we broke into a slow lope to work the horse around the track. He was a little feisty, definitely pulled on the bit hard, but was overall pretty good. After months in a western saddle, it felt weird being in such a tiny saddle- and standing up felt very awkward and top-heavy. I couldn’t quite find my center of gravity while standing up. I was informed after we got off the track that “by the way- no one has been on that horse since August!” Thanks alot guys!
I was then able to have a second go of it the following morning. After our horses were saddled, we let them eat their breakfast while we got a ride back over to the race track. I was put on Slick again (hey- they might as well get some use out of this crazy girl showing up at their barn- make HER shape up the horse that hasn’t been ridden in months!) and off we went. This time they were more comfortable with me, having seen my ability to stay on a horse yesterday, and I headed out to the track, paired up with another jockey, just like ‘one of the guys.’ They rode in pairs and put the horses through the motions: walk from the barn to the track, jog to warm up for a third of the track (it was a 1/2 mile training track), lope the rest of the way around and then around again, stop, turn to the right, walk all the way around to the right and then back to the barn, hop off and hop right back on another horse, repeat. Only they sent me out on Slick for a second round! I was instructed to tighten my cinch from the saddle, Slick retaliated and gave a little buck, and off we went again! I still wasn’t terribly balanced while standing, but I was starting to get the idea of the routine. We moved along quite a bit faster the second time out, and by the last round of loping, I was gaining a complete respect for the strength and stamina of jockeys. After a total of 4 times around a track and a total of about 15 minutes standing in my stirrups, I was reduced to a totally out of breath, muscles cramping everywhere, shaking, jellyfish of a rider that was about to collapse from exhausti0n! I couldn’t believe it! The thigh, butt, calf, arm, and back muscles those guys have must be rock hard. Back at the barn I got off and my legs were shaking so bad I almost couldn’t walk! My hats are off to those guys- that’s hard work!
Then another sensation occurred…. my fingers began to hurt excruciatingly bad! I realized that in the adrenaline of that type of riding which I am unaccustomed to, I did not realize that my fingers had gone completely numb from the cold air we were rushing through! While the feeling came back into them, I waited out the next round of exercising. Truthfully, it’s because I probably could not have gotten back on a horse until my legs recuperated for a few minutes!
My last time around, I got to ride a different horse- an experienced race horse named Havasu Party who had won a race just last year! What a thrill to ride a winner. And the difference between the two horses was like the difference between a Toyota and a Ferrari. As we walked past the starting gates (not through them) this horse was just jumping to take off. It was all I could do to make him understand we were not racing and we had to stay with our jockey partner. After he settled down and moved into a jog, I knew immediately this was going to be a whole different experience. That horse carried me so well that he almost helped me ride him. Standing became incredibly easier, more balanced, and so much less effort. I couldn’t believe the difference. Not to mention, this horse knew how to RUN! We loped around significantly faster and oh, did he want to open up! (So did I- but they are careful not to strain the horses and condition them for several months in the spring before they start letting them in a full out gallop in early summer.) His channeled power was incredible. I at least got a small glimpse into what it would be like to run a race horse- really run one. We have clocked Apache galloping with me at 32 miles per hour, but it was kind of all over the place compared to this horse’s easy focused intensity. What a rush! There is a very strong possibility that we will detour through Kansas on the way back home to Wyoming because at that time, they will be running the horses full speed ahead……! But if this is as close as I ever get to truly galloping a race horse, it was AWESOME!